Po­lit­i­cal irony of Brexit bat­tle

MPs are hold­ing May to ransom

Yorkshire Post - - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR -

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.

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