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