To be or not to be – the battle for Brexit reaches its climax

Next week could see a Parliamentary victory for Johnson on his negotiated Brexit deal but this might merely be a battle won and not the war Yet again the right wing Brexiteers have been frustrated in their attempts to take Britain out of the EU by the sheer fact of a lack of a majority and thus opposition in Parliament to their efforts. His goal has been to try to realise Brexit by 31 October in order to fulfil his promise in his earlier campaign to become leader of the Tories. This goal may also account for the very arbitrary and overly forceful way that he has proceeded and the resistance that that has engendered. Prime Minister Johnson returned from Brussels brandishing Brexit Deal Mark Two only to see it shot down on Saturday as MP’s realised that his attempt … Read more

Forcing through a No Deal Brexit and a “People versus Politicians” election

It was disturbing to read reports over the weekend that under the advice of the master of the dark arts SPAD* Dominic Cummings at No. 10, the Johnson regime is planning to allow a No Deal Brexit to occur under the default principle inherent in the Article 50 process and to hold a “People versus the Politicians” general election soon after to secure a majority and elective legitimacy for his regime. In so doing, Johnson is playing fast and loose with the principles of the British constitution and revealing an arbitrariness that is dangerous. Thus is the mandate allegedly secured for Brexit in the referendum of 2016 allowed to override Parliamentary democracy as populists suggest and despite failing to win the 2017 general election to carry Brexit through to completion. Britain is facing a grim crisis that could tear it … Read more

To get why Boris Johnson might be the UK’s PM one needs to get Brexit

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man” can seem very biblical but is perhaps rather apposite in the circumstances. People now faced with the possibility of Boris Johnson as the UK’s PM and national leader are asking, “How can this be?” It should be remembered that there are around 48% who favour Brexit and also Johnson still enjoys a lot of support. Equally one might ask how it was that Farage had so much support recently. Such supporters might therefore reply, “and why not?” We are in the middle of a massive crisis, and the electorate is sharply polarised. Brexit is overwhelmingly the biggest crisis in the UK’s recent history. The background is, I would suggest, deep unrest in the country, particularly due to austerity but also neo-liberalism. Brexit serves as the diversion and thus the target for much angst. Amidst … Read more

Parliament tries to take contol of Brexit from the government

The power struggle over Brexit and between the legislature and the executive steps up a gear tomorrow, when we will see both May’s response to her massive defeat last week and publication of the Cooper/Boles/Grieve cross-party measures to take control of the Brexit Process from May’s government. At the same time steps are being taken to promote the idea of a second referendum both within the Labour Party and with the government. Major party paralysis It was very evident last week that PM May was not capable of negotiating with other parties and building a cross-party coalition to steer through a compromise version of Brexit such as a permanent customs union. Reports were that she was still attached to her negotiated deal and was simply sounding out possible support for tweaks to the deal so resoundingly defeated last week. However … Read more

Brexit puts the UK constitution under massive strain

The Brexit crisis have underlined a number of serious issues about our unwritten constitution and even the viability of the British state. Arguably our current constitutional arrangements don’t cater effectively for certain problems raised by Brexit, but for which some mechanism or point of ultimate reference is badly needed to prevent abuse of power. One  such case is the role of the monarchy. We arguably do not have effective government at present. Mrs May on one day, 15 January, was defeated by 230 votes in Parliament on her painstakingly negotiated Withdrawal Agreement, but the very next day wins a motion of No Confidence and can remain in office. In effect we have a government in office but not in power. There is no mechanism for removing her, due to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. The monarch is non-political and only … Read more

Parliament makes a stand for democracy

Over the last two days there have been two important votes in Parliament on Brexit that have potentially reasserted the power of Parliament in relation to the executive. As the Brexit endgame is being played out, the issue of Britain’s independence, real or nominal, has become wrapped up with the nature and extent of democracy in the UK. These issues take us to the very heart of representative government in Britain. The immediate question has been how to try to stop PM May pushing the UK closer to the Brexit deadline in order to force MP’s to agree to the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) she has negotiated with the EU. May lacks a natural majority and is nevertheless bound by previous votes in 2017 to obtain Parliamentary agreement. This has posed a major headache for a government accustomed to being able … Read more

The Brexit conflict still remains in deadlock with the clock ticking down

The political deadlock in the UK at Westminster as we reach Christmas seems as solid as ever, with no apparent solution about Brexit on the table except Mrs May’s negotiated deal with the EU, a crash-and-burn no-deal Brexit or a second referendum. It is therefore a good time to assess where we are in relation to this all-consuming Brexit conflict, while other urgent, important or necessary domestic initiatives are on hold. So where do we go from here? May’s Withdrawal Agreement The major achievement, if we can call it that, of May’s premiership so far has been to negotiate with the EU a Withdrawal Agreement (WA) on the terms of Brexit, namely citizen rights, a settlement of outstanding debts (£39bn), the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic and a transition arrangement to last till Dec 2020, with a … Read more

The 2016 UK referendum poses important questions for democracy

The 2016 Brexit UK referendum has thrown Britain into an unpredented political and constitutional crisis which now threatens to engulf it. To ask whether holding the referendum was the best decision in the circumstances risks inviting political controversy, so embroiled in a bitterly divisive conflict has the issue become. Thus the political observer is treading over volatile territory. However, if we take a step back and look at the health of the body politic for a moment, it can be possible to see some vital lessons to be learned about the use of referendums within the British political system. This is especially important given that many are advocating a second UK referendum as a way out of the current impasse. The unwisdom of the 2016 Referendum A clue about the wisdom  of the use of the referendum device in 2016 … Read more

The political deadlock in Parliament continues

The turmoil that is Brexit continues but still with no clear way forward emerging. In effect there is political deadlock in Parliament and no political option has a clear majority. This division and confusion is replicated amongst journalists, who offer various solutions but no consensus, and the public, as can be seen in confusing opinion polls. Negotiations with the EU resume tomorrow on a proposal that most people already are sceptical can secure agreement with the EU or with Parliament. Meanwhile the deadline of 29 March 2016 for Brexit gets ever closer. Attention is already turning to what happens next. What will unlock this deadlock? High drama in Parliament The vote yesterday on the Trade Bill report stage was high drama. Theresa May had earlier caved into the hard Brexit ERG Tory faction and allowed their wrecking amendment that customs … Read more

Avoiding the slow-motion Brexit train crash

The slow motion train crash that is Brexit is gradually speeding up as the deadline for an agreement with the EU gets closer and yet the political situation in the UK remains deadlocked. May’s government has, after months of wrangling between ministers, finally produced a White Paper of an outline of a proposal for a trade negotiation with the EU, only to see it widely criticised as either unworkable or giving too much or too little away. Several Brexiters have resigned, including heavyweights Boris Johnson and David Davis. May will now attempt to negotiate with the EU while trying to face down what are now her Brexiter opponents, not a promising position to be in for a major change in the UK’s constitutional and trading arrangements. The situation has become unprecedented, volatile and highly unpredictable. The emergence of a proposed … Read more

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