Johnson The Proroguer Is Serving Democracy?

The Sunday Times

gave us another essay on Brexit and proroguing, by Dominic Lawson

“In honouring the Brexit vote, the PM will save parliament from itself. More than three years after the British people decided to leave the European Union, those claiming that democracy is being treated with contempt are in a state of hysteria. But the hysteria does not emanate from any of the 17.4m who voted “leave”, and who have been waiting with ever-increasing exasperation for their ballot to be honoured. No, it comes from the most unreconciled of those on the other side of the most significant popular vote in British history: they are shocked and outraged that parliament might (finally) be thwarted in its refusal to approve any form of Brexit.

“Specifically, they claim to regard Boris Johnson as a latter-day Adolf Hitler (Richard Evans, the distinguished historian of Nazi Germany, wrote of “a Reichstag fire decree moment”) after the prime minister gained the monarch’s assent to the prorogation of parliament ahead of a Queen’s speech. In fact, this has chopped barely a week off the time MPs had believed would be available for them to prevent a so-called no-deal Brexit on October 31. It will still leave adequate time for Johnson’s opponents to oust him in a no-confidence vote (if they can find a parliamentary majority for that).

“The former chancellor Philip Hammond led the charge in describing the PM’s move as a denial of “democracy”. That might be true, if Westminster were the solitary repository of democratic legitimacy in the matter of Britain’s relationship with the EU. But it isn’t.

“To understand why, read the words of the cabinet minister who introduced the second reading of the referendum bill in June 2015 — the then foreign secretary, one Philip Hammond. He began by declaring that the EU had “changed almost beyond recognition” from what the British had endorsed in the 1975 referendum, and that therefore another popular mandate was required.

“He ended “Whether you favour Britain being in or out, we surely should all be able to agree on the simple principle that the decision over our membership should be taken by the British people. Not by Whitehall bureaucrats; certainly not by Brussels Eurocrats; not even by government ministers or parliamentarians in this chamber. The decision must be for the common sense of the British people . . . For too long, powers have been handed to Brussels over their heads. For too long, their voice on Europe has not been heard. This bill puts that right. It delivers the simple in/out referendum that we promised and I commend it to the House”.

“MPs endorsed his call by the massive margin of 544 votes to 53. Not a single Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat MP voted against it (the 53 “noes” consisted of Scottish National Party MPs). In the most spectacular and emphatic fashion, parliament had ceded its authority to the public, directly.

“And after the public voted for Brexit, parliament, by another overwhelming majority, agreed to invoke article 50 of the EU treaties, which takes the UK out. Then, in the 2017 election, almost 85% of elected MPs fought on manifestos that pledged to honour the outcome of the referendum”.

There’s more, read it here

And suffice to say Mr Lawson confirms what Vernon Bogdanor (a confessed remainer), observed last week, that “The Commons rejected the withdrawal agreement three times. The EU had responded that the agreement cannot be renegotiated. In logic, therefore, the only way to implement Brexit is without a deal”.

So just get on with it!

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