The shutting down of the British Parliament for approximately five weeks at a time when MPs would ordinarily wish to scrutinize the workings of government — especially given the particular vicissitudes of Brexit and all that it creates in terms of division, polarization and anger across society — is unprecedented. The Conservatives have taken it upon themselves to negate the will of Parliament in the hope that a new withdrawal deal can be arranged with the European Union in relation to exiting from it.
It is a sad reflection of the state of British democracy — one so fundamentally misaligned with the expectations of so many who have looked at the mother of Parliaments as a beacon for others to emulate. But that vision descended into anarchy and chaos in the early hours of September 10 as Black Rod walked into the Commons issuing the instructions for prorogation and thereby ending all hope of any further meaningful engagement on the Brexit question.
Britain will now be in the hands of a minority elite who will present the Brexit deal as a people versus Parliament dichotomy, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Co. will use this opportunity to drive home a deal of some sort — however lopsided, distorted or disingenuous it might well be in the long run.
The Not-So United Kingdom
So much time and energy, words on paper, discussions in the lecture halls, panel debates, fire and fury online, and conversations between people on the streets expended in relation to Brexit will have been for nothing. Brexit has divided the United Kingdom for over three years, in what began as an attempt to quell party political factionalism among the Tories — one that could not be contained any further by then-Prime Minister David Cameron, who was desperately worried about the rise of UK Independence Party.
Not expecting to lose the 2016 referendum, although making little by way of effective plans to do so, the people voted to leave the EU despite dubious means instrumentalized to pick out wayward voters and bombard them with loaded political sentiment in order to alter their behavior. The fact that the Electoral Commission has twice found that the “leave” campaign exceeded funding limits seems to have been forgotten in this desire to move forward, do or die, or by any means necessary.
The factionalism and inward-looking politicization of this issue have grave consequences for what has been hijacked by a very right-wing Conservative administration whose disregard of the truth creates new political lows in relation to probity, accountability and common decency. The world watches the machinations of the British Parliament and is aghast at what is happening to a country that was once considered so highly among Europeans and elsewhere.
Democracy has been shattered in the name of executing the will of the people that was the referendum result, but so many have changed their minds now that they know what they did not know at the time of the vote. So many in business, academia, civil society, criminal justice and security would wish for Brexit to disappear altogether. Yet the current government has no other option but to deliver it to the fullest and in spite of all the costs that it will invariably create.
Although there is still time for Parliament to sit before the October 31 cut-off date, when it may well become clear that no options are workable and the only real solution is to revoke Article 50 altogether and remain in the EU. The Liberal Democrats are about to go public with this policy for the expected general election. It is not only in the realm of the imagination that Prime Minister Johnson and the Conservative government might just use this idea to argue that it is better than a no-deal Brexit or any kind of deal, and put it to the people, ensuring that the Tories remain in power.
The net result is quite likely to be a combination of matters that very much remain the same with respect to the politicians in charge and the policies they wish to implement. However, Brexit would potentially be firmly off the table, possibly forever. In this process, the Labour Party is likely to be encouraged to shift centrally as there are concerns around its current image, especially its leadership, with much of it determined by a hostile media campaign to discredit Jeremy Corbyn and his ilk.
*[This article was cross-posted on the author’s blog.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.