Let’s not get too carried away. Whilst it is always delightful to see the British government in disarray, it’s not as if this is such an uncommon sight these days. May’s humiliation will sweeten many a breakfast this morning. But the defeat she suffered doesn’t really solve anything.
MPs will now be permitted a “meaningful” vote on the final Brexit deal. Cue protracted arguments about the meaning of “meaningful”. We are told that it means “MPs can now tell the Prime Minister that her deal is not quite right, and that the Brexit day can be delayed until a good enough deal is reached“. But how can that be? It is the EU that will decide the terms on which the UK leaves the club. It is the EU that will decide whether the two-year negotiation period allowed by Article 50 can be extended. MPs have secured a meaningful vote on something over which they have no meaningful control.
The narrative offered by the British media has the British government in the driver’s seat of a Brexit bus that more closely resembles a clown car. By her own account, Theresa May is the ringmaster of this circus and David Davis the star performer on the flying trapeze. The notion being peddled here is that the circus just got a wee bit more democratic. That the acrobats and jugglers and drivers and riggers have taken over at least some part of the ringmaster’s powers. But the real power lies with the circus owners.
There is no pick ‘n’ mix Brexit. MPs aren’t going to be able to select which bits of the ‘deal’ they’ll accept and which bits they’ll reject. There is no wriggle-room on the departure date. Not without the highly improbable and inevitably very expensive consent of all the real EU member states.
When the whole Brexit fiasco is over, there will have been only two meaningful decisions that were made in the UK – the Leave vote itself, and the invoking of Article 50. These two choices effectively eradicated all possibility of further choices. The treasure of political options was traded for the magic beans of British exceptionalism.
Labouring our circus analogy, last night’s vote at Westminster might be like the bit of the performance where the clowns stop the pratfalls and custard pies long enough to display some serious talent as tumblers or wire-walkers; eliciting warm applause and surprised respect from the audience. Applause that quickly dies and respect that almost instantly evaporates as the jesters revert to their more accustomed role as objects of derision. The clowns get briefly to feel appreciated for something important. The audience gets the momentary gratification of supposing they have glimpsed something out of the ordinary. But, after this fleeting episode, the clowns are still clowns and the audience mere onlookers. Nothing meaningful has changed.
If you find these articles interesting, please consider a small donation.
All monies received are used in furtherance of the campaign
to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.