Brexit gets a lesson from 1604 – Washington Examiner

This week marked 1,000 days since Britain voted to leave the EU. Yet with just one week to go until the planned Brexit date and still no deal in place, Prime Minister Theresa May had to fly to Brussels to beg for more time.

Whereas Winston Churchill led Britain during its finest hour, Theresa May seems to be leading it to national humiliation.

May was requesting the extension despite having pledged on 108 occasions that Britain will leave the EU on March 29. After a tense meeting with EU leaders, she was granted until April 12 to find a new solution if her deal fails and until May 22 to get it ratified if it passes.

The day before that, showing her increasing desperation, May held an unscheduled nationwide broadcast to tell the public that the Brexit impasse was the fault of MPs who had not supported her deal. It was probably not her wisest decision to publicly blame the very people she will need when her deal next gets a vote in Parliament.

The week had started badly when Speaker of the House John Bercow used a Parliamentary rule from 1604 to prevent May bringing her primary legislation to Parliament for a third time. It was deemed not substantially different from when it lost before by 149 votes. Not only is May unable to command a majority in Parliament, she has been barred from getting even a vote. Let’s see if it fares better next week.

Tensions in the country are rising too with many MPs experiencing stern rebukes from their constituents. This led Speaker Bercow to make an astonishing statement of assurance to MPs that “none of you is a traitor.” They have also been advised not to travel alone and to take taxis home for their own safety.

This is serious stuff indeed. Direct action is being planned by lorry drivers to block major highways in protest at the government blocking Brexit, as they see it. A senior Eurosceptic MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, tweeted, “People versus Parliament continues.” Effectively, Great Britain is no longer operating as a representative democracy.

But had a “Leaver” prime minister, rather than “Remainer” May, been in charge of negotiations, it could have all been so different. Britain would no doubt have still observed the Article 50 protocols to exit after a two-year period, but then would have given the EU a choice between a free or favorable trade agreement or using WTO default tariffs. It is almost guaranteed that such a firm position would have received initial condemnation, but a far better deal outcome.

Instead, May sought to keep Britain as closely aligned to the EU as possible and pay a ransom of $51 billion to get out. She was supported in that by largely “Remainer” civil servants and, at least initially, a complaint media.

One month before the Brexit referendum was held in June 2016, former Prime Minister David Cameron sent a leaflet to households all over the U.K. telling voters, “The Government believes it is in the best interests of the U.K. to remain in the EU.”

The taxpayer-funded pamphlet also stated, “This will be a once in a generation decision,” and it pledged, “This is your decision, the Government will implement what you decide.”

It is thus also no wonder that subsequent talk of second referendums and blocking Brexit has caused so much public outrage.

The pamphlet itself was controversial, as it cost £9 million more to fund than was allowed during the referendum. That’s why Cameron called it a government information leaflet, so that it wouldn’t be counted as an illegal campaign expense. Despite such creative accounting, it failed to sway the electorate. And now the government has also ignored the pledges that it made.

Now the government considers it doesn’t have to abide by next week’s leave deadline. But it is unlikely the public will let that happen quietly.

“Remain” MPs have their own plans afoot to vote on other options to May’s deal next week, including abandoning Brexit altogether. So it will be interesting to see if Speaker Bercow applies his 1604 rule to those issues, many of which have also already been debated.

Andrew Davies is a U.K.-based video producer and script writer.


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