An alien reading the newspapers and Twitter this week could be forgiven for thinking that Boris Johnson has occupied the Sudetenland. The reaction of Remainers, especially the luvvies, has been a sight to see. In fact, this week’s prorogation decision is stretching rather than breaking the existing rules. MPs will not be prevented from stopping no deal. If they can get the votes, Remainer MPs will be able to order an extension to article 50 or to win a motion of no confidence.
The battle of Brexit is unchanged. Remainer MPs strongly oppose any move that makes it more difficult to oppose Brexit. Leavers support measures like Johnson’s extended prorogation that gets on with leaving the EU in line with the referendum result.
This Tuesday will be like a finale of a Lord of the Rings film when Speaker Bercow allows an emergency debate as he presumably will. His job as he sees it is to protect the power of parliament to oppose Brexit irrespective what the mere people have voted for. We can only hope that No 10 has well-worked plans to deal with a Remainer success on Tuesday. The ultimate fall-back will be to call an election, proroguing parliament in the process.
If the Remainer MPs fail on Tuesday they will get another go in late October but by then ‘all will be changed, changed utterly’. Either the EU will have agreed to some modified Withdrawal Agreement and Backstop, or its determination to drive the UK out without a deal will be clear and the Government’s PR offensive will have been launched.
Fasten your seatbelts. It is going to be a roller-coaster week.
This has been a big week for BfB in the media, as we bring our expertise to bear on this week’s debates.
Confused by whether Johnson’s prorogation is constitutional or not? BfB contributor Anna Bailey has written an excellent piece for the Spectator, ‘Boris Johnson’s Parliament shutdown isn’t unconstitutional’, exploring the various considerations. As Dr Bailey explains,
‘Only the length of the prorogation stretches the boundaries of constitutional norms, but without clearly overstepping them. And while Boris Johnson’s critics have reacted furiously to the plan, suggesting the PM has become dictatorial is well wide of the mark.’
For more on the innate flexibility of the British constitution, which has been shaped by its use in numerous political crises, see constitutional historian Jonathan Clark’s discussion on the BfB website last week (published before the prorogation decision). Professor Clark reminds us that that far from being a cause for outrage or alarm, ‘Conflicts between two plausible ideals are the very stuff of politics.’
Meanwhile, BfB co-editor Robert Tombs has been interviewed by France’s La Figaro for a piece entitled ‘Au Royaume-Uni, le Parlement n’a pas toujours été le garant de la démocratie’ (‘In the United Kingdom, Parliament has not always been the guarantor of democracy’). Robert argues that the Remainer emphasis on parliamentary sovereignty relies on an outdated and elitist nineteenth-century myth, which ignores the role of the people in British democracy:
“L’idée que le Parlement ou les députés puissent s’arroger le pouvoir d’aller contre le choix légalement exprimé du peuple me semble correspondre à une lecture démodée, archaïque, de la Constitution” (“The idea that Parliament or members of Parliament can claim the power to go against the legally expressed choice of the people seems to me to correspond to an outdated, archaic reading of the Constitution.”)
Robert made a similar argument in English in The Times last week. In The Telegraph today, Robert extends his historical analysis of the current situation, noting that even during the reign of Charles I, it was Parliament rather than the King that represented an out-of-touch elite:
“If we are to dabble in history, let us dabble properly. Charles had his faults but, as one of the leading historians of the period puts it, his parliamentary opponents were more bloodthirsty, far more bigoted, and vastly more paranoid in their vision of the world. The parliamentary side in the Civil War had at its core a sort of Christian Taliban, backed for their own reasons by a major element of the Establishment.”
We also recommend reading the piece Suella Braverman (one-time star of the BfB podcast) has written for the Sunday Telegraph discussing why ‘Ditching the backstop is just the start – we must overhaul Political Declaration to pass a Brexit deal’.
On the website this week
Our contributor Titus (a young academic lawyer who wishes to remain anonymous) discusses who is to blame for the breakdown in negotiations between the UK and the EU. He concludes that the EU has violated fundamental tenets of international law by refusing to come to an agreement with the UK based on the principles of ‘sovereign equality’ and ‘reciprocity’. Thus, it is the EU which is the guilty party.
“Brexit is an ordinary act of self-determination which violates no international or European law… There is no basis for demanding that, in negotiating those solutions, the UK is unworthy of the protections of the basic rules of international comity such as ‘sovereign equality’ and ‘reciprocity’.”
The EU’s imperial ambition, by David Blake
As part of its plan to create a European empire to block anyone competing against it, the EU has become a global bully when it does not get its way. Professor Blake some examples of this phenomenon, notably the EU’s treatment of Switzerland, and their implications for the UK post-Brexit.
“There is now widespread horror and embarrassment by many in this country about the British Empire. Yet the very same people are apparently more than willing to sign up to the EU’s new Empire.”
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion also continues on Facebook. Dave Ashcroft enjoyed David Blake’s piece on the EU’s imperial ambitions, praising it as “very very accurate… I’ve thought this for years and conveyed to all who are interested. Great story – keep it up BfB.”
How you can help
We urge our supporters to ‘take back control’ in our present confusion. There are thousands of you. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Write to your MPs. Perhaps send them copies of some of our articles (or links to them), especially when they are relevant to your local conditions – for example, in rural areas, on the threat to British agriculture. Better still, make an appointment to see them at their next surgery: they will take notice when people are lining up at their doors. Make you views known where MPs might be wavering, or where they are working to sabotage Brexit, especially in Leave-voting and marginal constituencies, which Richard Johnson listed in his recent article.
Do also keep reading our posts, and to tell others about us. Share links to our quality content so that others can understand how leaving the EU can be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
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An Oxbridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge