THE STORM IS COM­ING – AND I HAVE TO SAY I’M FRIGHT­ENED

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - DAN HODGES

CON­SER­VA­TIVE MPs as­sem­bled in Down­ing Street for a drinks re­cep­tion last Wed­nes­day evening. Widely per­ceived to be a des­per­ate, last-minute lob­by­ing op­er­a­tion by the Theresa May, it ac­tu­ally proved to be a re­laxed event.

A Down­ing Street ad­viser said he walked in to see two Tory MPs, arch-re­mainer Do­minic Grieve and staunch Brex­i­teer Bernard Jenkin, ‘hav­ing a friendly chat’.

‘It was like the Tory fam­ily was com­ing back to­gether again. I thought, “Can’t things just stay like this?” ’

No, they can’t. On Tues­day, Tory MPs will walk through the vot­ing lob­bies and be­gin the process of tear­ing their party and coun­try apart. ‘We’re go­ing to lose the vote,’ an­other No.10 ad­viser ad­mit­ted to me. ‘And when that hap­pens, all hell is go­ing to break loose. Peo­ple don’t un­der­stand what’s com­ing.’

Theresa May’s aide was right about the im­pact but wrong about the ig­no­rance of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. They might be forc­ing them­selves into a bliss­ful, if con­ve­nient, state of de­nial. But deep down, they know full well the im­pli­ca­tions of what they are about to do.

It’s al­most three years since the UK voted by a de­ci­sive mar­gin to leave the EU. But in two days’ time, MPs will take the de­ci­sion to throw that process into re­verse.

At last week’s Cab­i­net meet­ing, leader of the Com­mons An­drea Lead­som ex­plained that even if Mrs May’s deal se­cures par­lia­men­tary ap­proval within the next 48 hours, it will be touch and go whether the gov­ern­ment can drive through the leg­is­la­tion nec­es­sary to se­cure a de­par­ture on March 29. De­feat will guar­an­tee that dead­line can no longer be met, and the timetable for leav­ing will be torn up. At which point the de­ci­sion taken by the Bri­tish peo­ple will be torn up as well.

That will de­light many. But they should hold their cheers be­cause a storm is com­ing. A storm with a fe­roc­ity and fury un­par­al­leled in modern Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal his­tory.

Last week, there was much talk of how par­lia­ment had ‘seized con­trol’ of Brexit. It has not. In­stead, it is pre­par­ing to send Bri­tish pol­i­tics ca­reen­ing out of con­trol in a way that can only end in catas­tro­phe.

If our MPs were pre­par­ing to re­ject Mrs May’s Brexit plan in or­der to re­place it with one of their own, there would be some ra­tio­nal­ity to their ac­tions.

The in­ver­sion of the roles of leg­is­la­ture and ex­ec­u­tive would be con­sti­tu­tion­ally ques­tion­able, but jus­ti­fi­able. But that it is not what they are propos­ing. They are about to re­place her plan with a state of en­forced and lethal paral­y­sis.

Mrs May has made her mis­takes. But in the end she has done her job. She has de­cided on a plan.

And now MPs are pre­par­ing to take a ham­mer to it, with no re­gard for what should come in its place.

If MPs wish to op­pose Mrs May’s deal, fine. But they now have an obli­ga­tion to tell us what their own plan is to lead us out of this cri­sis.

If a deal can­not be agreed, there are three pos­si­ble out­comes: a No Deal Brexit, a new ref­er­en­dum or a gen­eral elec­tion.

This can’t go on. The log­jam must be bro­ken. Be­cause if it is not, the na­tion will lit­er­ally be­come un­govern­able.

I have to be hon­est. I am scared at the prospect of a ref­er­en­dum or elec­tion in the present en­vi­ron­ment. Layer in the in­evitable sense of es­tab­lish­ment be­trayal, the ap­pro­pri­a­tion of the cam­paign by the neo-Nazi right, the re­ac­tion of hardLeft ac­tivists driven by their mes­sianic de­vo­tion to a Labour lead­er­ship that it­self has openly en­dorsed po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence. The na­tion would be court­ing catas­tro­phe.

This can’t go on. We can­not con­tinue with a sit­u­a­tion where our lead­ers are un­able to lead, and our leg­is­la­tors refuse to leg­is­late.

The log­jam must be bro­ken. Be­cause if it is not, the na­tion will lit­er­ally be­come un­govern­able.

The storm is com­ing. On Tues­day it will break. When it does, our MPs will find that they, like the rest of the coun­try, have no place to shel­ter.

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