Brexit shenanigans get weirder and weirder

As the October 31 deadline for crashing out of the EU looms, Boris Johnson tries to create a situation where he has total control over whether a no-deal Brexit occurs or not. He seems to think (or at least is saying so publicly even if he does not believe it) that the threat of a no-deal Brexit would be sufficient to force the EU to come back to the negotiating table with a deal that is more favorable to the UK. He argues that those in the UK who are opposed to a no-deal Brexit and trying to find ways to stop it are actually aiding the EU by enabling them to avoid having to negotiate with him. He has said that he is willing to prorogue (parliament-speak for suspend) parliament to pre-empt any moves to stop him.

I just don’t see it. It seems like the UK was never really fully committed to the EU concept because of its perceived ‘special relationship’ with the US and as a result insisted on special status within the EU that the EU was willing to grant during the initial negotiations. But it seems like the other nations in the EU see the UK as a kind of Trojan horse to protect US interests. Right now, given the endless drama and vacillations by the UK about whether to stay or go, I can well imagine the other nations in the EU just being glad to be rid of the UK, and so Johnson’s threat of a no-deal Brexit would be utterly toothless. The impact of the UK leaving the EU would be much greater for the UK than for the EU, except for the case of Ireland which would have to deal with the Northern Ireland border question.

Given Johnson’s threat of pushing through a no deal Brexit, all the usual political norms in the UK are falling by the wayside as opponents try to find ways to stop him doing an end run around parliament. Speaker John Bercow has vowed to protect the right of parliament to have a say on this question.

The House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, has said he will “fight with every breath in my body” to stop Boris Johnson from proroguing parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit without the consent of MPs.

Bercow, who has previously said he did not believe it would be possible to suspend parliament to force through no deal, gave his strongest signal yet he was prepared to personally intervene to stop prorogation.

Asked by an audience member if parliament was able to stop a no-deal Brexit, Bercow replied: “Yes.”

Constitutional experts have said it is a plausible plan for cross-party rebels to seize control of the order paper via motions for recess, which are called “periodic adjournment motions”. They are not normally amendable, but Bercow caused major controversy in January when he defied this convention and allowed Tory MP Dominic Grieve to amend a similar motion.

The speaker is normally viewed as a neutral figure and his statement has enraged the hard-core Brexiteers.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged the leaders of other parties and Conservative party rebels to join his party in defeating the Johnson government and installing a new caretaker government with him as prime minister to negotiate a new deal.

Jeremy Corbyn has called on rebel Tories and opposition leaders to stop a no-deal Brexit by ousting Boris Johnson as prime minister and allowing Labour to form a caretaker government until a general election.

The Labour leader proposed that he should lead a temporary administration on a “strictly time-limited” basis with the aim of calling a general election.

In his letter, Corbyn said: “This government has no mandate for no deal, and the 2016 EU referendum provided no mandate for no deal. I therefore intend to table a vote of no confidence at the earliest opportunity when we can be confident of success.

“Following a successful vote of no confidence in the government, I would then, as leader of the opposition, seek the confidence of the House for a strictly time-limited temporary government with the aim of calling a general election, and securing the necessary extension of article 50 to do so.”

But many MPs are not keen on enabling an avowed socialist to become the prime minister even for a short time as a stop-gap measure. The leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson has said that she cannot support making Corbyn as prime minister but she is getting pressured to change her mind. Plus some are insisting that Corbyn must promise to hold a new referendum first, something that he has been reluctant to sign on to, and also that there would simply not be enough time to hold a general election and then decide what to do about Brexit.

Things are getting so desperate that at the very extreme are suggestions that somehow Queen Elizabeth might be able to thwart a no-deal Brexit.

The question has been dismissed as pure fantasy by those on both sides of the Brexit debate in the past. But according to a new report by the BBC’s Newsnight program, rebel lawmakers have drawn up a plan to ask Britain’s constitutional head of state to take the most drastic step of her 67-year reign, wading into U.K. politics for the first time ever in order to stop a so-called “no deal” Brexit.

To prevent this, the BBC reports, these unnamed lawmakers would invite the Queen to travel to the next E.U. summit in place of Johnson, in defiance of precedent and constitutional norms. There, under the plan, the Queen would ask other E.U. leaders to delay the U.K.’s departure, foiling Johnson’s plan to leave with or without a deal on the current deadline of Oct. 31.

This option seems like pure fantasy but the fact that it is even being discussed is a sign of how far norms have been breached. But there are other more realistic options for the Queen.

But if the next Prime Minister decides to prorogue parliament, the Queen would be involved one way or another. The legislative body can only be prorogued if the Prime Minister asks the Queen to do so and she accepts. Under extreme circumstances, the Queen would be within her constitutionally-mandated limits to say no.

