MPs vot­ing down May’s Brexit deal are the elite re­volt­ing against democ­racy

The Guardian Australia - - Opinion - Bob Seely

Par­lia­ment has talked about Brexit for too long. We have so far failed to de­liver. This week we have a chance to do so. Yet, in­stead of re­spect­ing the man­date of the Bri­tish peo­ple, many MPs ap­pear in­tent on over­rul­ing it.

What we will prob­a­bly see on Tues­day with the vote on the with­drawal bill and amend­ments around it won’t be an ex­am­ple of par­lia­ment “tak­ing back con­trol” from Brus­sels or gov­ern­ment, but par­lia­ment usurp­ing power from the peo­ple they are meant to rep­re­sent.

How so? In 2015, the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties sup­ported the idea of a on­cein-a-gen­er­a­tion ref­er­en­dum on our mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Union. We pledged to abide by the re­sults. There’s ev­ery sign that we may now refuse to do so. This is not a heroic par­lia­ment tak­ing away ar­bi­trary power from a monarch or dic­ta­tor, but par­lia­ment wrest­ing power from a gov­ern­ment try­ing to en­act the man­date of the peo­ple to leave the EU.

I in­tend to sup­port the gov­ern­ment in the vote this week be­cause I re­spect the re­sult given to us by the Bri­tish peo­ple and my own con­stituents on the Isle of Wight – I would do so re­gard­less of what the ref­er­en­dum re­sult had been. In ad­di­tion, the only con­ceiv­able way of get­ting Brexit through is with this deal.

I have mod­est sym­pa­thy with those who are crit­i­cal of it. But I agree with MPs who ar­gue for com­pro­mise, a case elo­quently made by my col­leagues Richard Benyon and Ge­orge Free­man as well as oth­ers last week. As per­cent­age wins go, 52 to 48 is a vic­tory, but it is one in which mag­na­nim­ity would be a use­ful in­gre­di­ent. And it may be that in five or 10 years’ time we vote to change the terms. I think the re­al­ity one has to face at this late stage is not be­tween a bad deal and a “good” leave, but be­tween this deal and no deal, po­ten­tially a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum and no Brexit, with the eco­nom­ics and po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty to fol­low. And as for North­ern Ire­land, one should re­mem­ber it is al­ready treated dif­fer­ently in some of its laws and re­la­tion­ship with the Repub­lic of Ire­land any­way. Dif­fer­ent laws and cus­toms do not pre­vent it from be­ing an in­te­gral part of the UK.

As it stands, too many MPs are telling our elec­tors: “When we told you we would re­spect your opin­ion on our mem­ber­ship of the EU, we didn’t mean it.” There is no greater proof that Bri­tain is be­com­ing a Euro­pean state than our elites de­mand­ing the peo­ple vote again be­cause they do not ap­prove of how the vote went the first time round.

Some MPs, such as Tot­ten­ham’s David Lammy, are at least hon­est about it. His mes­sage is: let’s just tell the peo­ple they are wrong and refuse.

I lis­ten to Tory re­main leader Do­minic Grieve’s le­gal pedantry and my heart sinks. I don’t know if he more re­sem­bles a lat­ter-day Thomas More or Pro­fes­sor Yaf­fle from the chil­dren’s se­ries Bag­puss I used to watch when I was lit­tle. His le­gal­is­tic ap­proach may be im­pres­sive, but he has only one emo­tional aim, and it is to over­turn and ig­nore the wishes of the peo­ple of this coun­try. A fine le­gal mind is be­ing de­ployed in the pur­suit of un­der­min­ing our re­la­tion­ship with our vot­ers and dam­ag­ing our democ­racy.

Two thirds of Labour con­stituen­cies voted to leave. While some Labour MPs do have prin­ci­pled ob­jec­tions, the ma­jor­ity ap­pear en­gaged in a crassly op­por­tunis­tic at­tempt to bring down the gov­ern­ment, de­spite hav­ing noth­ing to of­fer and no new ideas.

But, of course, chal­lenge any of the ob­ses­sive re­main­ers plot­ting this week’s coup, and they por­tray them­selves as mar­tyrs. Ask them why they ig­nore the man­date that was given to us and we are ac­cused of bul­ly­ing. Ask them to ex­plain them­selves and they hide be­hind prece­dent, or say in mock sin­cer­ity: “Well, we’re tak­ing back con­trol, isn’t this what you wanted?” Chal­lenge them as to why they are un­der­min­ing democ­racy, and they tut-tut as if that ques­tion is not the sort of thing one should be ask­ing.

I in­tend to call this for what it is. Those on all sides of the House of Com­mons who try, against our man­i­festos, against the prom­ises we made, to un­der­mine Brexit are not mar­tyrs. They are rep­re­sen­ta­tives of an elite that is try­ing to block Bri­tain leav­ing the EU.

They are not “tak­ing back con­trol”. They are usurp­ing power. This is a re­volt of the elites against pop­u­lar democ­racy.

• Bob Seely is the Con­ser­va­tive MP for the Isle of Wight

There is no greater proof that Bri­tain is be­com­ing a Euro­pean state than our elites de­mand­ing the peo­ple vote again

‘In­stead of re­spect­ing the man­date of the Bri­tish peo­ple, many MPs ap­pear in­tent on over­rul­ing it.’ Pho­to­graph: Fa­cundo Ar­riz­a­bal­aga/EPA

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