Political irony of Brexit battle
MPs are holding May to ransom
HOW IRONIC that the Parliamentary process to leave the European Union will be as tumultuous as the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty that paved the way for the creation of the EU.
At least John Major had a small Commons majority in the early 1990s to neuter rebellions by his Eurosceptic critics. Theresa May has no such luxury over Brexit as she comes under fire from both Remain and Leave backers.
Yet, with Mrs May’s new chief whip Julian Smith, the Skipton and Ripon MP, already on the back foot less than two weeks after being appointed, the Government will need to be far more sure-footed as MPs start voting on Brexit legislation.
It’s not helped by the extent to which the Government has tried, from the outset, to circumvent Parliament – Brexit is about ‘taking back control’ – and democratically elected MPs should have the right to sign off the final deal with the EU, not least because of the potential economic, political and constitutional repercussions for decades to come. However, Mrs May is paying a heavy price for deciding not to set up a cross-party commission to handle the implementation of Brexit when she succeeded David Cameron. If she had done so, all sides of the House of Commons might have bought into the process, and become more co-operative as a result, rather than choosing to wash their hands of any direct responsibility.
Now, just like Maastricht nearly a quarter of the century ago, Britain’s decision to leave the EU has become an opportunity for the Government to be held to ransom because the Parliamentary arithmetic is so finely balanced.
In the crucial days, weeks and months to come, some humility from Ministers will not go amiss.
But, equally, Mrs May’s opponents on all sides of Parliament need to be mindful that Britain did vote for Brexit in June last year and rebellions stemming from political opportunism, and little else, will make it harder for the PM to reach a deal with an increasingly inflexible EU.