And if the Prime Minister has no majority—so, for example, if lawmakers stage a vote of no confidence in response—the Queen can refuse to follow his or her advice. “The Prime Minister’s advice is only binding on the Queen when the Prime Minister commands the confidence of Parliament,” Hazell says.

All this assumes that the Queen is herself opposed to Brexit but as far as I am aware, she keeps her political opinions pretty much to herself. The Queen’s role is largely ceremonial and she usually acts according to the wishes of the government and for her to take such an interventionist role would be extraordinary. But these are extraordinary times and who knows what might happen. After nearly seven decades of pretty much uneventful times as monarch, she must be wondering why this very hot potato is falling in her lap in the very twilight of her reign. Maybe she might decide to finally abdicate and leave her son Charles to deal with the mess.

These days, when it comes to Brexit, nothing is outside the bounds of possibility.


  1. jrkrideau says

    Queen Elizabeth might be able to thwart a no-deal Brexit.

    As you say, constitutionally it is within her right. All hell might/would break loose but when one comes down to it she is not a meek and mild person.

    As a side note, she is Commander in Chief of the UK military. The oath is to the Queen not some asshole politician.

  2. jrkrideau says

    @ 1 Intransitive
    If she were as useful as the previous Thai king who died in 2017 and not a waste of space, she would be tolerable.

    So far, though only living in Canada for about 60 years, I have not had a problem with the Queen. She and the GGs seem to do a rather good job.

  3. says

    By a waste of space, I’m referring to her attempts to have public money for heating homes of the poor redirected to heating her decrepit castle. And to degrading slave labour that people were forced to perform during the “diamond jubilee”.

    Closer to home, in 1994 two events happened in British Columbia: the “commonwealth” games (between rich and poor countries) in Victoria, and the opening of the University of Northern British Columbia, a university purportedly for scientific research. Lizardbreath was there to open both of them.

    What galls me is who wasn’t at the opening of UNBC, who was not invited. In 1993, Michael Smith of the University of British Columbia (in Vancouver) was co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, months before the UNBC grand opening. Despite calls by the informed for him to be part of the ceremony, to show that world class science can be done in BC, no invitation was given.

    Priorities, people.

  4. Matt G says

    May should just have taken Trump’s advice on how to do Brexit. After all, he discovered a truly marvelous way to do this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.

  5. mnb0 says

    “But it seems like the other nations in the EU see the UK as a kind of Trojan horse to protect US interests.”
    That’s nonsense. The UK has become an opponent of the EU’s direct interests and that always has been sufficient to unify the member states. Russia and China are playing the “divide the member states of the EU” game way, way better.

    “except for the case of Ireland ”
    Belgium and to a lesser extent The Netherlands are going to feel consequences as well.
    But look up what the UK is importing from EU countries.

    It’s going to be fun in Dunkirk, Le Havre, Calais, Oostende and Rotterdam, with all the paperwork suddenly demanded and nobody prepared for. Plus France -- resentful as always -- is going to lift the barriers for refugees at Calais. The distance to Dover is only 32 km How’s Boris the Spider going to stop them, by waving his finger?

  6. xohjoh2n says

    Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it’s worked so well?
    Hacker: That’s all ancient history, surely?
    Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we’re inside we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing — set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch… The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it’s just like old times.

  7. Holms says

    If you are suggesting that the military will follow her instead of parliament, you are living in the same fantasy world as those that believe the queen might travel in place of the PM to thwart brexit.

  8. says

    If Mini Trump thinks that all the other 27 heads of state will tremble and bow down in fear of No Deal Brexit and give him what he wants, he is delusional. I cannot speak for others, but to me, it seems that an awful lot of people in the EU would like for the UK to finally stop its tantrum and eff-off.

  9. fentex says

    Elizabeth is in her mid-nineties and showing the entirely expected signs of advanced age. It is part of the horrible confluence of events that at a time when she might be called upon to exercise leadership above parliament she is least able to.

    All this talk about the UK having any kind of leverage over the EU is utter nonsense and screams incompetence at the world.
    The EU doesn’t need the UK, wants leaving it to HURT and would be perfectly happy for a crippling No Deal to proceed.

    They drew a line at October 31st 5 months ago and haven’t flinched since, all the hot air and blather is coming from the UK’s parliament and no where else.

    The inanity and incompetence on display in the UK is breath0taking. No one with responsibility seems to understand reality, probably because they’re all rich and privileged and unlikely to suffer direct damages.

    Should the worse happen they will deserve their heads being put on pikes.

  10. =8)-DX says

    From over the channel, all I can say is how proud I am of the EU negotiators. The did well: no special exceptions, take it or leave it and if you don’t like it you can fuck off. Solidarity with the Brits who’ll be hit by this, but the EU will not be bullied by your incompetent leaders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *