Prime Minister Theresa May admitted on Monday that there is still not enough support to get her Brexit deal passed in Parliament, yet it remains her government’s only position.
With so much at stake for Britain and time almost out, she continues her obdurate “back me, or else” brinkmanship.
Britain is set to crash out of the European Union on April 12 absent a deal between British Parliament and the EU. That leave date was previously March 29, but May secured a two-week delay from the EU to convince members of Parliament to support her deal.
The March 29 date was written in U.K. law two years ago, and May has quoted it over 100 times. Yet it just took one meeting in Brussels to change all that, as Britain still remains under the supremacy of EU law.
The day before, May held an unscheduled nationwide broadcast to tell the public that the Brexit impasse was the fault of members of Parliament who had not supported her deal. Blaming and shaming the very people she will need if and when her deal next gets voted on was not her wisest decision.
The week had already started badly for her when Speaker of the House John Bercow used a parliamentary rule from 1604 to prevent the government’s primary legislation being brought before Parliament for a third time, as it was deemed to be not substantially different from when it lost before by 149 votes.
Tensions in the country are rising, too, with many members of Parliament experiencing stern rebukes from their constituents for failing to deliver Brexit. This led Bercow to make an astonishing statement of assurance in the House of Commons that “none of you is a traitor.” Members have also been advised not to travel alone and take taxis home.
This is serious stuff indeed, and truck drivers are now planning direct action to block major highways in protest of the government blocking real Brexit, as they see it. Senior eurosceptic Member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg has tweeted: “People versus Parliament continues.”
Last week marked 1,000 days since Britons voted convincingly to leave the EU, yet Parliament still has an overwhelming majority in favor of remaining. This means that the U.K. has, at least for now, ceased to be a representative democracy and some members of Parliament have effectively gone rogue from their constituency’s wishes.
The Conservative Party has to shoulder much of the blame for this. Had a “Leaver” prime minister rather than May, a “Remainer,” been placed in charge of negotiations in 2016, this could all have been so different.
Instead, she has sought to keep Britain as closely aligned to the EU as possible and positioned Britain to pay a huge 39 billion pounds price tag. She was also supported by largely “Remainer” civil servants and, at least initially, a compliant media.
Just months before the Brexit referendum was held in June 2016, former Prime Minister David Cameron sent a leaflet to households all over the U.K. telling voters: “The government believes it is in the best interests of the U.K. to remain in the EU.”
The taxpayer-funded pamphlet also stated, “This will be a once-in-a-generation decision” and it pledged, “The government will implement what you decide.”
No wonder that subsequent talk of second referendums and delaying or blocking Brexit has caused so much public outrage.
The pamphlet itself was controversial, as it cost 9 million pounds more to fund than was allowed during the referendum—yet Cameron called it a government information leaflet so it wasn’t counted as a campaign expense.
Despite such creative accounting, it failed to sway the election and the government has yet to honor most of the pledges it made.
“Remainer” members of Parliament have their own plans to vote on alternative plans to May’s deal, including abandoning Brexit altogether, so it will be interesting to see if Bercow applies his 1604 rule to those issues yet again. Many of those plans have already been debated and defeated.
On March 23, hundreds of thousands of people converged around Parliament to call for a second referendum. On the surface, this was democracy working as it should: people exercising their right to demonstrate in a peaceful way.
But these people came not just to protest against the government, but to seek to overturn the verdict of a legally held ballot across the entire U.K. They were protesting against democracy they didn’t like.