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All power to MPs trying everything to block no deal

by Luke Lythgoe | 28.06.2019

Contrary to what The Sun tells its readers, the latest attempt in Parliament to stop our next prime minister forcing through a no-deal Brexit is not about “targeting benefit claimants, OAPs and schools”. Nor is it designed to “inflict hardship and fear on the poorest and most vulnerable”. It is designed to protect precisely those people from a disastrous crash out on October 31.

Margaret Beckett and Dominic Grieve have tabled an amendment to a motion approving the government’s spending plans – known as “estimates”. It says that if Brexit goes ahead, The government can only spend the money if either a “withdrawal agreement has been ratified” or Parliament “approves the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement”.

This particular motion, which will be voted on next Tuesday, covers funding for the departments for work and pensions, education, housing and local government, and international development.

The pro-Brexit forces have gone apoplectic. A spokesperson for Theresa May said it was “grossly irresponsible” and Number 10’s former director of legislative affairs, Nikki da Costa, wrote in the Telegraph that Grieve and Beckett were “determined to make no deal as difficult and unpredictable as possible”.

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If this amendment seems strong, it’s a consequence of Brexiters’ increasingly extreme lurch towards no deal, epitomised by Boris Johnson’s “do or die” call earlier this week. But let’s be clear, the “grossly irresponsible” act here is to inflict no-deal chaos on the nation. Likewise, the “arrogant and disrespectful” actors here would be Johnson – who has once again put the highly undemocratic idea of suspending or “proroguing” Parliament back on the table – and commentators like The Sun who continue to insist that trashing the country is an acceptable response to the pain and despondency which led to the Brexit vote in the first place.

No deal is terrible. This amendment aims to prevent it by making the consequences seem so terrible that either our new prime minister backs down or, failing that, ensuring enough brave Tory MPs are steeled in their resolve to take down a no-deal government.

But the only way hardship gets inflicted on the most vulnerable is if the prime minister takes the chilling decision to circumvent Parliament and plough on with no-deal Brexit regardless. Even then, MPs have the means to stop the government doing anything as undemocratically outrageous as suspending Parliament to force through an unpopular policy.

All power to the MPs who are still standing up to the Brexiters’ lunacy. It’s crucial they take this, and every subsequent opportunity, to put the brakes on Johnson and Hunt’s race to the cliff edge. If they can find some other option to stop the madness in the coming weeks and months, the idea of blocking government spending will be moot. But if not, at least they will have a tool that might work. 

Finally, and despite da Costa’s accusations, this isn’t about getting a new referendum. The amendment doesn’t mention it, and it’s backed by Ken Clarke who has consistently been against one. This is about averting a national crisis.

Having said that, if the new prime minister is forced to step away from the cliff edge, MPs will have a decision to make. Do the Tories really want a general election? Perhaps putting Brexit back to the people will be the best bet after all.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

8 Responses to “All power to MPs trying everything to block no deal”

  • Excellent article for which I thank the author for bringing it to our attention. When the Brexit dust settles and future political circumstances allow it, a public enquiry should be set up to examine every aspect of the 2016 EU Referendum campaign, in particular the financing thereof, and the nonautorised use of personal data to target segments of the electorate with political messages. The abuse of the Freedom of the press by the press itself as highlighted by John King should also be examined. Freedom of the Press is one thing but systematic indoctrination of large segments of the English population with fake news about the EU is unacceptable.

    Subsequently, the constitutional implications of the Brexit disaster must also be faced, including the possible need for a written Constitution which would certainly have laid down rules for a Referendum which would have avoided the outcome with which the country was faced on 24th June 2016.

  • I couldn’t agree more, David.

    Coming back to the issue of proroguing Parliament, I believe that there should be mass, continuing demonstrations in central London and particularly in Whitehall and Parliament Square to demonstrate our unwillingness to accept this abuse of the Parliamentary process. These should continue until whoever is PM backs down. Period. If we let this slip past, and on a matter, the importance of which cannot be understated, then it will create a precedent for the kind of absolutism not seen since the time of Charles I’s follies.

    Temporary disruption seems better to me than what may follow if this is not nipped in the bud.

  • The nasty anti EU campaign has a very long history, with lie after lie about what and how the EU works. It is more than forty years old and does not change. Destroying our democratic system has always been seen as a ‘;price worth paying’ to free ourselves from foreigners. Let is call this what it is-a little Englander, anti foreigner movement backed up,ironically by a rabid foreign owned press.
    The abuses are on such a scale that we will soon have no option but direct action of various sorts to fight this right wing take-over of our democracy.We need to know the real percentages around EU membership and we can only do that with a referendum

  • It is an absolute disgrace that both candidates are flirting with No Deal, but what would be completly intolerable, is if they tried to suspend parliament. (Using the technical sounding word, porouging, doesn’t make it any better). The serious point needs to be driven home to both, that we live in one of the oldest parliamentary democracies. We are not a banana republic.
    Although there is a large majority in Parliament who see the folly of allowing the country to drift into a No Deal scenario, they have to assert themselves and block it. We are rapidly approaching the abyss. Grieve and Beckett’s initiatives are crucial. The national interest has to take precedence over party politics, though sadly there are too many MPs who put this first, some for purely personal political ambition.
    The other point is that it is vital that Lib Dems, Greens and other Pro Remain parties work together. Therefore initiatives from Sarah Wollaston, the Lib Dems in Brighton etc. and the Greens for the forthcoming By-election in Brecon & Radnorshire are crucial , at least until the immediate danger is averted.

  • The other problem is that the threat of extreme no deal is being used to make Brexit with a deal sound ok. Like a man who threatens to shoot you and then says ok, I’ll just take your money

    Today I’ve received a longwinded exposition from the People’s Vote explaining why “No deal” would be bad. A simple, clear message – We don’t want Brexit, any Brexit, is better.

    That’s how Farage wins people over and People’s vote must learn from him

  • Patricia puts it very well. Real problem is the foreign owned press is backed by limitless amounts of dark money. It feels like pea shooters against a squadron of nuclear bombers. Question becomes, how to survive as an ethical person in a world ruled by crooks?