Want­ing end­less Brexit stooshies to be over

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - AGENDA -

One of the joys of pen­ning my thoughts is the free­dom of­fered by the ed­i­to­rial team at The Press and Jour­nal over my topic du jour. There is a space wait­ing to be filled with my ram­blings on what­ever sub­ject takes my fancy. Around 850 words crafted, we hope, to en­ter­tain, chal­lenge or oc­ca­sion­ally amuse the reader.

And so here I sit on Sun­day morn­ing, con­tem­plat­ing the op­tions and pre­tend­ing that I have a choice. There would be, in nor­mal times, a plethora of pos­si­bil­i­ties: the state of our pub­lic ser­vices; the Sal­mond af­fair; Andy Mur­ray; grid­lock in the US bud­get; the im­pend­ing Scot­tish bud­get and its im­pact on lo­cal ser­vices; or even Greggs’ ve­gan sausage rolls and Piers Mor­gan’s fake out­rage.

But, tempted as I am – es­pe­cially when it comes to the is­sue of tasty pas­tries – we both know it has to be Brexit.

And so, dear reader, here we go again ..... To­mor­row evening the House of Com­mons will vote. In­deed, MPs will have sev­eral votes to de­cide the fate of our coun­try.

Pre­cisely how many and on what has yet to be de­cided. That is up to the speaker. But there should be one cen­tral vote to ap­prove or re­ject the May deal on Brexit.

The so-called Mean­ing­ful Vote. I say “should” be, since it is not even cer­tain that it will come to that since, depend­ing on the amend­ments se­lected, we could have a mo­tion so al­tered that it ceases to be mean­ing­ful any more.

It is well within the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the Mother of Par­lia­ments to pro­duce the Mother of all Fudges. But let’s as­sume the cru­cial ques­tion is asked.

To­mor­row evening, will it be May’s day, or May­day?

And, just for fun, what if the vote is tied? The speaker, John Ber­cow, gets the cast­ing vote. By con­ven­tion it goes to the sta­tus quo. Par­lia­ment has voted for Brexit by au­tho­ris­ing the trig­ger­ing of ar­ti­cle 50. Is the May deal or no-deal the sta­tus quo?

Any­way, although I still be­lieve there is a slim chance that the PM can win, let’s as­sume that Par­lia­ment votes against the Brexit deal agreed by the EU. What’s next?

The prime min­is­ter has three days to tell the House what her plan B is. Jeremy Cor­byn will be un­der pres­sure to ta­ble a for­mal mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in the gov­ern­ment to trig­ger a gen­eral elec­tion. He prom­ises he will. But does he re­ally want one?

Be­cause there has, rightly, been much fo­cus on the strength or other­wise of the gov­ern­ment. But the vi­tal­ity of a democracy is also mea­sured by the ef­fec­tive­ness of its op­po­si­tion.

And here, we have been badly let down. Let’s look at Cor­byn’s op­tions if the May deal fal­ters to­mor­row.

He wants to be prime min­is­ter. So he wants a gen­eral elec­tion. But he re­fuses to say whether, in a snap poll, he would be cam­paign­ing for or against Brexit.

That would be up to Labour mem­bers, he claims. Ex­cept that his ra­tio­nale for forc­ing an elec­tion is so that he can ne­go­ti­ate a dif­fer­ent Brexit. At this point, I could tra­duce the chance of him get­ting any­thing out of the EU ma­te­ri­ally dif­fer­ent from that al­ready agreed, but let’s leave that for an­other day.

In­stead, what if he can’t force a gen­eral elec­tion? Does he then back the calls for a Peo­ple’s Vote and turn his back on his prom­ises to re­spect the first ref­er­en­dum?

If, in such a re­run, there could even be a clear re­sult, what then? If the is­sue is set­tled, his chances of power re­duce.

In truth, his tac­tics amount to lit­tle more that crossed fingers and naked op­por­tunism. He doesn’t want to be re­spon­si­ble for Brexit. He hopes the ex­ist­ing gov­ern­ment will see Brexit through, pos­si­bly on a no-deal ba­sis, and he can then sweep to power to pick up the pieces. He wants the fu­ture fame with­out any present-day blame.

So fi­nally, what do I think will hap­pen? In truth I haven’t a scooby, but I’m fairly sure that there will be a Brexit. I fancy the EU will make a last-minute con­ces­sion. Ar­ti­cle 50 might well get ex­tended so we go into ex­tra time.

But there is one thing of which I am cer­tain: We must get back to some kind of nor­mal­ity. The coun­try has had enough of this may­hem and mad­ness.

There are too many big is­sues be­ing side­lined by Brexit. Fail­ure to agree this week by our MPs will be a fail­ure of our demo­cratic sys­tem.

And fix­ing that would only pro­long the pain for us all.

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