When Theresa May finally shuffles off this mortal coil, the autopsy will find “nothing has changed, nothing has changed” engraved upon her heart. Although it will have to be in tiny, tiny, writing. Today in Parliament however, the Prime Minister was trying to persuade MPs that everything had changed, when in fact all that had happened was a cosmetic exercise in trying to bring the Brextremists of the European Research Group and the DUP on board. It was a bit like trying to placate a ravenous zombie by offering to allow it to look at a photo of some gammon.
The writing was on the wall as soon as Geoffrey Cox’s legal opinion was published. Geoffrey’s codpiece was as empty as the intellectual and moral vacuum at the heart of his party. The legal risk of being stuck in the backstop remains unchanged, he said. And with those words any chance of the deal passing died. As he continued to elaborate his reasons to the House of Commons, the Attorney General did his 1950s Shakespearean actor schtick and said, or more exactly orated, “Let’s be clear a sovereign state has a right to withdraw if a treaty is no longer compatible with its fundamental interests.” He wasn’t happy with the new guarantees that Theresa May had managed to negotiate because this condition still hasn’t been met, and that in his view was intolerable. The UK operates within a universe in which there can be no constraints upon the UK, that’s precisely what makes it such an unreliable and untrustworthy negotiating partner, that’s what is destroying what is left of the UK’s international standing. That’s what is turning the UK into a joke.
A sovereign state that has no right to withdraw if a treaty is no longer compatible with its needs is exactly the position that Scotland is in within this so-called union, trapped by the veto of Theresa May and seemingly unable to withdraw even though the Treaty of Union is no longer compatible with Scotland’s fundamental interests. It’s because of that treaty that Scotland is getting dragged out of the EU even though that is not the will of the people of Scotland and it will risk immense damage to Scotland’s economy and economic prospects. Geoffrey doesn’t seem to have a problem with that, even though the House of Commons has backed the Scottish Claim of Right that states that the people of Scotland have the sovereign right to choose the form of government best suited to their needs. Brexit has done precisely the square root of hee-haw to boost the international standing of the UK, but it has if nothing else provided Scottish independence campaigners with a rich fund of quotes to throw back in the faces of the British government during the next Scottish independence referendum. Geoffrey’s just given us another.
The rejection of this Brexit deal was always entirely predictable. When the Prime Minister’s deal was rejected by 230 votes a few short weeks ago that seem like an eternity, the EU was clear that it wasn’t in the mood to renegotiate anything even though it was willing to dress up the existing deal in a prettier bow. And so it has come to pass. The only thing that the UK has negotiated is its own irrelevance and has used up the precious last few reserves of patience left in the rest of the EU.
All day on the telly, the news cameras were focussed on the chamber of the House of Commons. We got to hear from a very hoarse sounding Theresa May, her breaking voice a metaphor for her deal, cracked and lacking support. She told MPs that if her deal was voted down again then Brexit could be lost. She said that like it was a bad thing. She delivered her speech before half empty Conservative benches. Not even her own party is listening to her any more.
Theresa also warned the House that a no deal Brexit meant that support for Irish unification and Scottish independence would increase. And it’s true, a no deal Brexit would indeed, according to opinion polls, increase support for Scottish independence, but those same opinion polls also show that Theresa May’s Brexit deal would also have the effect of increasing support for independence. Theresa forgot to mention that bit to the House of Commons. She’s very good at ignoring things. But what she can’t ignore forever is that the British state can have Theresa’s precious union, or it can have Brexit, but it can’t have both.
We got to hear Jeremy Corbyn’s response. We got to hear from assorted leavers and remainers and the inevitable Jacob Rees Mogg doing his very best impression of a funeral director at a birthday party. During Joanna Cherry’s intervention you might even have heard the Scottish Tory MP Luke Graham yell out that Scotland isn’t a country. According to the SNP’s Gavin Newlands, several of his colleagues heard Luke shout out that Scotland is “only a principality”. It’s a shockingly ignorant statement from a shockingly ignorant party. Luke’s ignorance is matched only by his shamelessness. You might think that a Scottish Tory MP would have grasped the difference between Scotland and Wales, but apparently not.
What you wouldn’t have heard on our so-called national broadcaster was the response of the third largest party in the Commons representing the largest single bloc of opinion in Scotland. Yet again on a vital day in the British parliament, the BBC didn’t broadcast the response by SNP leader Ian Blackford to Theresa May’s latest attempt to ram her already rejected deal through the Commons. There’s more than one institution of the British state which is letting Scotland down, it’s systemic across the board. And that in a nutshell, is precisely the nature of the problem.
As everyone was expecting, the deal was defeated by a large margin. By 391 votes to 242, MPs down the deal. The deal was defeated by 149 votes, another massive vote of no confidence in the government’s core policy.
In the aftermath of the defeat, Jeremy Corbyn called on the House to get behind Labour’s version of Brexit. No mention of another referendum. Jeremy’s wasting everyone’s time every bit as much as Theresa May is.
All the time wasting, all the running down the clock, all the brinksmanship, it was all for nothing. The deal is as dead as Theresa May’s political reputation. Tomorrow the House votes on whether to leave with no deal. The Prime Minister has confirmed that she will allow a free vote. However the motion that the government wants to put forward suggests that even if the House votes to reject no deal, no deal is still going to happen. The undead Brexit stumbles on, but Theresa May’s authority is dead and her government is hanging by a thread.
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