Speaker Bercow  may have  radically changed the rules of the Brexit game

Robert Henderson

Recently there has been a sense of resignation in the leave camp, a  feeling that we  were at the mercy of  our treacherous remainer politicians who appeared to hold all the best  cards because of their domination of Parliament. Singlehandedly the Speaker has changed the mood .

John Bercow’s  ruling (18 March) that May cannot put her deal with the EU to the Commons for a third time if it is “the same or substantially the same” .  This has undermined  utterly May’s entire strategy which is the democratically contemptible one of trying to force a thoroughly bad deal through by a war of attrition allied to Project Fear.

Even before Bercow spoke the situation was unsettled however much the remainers might have portrayed it as being a  clear choice between May’s deal   being passed by the Commons or May going off to the EU to ask for an extension (preferably a long one) which would allow the remainers more time to complete their sabotage of Brexit.

Nor, despite the remainers’ shrill, incessant claims, has a “no deal” departure been taken off the table. In fact a  “no deal” Brexit is  still the default position until and when  the 29 March date in the Withdrawal Act is amended.

Consequently, there was a  launching pad for greater resistance to the game May has been playing and the problems of dealing with a Remmainer dominated Parliament.  All that was needed was something to strike a serious blow at the status quo. Bercow provided that.

Before Bercow stated his position with regard to May’s deal, the Government had no inkling of what he was going to do before he spoke.   The very nasty shock he has administered has already born fruit. May has made a request  for the EU to sanction both a short  extension and a long extension,  The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has  replied  smartly  that she cannot have both. He also made it clear than an extension should not be taken for granted and that May must come to the EU with a firm plan of action to justify any extension of Artic  50.    She will  find this very difficult to formulate.

The implications of extensions to Article 50

If May does obtain  a long extension this at the least would mean  during  the extension the UK paying  even more money than the £39 billion Danegeld May has already offered to the  ERU  with nothing in return , continuing free movement,  being subject to  any new EU laws and regulations (including quite probability a transaction tax which would hit the UK hard because so much of our economy is services based) and coming under the jurisdiction of the ECJ.

Those sort of impositions might not only strengthen the resolve of Brexiteers but be too much for many remainers,  especially those with leave majorities. Moreover, it is important to understand that though the Commons has authorised May  to seek an extension  it will need a vote in Parliament before it is adopted as law, presumably by amending the Withdrawal Act.

If an extension is beyond the EU elections in June  the UK would have to hold elections for MEPs. That could well result in a phalanx of hard core  Brexiteers intent on making as much trouble as possible.  Neither the British remainer establishment nor the EU apparatchiks, elected or appointed, would welcome that.  Both or the EU alone might conclude that letting the UK leave without a deal was preferable and refuse an extension.

That leaves revoking Article 50 entirely.  The ECJ has ruled  that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 ) but I doubt whether Parliament would vote for that because individual remainer MPs in leave majority seats would be worried about losing their seats. . (Strictly speaking May could probably do it off her own bat using the Royal Prerogative, but I doubt whether even she would have the brass neck to do that. Moreover, in the new Parliament is  the executive power situation and mood I suspect that she would face and probably lose  a vote of no confidence if she did so)

On the EU side it would be rash to assume that an extension would be automatically granted. Each of the other 27 EU members have their own national axes to grind and it is possible that one or more might simply say no to along  extension.

Why May’s  Deal Does Not  Mean Leaving the EU.

Anyone who is under the illusion that May’s “deal”  is anything other than a a subordinating horror for the UK should read the  Spectator column The top 40 horrors  lurking in the small print of  Theresa May’s  Brexit deal and watch this excellent less than 4 minute summary of the content of  and the implications of  the  “deal” by the  Bruges Group.

Proroguing Parliament

The suggestion that  Parliament could be prorogued  and a new Parliamentary session started would hit the buffers of the Fixed Term Parliament Act.  This provides for five Parliamentary sessions  of 12 months. If the present session was ended  by proroguing Parliament that would mean the five year term would be shortened because the current Parliamentary Session would be reduced.  As things stand this would mean the end date of the Parliament would not be reached by the end of five Parliamentary sessions.

Short of voting for a General Election now,  to get round this problem either the  new  Parliamentary year would have to be lengthened  or the Commons would have to vote to amend the  Fixed Term Parliaments Ac to fit these distinctly peculiar circumstances.

If nothing is settled by 29th March

What is required now is as much disorder and confusion as possible amongst our political class to distract them from the  draining away of  the last ten days before the 29 March.

In the present complex and rapidly reshaping circumstances It is quite conceivable that  the UK may come to  and pass the 29th March with the withdrawal date intact. That would mean the UK has left the EU. There would be no legal way for  either our remainer politicians or the EU to re-establish UK membership simply by  passing retrospective legislation or by the making of Treaties.  The only way back would be for the UK to re-apply for membership of the EU. From scratch.

Brexiteers should not be unthinkingly optimistic, but the situation is undeniably considerably more favourable to the leave side than it was  on 17 March, not least because Bercow’s intervention has swept away much of the obfuscation and outright lying  which has tainted the Commons until now.

Of course it may be that there is a good deal  of playacting by Bercow,  the Government and the EU and come the crunch Bercow my  allow another vote on May’s deal, the Commons may vote for the deal and the EU will agree to a long  extension, but that scenario   looks a great deal less likely today that it did  48 hours ago.

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