The May Government’s apparent determination to pursue only the softest of Soft-Brexits, by whatever means and at whatever cost, has produced a quasi-constitutional crisis of democracy that is far bigger than Brexit itself
Note: this is the long (and updated) version of the article first published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 10th July 2018.
A dramatic and febrile three days in the wake of the virtual imposition, including via the use of threats almost comical in their puerile pettiness, by an embattled but stubbornly-authoritarian Theresa May of her Brexit proposals at the Cabinet’s Chequers so-called Brexit “summit” on Friday 6th July, culminated on the afternoon of Monday 9th July in the resignation of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, following those of Brexit Department Secretary David Davis and Minister of State Steve Baker respectively, late on the evening of Sunday 8th July.
May has no right to feel aggrieved, or even surprised. First, her proposed negotiating position, about as far removed from her 2017 manifesto promises and previous negotiating pledges as chalk from cheese, were rightly labelled ‘Remain-By-Any-Other-Name’ and ‘Brexit-In-Name-Only’, and lacerated by multiple commentators for their disingenuousness and lack of ambition, their undue deference to Remainer intransigence and Brussels diktats alike, and even their downright mendacity.
Foremost among these, though, was a devastating memorandum from Lawyers For Britain’s Martin Howe QC, exposing how, in contrast to the claims advanced implausibly by her sycophantic Remainer colleagues, May’s proposals would lead directly to a worst-of-all-worlds Black-Hole Brexit with Britain stuck permanently as a rule-taking vassal-state in the enduring grip of the EU’s legal and regulatory maw.
On Sunday 8th July’s BBC Sunday Politics, presenter Sarah Smith extracted from Conservative Party Deputy Chairman James Cleverly an admission that, in contrast to what had hitherto been spun, the UK would automatically adopt any new EU rules, despite having no say over devising them, unless a (Remainer-dominated, remember) Parliament actually decided not to. Hardly the claimed “taking back control of our laws”.
Then it all got much worse. It emerged that May had “shown” (or submitted for approval?) her Brexit proposals to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, before their disclosure even to Cabinet, ignoring every convention of collective Cabinet government. She was duly excoriated, both for a grave breach of constitutional protocol, as well as a characteristically appalling lack of judgement.
This was then followed by the additional revelation that her No. 10 Chief of Staff, Gavin Barwell and her staunchly anti-Brexit, pro-EU, éminence-grise Olly Robbins had seemingly been working on her ultra-soft Brexit plan, in secret, not even confiding in the Cabinet, apparently for months.
Fuel was added to the fire which by now was well beyond merely smouldering, by both the unequivocally-critical terms of David Davis’ utterly-damning resignation letter –
“. .the inevitable consequence of the proposed policies will be to make the supposed control by Parliament illusory rather than real. . “
“The ‘common rule book’ policy hands large swathes of our economy to the EU”
and the blatant lie in May’s point 2 – “[we are] ending free movement” – of her reply.
One type of free movement may be being cosmetically “ended”, but only to be replaced by a different kind of free movement: and May refuses even to guarantee not to discriminate against non-EU nationals in its application.
Speculation was rife on the morning of Monday 9th July that May would use the opportunity presented by the Davis and Baker resignations to abolish the Brexit department completely, and fold it into the Cabinet Office, to be oversighted by none other than Robbins. This truly alarming prospect turned out not so far to be true: but that it was regarded as a strong possibility at all surely speaks volumes.
Next on that same Monday morning came the news that May’s Chief of Staff, the former Tory MP Gavin Barwell noted chiefly for his labelling Brexit ‘the politics of hate’, was to brief Labour, Liberal-Democrat and SNP MPs on her (Non)-Brexit ‘Brexit’ plans. Although subsequently shelved, the implication of this was momentous, and clear: uber-reluctant Brexiteer May, prepared to solicit the votes of the pro-Remain Opposition parties in order to get her (Non)-Brexit plans through Parliament, against both her own backbenchers trying to hold her to her manifesto commitments, and the votes of 17.4 million people.
In my opinion, the scaremongering by the likes of Airbus and BMW of the previous week, with Business Secretary and arch-Remainer Greg Clark acting as the willing mouthpiece of pro-Brussels, crony-corporatist big-business, is indelibly linked to this. Who knows what donations have been threatened to be withheld unless Brexit is effectively killed off, or promised if it is?
It’s now abundantly clear that we have a political class that is resolutely determined, almost at any price, not to enact the instruction given to it by the British electorate, and is led by a Prime Minister evidently prepared to destroy her own party & even democracy itself, in order to perpetuate Britain’s subservience to the anti-democratic supranational EU. Always more Miliband-ite than even Blairite, May’s mask has finally slipped.
This means that the quasi-constitutional crisis we now face is greater than the extant issue. This just got a lot bigger than Brexit. It’s about nothing less than whether we’re a functioning citizens’ democracy at all, or unwilling subjects of an unaccountable apparatchik-elite pursuing its own agenda in defiance of, if not actually against, the people.
We just have to win this fight, and now in a much wider sense than merely holding a reluctant or even intransigently-defiant government to the referendum verdict it promised to implement, or the manifesto pledge on which it stood for election.
It’s now about so much more than Brexit. We can’t afford to lose. Because if we do, a triumphalist and overwhelmingly Remainer Left-‘Liberal’ Elite Oligarchy, who dominate Britain’s political, media, academic and cultural classes and thus control virtually every institution of public life, are likely to try and wreak a terrible revenge on the ordinary people of this country.
We saw a taste of it in their furious reaction to the Referendum result, and about which I’ve previously written at TCW. I suspect it would intensify. So nearly thwarted, via the near-loss of what they revere as axiomatic, and moreover to what they contemptuously regard as a backward, racist, xenophobic, unsophisticated, uneducated, politically-illegitimate rabble, they would probably redouble their efforts to foist EU rules, uncontrolled mass immigration, progressive loss of civil liberties, multiculturalism and divisive identity-politics on us in greater measure for having had the temerity to rebel.
I can recall tweeting, just after 2016 EU Referendum, that pro-EU, ‘Liberal’-Elite, New-Class Establishment Oligarchy would not accept without a fight its defeat by the Demos, and especially on an issue as fundamental to its entire world-view as EU membership, and that we might well have to take to the streets, preferably and hopefully non-violently, to enforce the implementation of the Referendum result.
That prospect now feels closer than ever, and we may have no choice. To quote Thomas Paine: “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace”.
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