Is the British parliament at odds with the people?


BRITISH politics are in chaos. New Mrime Minister Boris Johnson took office promising to take the UK out of the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a deal. The date had been an extension of the original March deadline because parliament three times voted down the departure agreement achieved by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May.

The ostensible reason for that rejection were the border arrangements for Northern Ireland which abuts EU member Ireland. This sensitive part of the UK would have remained for a transition period within the European customs union until Brussels alone agreed the relationship could be ended following the agreement of a new UK-wide trade deal. Though some MPs regarded this as an egregious infringement of British sovereignty, many of those who threw out Theresa May’s deal in fact wanted to frustrate the whole Brexit process. Their hope was that the three years of negotiations in which Brussels mandarins have never stopped playing hardball, would somehow cause the abandonment of Brexit.

Boris Johnson took office determined to quit the EU in two month’s time. He built a Cabinet of fellow Brexiteers. He argued that if Brussels was going to offer a new deal, it would only do so if it was convinced the UK was serious about leaving without one. But MPs still committed to remaining in the EU, joined those who were genuinely worried about the “no deal” effects on British trade, threatened to force through a vote telling Johnson to seek an extension and to go to Brussels to get a deal. The prime minister’s response was that if they succeeded, he would call a general election. Parliament went on to pass the vote and then refused to allow an election until their “no deal” bill had passed in to law. Johnson could have tried to use delaying tactics in parliament’s second chamber, the House of Lords. Instead he has removed all obstacles and wants the opposition Labour party to honor a pledge to allow an election immediately the bill became law.

It remains to be seen if Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn will oblige and permit a general election that will be fought almost entirely on the Brexit issue alongside a raft of generous spending promises Johnson’s new Cabinet was quick to trot out. The harsh reality for those who oppose Brexit is that the voters, heartily fed up with the whole issue, are likely to back Johnson. The one-issue Brexit party led by Nigel Farage swept the board in this year’s UK elections for the European parliament. Johnson’s challenge, when he gets the election he wants, will be to ensure that the anti-EU vote is not split between his Conservative candidates and those for Brexit.

All the indications are that the majority of the electorate wants Brexit over and done with. Three years of uncertainty are finally beginning to damage the UK economy. The blame for that lies with the politicians and civil servants who have deliberately dragged their feet since the country voted “out” in June 2016. The political establishment was appalled at this outcome and characterized the almost 17.5 million Brexit voters as ignorant and ill-educated. The fact is the British parliament no longer represents the views of the majority of the electorate. The election, when it comes, could well see the British voters take their revenge.