• Parliament’s Failure

    Amidst all the “shock horror” of recent days, the convolutions of law and constitution, and the parliamentary confusion and wrangling, there is one undeniable fact arising from the Brexit saga that should really cause concern.

    A full three years after the British people voted to leave the EU, a Parliament stuffed full of MPs elected on the promise that they would “respect the result” of the referendum has still failed to deliver on that promise.

    Instead, those MPs have contrived to frustrate the will of the people. They have, by implicitly working with EU leaders, made sure that an acceptable exit “deal” is not available, and have then gone further by placing obstacles in the way of departing without a deal – and all this, presumably, in the hope that Brexit can be forestalled and ultimately negated.

    These manoeuvrings may have “succeeded” in stymieing Brexit so far, and those responsible may hope to avoid any recriminations on the part of that majority who looked to Parliament to act according to their wishes and now feel betrayed. But they will be disappointed; the long-term damage to the principle of representative democracy is incalculable.

    Even in terms of the immediate objectives of those who have conjured up these delaying tactics, the desired outcome looks likely to prove elusive. Those whose response to defeat for their viewpoint in the referendum has been a rearguard action using these guerrilla tactics do not seem to realise that the difficulties they have helped to engineer in the way of the UK leaving the EU make the eventual departure even more certain.

    The ordinary British voter is unlikely to conclude, in the light of the parliamentary difficulties, that Brexit should be abandoned. They are far more likely to see those difficulties as further evidence that EU membership is a burden and constraint that must be removed.

    Having decided, after 40 years of membership, that it was a bad idea that had turned out badly, they will see continued EU intransigence over the process of departure as further evidence that – if even leaving cannot be achieved without seeking permission – the sooner we remove the shackles the better.

    And it will not have escaped their notice that those who are responsible for delaying Brexit today are the very same people who took us into the whole sorry shambles in the first place. All those bien pensants, those who “know best”, are precisely those who assured us in the 1960s and 1970s that joining the Common Market would usher in a new era of prosperity and national success.

    Those of us who warned at the time that the consequences of membership would be anything but beneficial have, sadly, been proved right. There has been no economic revival – only perennial trade deficits and a decimated British manufacturing industry. Despite the promise that there was no intention to create a European super-state, we found ourselves subject to European laws, economic policies and jurisdiction, with no ability to decide our own destiny or even to control our own borders.

    When we have to go cap in hand just for the privilege of leaving, the British people are not likely to change their minds about the acceptability of government from Brussels. They are not likely to look kindly on those who misled them in the first place about the nature of the arrangement, and who are now compounding that misjudgment by colluding with the EU in order to stop us from leaving.

    Even if the people were to be required, on the ground that they got it wrong the first time, to go through the process again, the machinations which have been resorted to in order to keep us in the EU are unlikely to induce them to change their minds – quite the reverse.

    What many voters now want most is to be shot of the whole sorry business, and as quickly as possible. We will then, they feel, be free for the first time in decades to seek our own salvation. They will realise that the dire warnings about our future outside the EU look very unconvincing when one grasps that that is exactly where the whole of the rest of the world has always been and continues to be, and that it doesn’t seem to have done them much harm.

    The guerrilla warfare faced by Brexiteers may have some success as a diversionary and delaying tactic, but it is, in other words, most unlikely to change the eventual outcome.

    Bryan Gould
    26 September 2019