Okay, pay attention, because we’re talking about Brexit again, so it isn’t likely to make sense. In the interests of making this marginally easier to follow, I’ve left a few events out of sequence where the sequence isn’t what matters.
Let’s start with the House of Commons passing a bill to block a no-deal Brexit. During the debate, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, was photographed lounging, odalisque-like, on the Commons’ benches and the picture went viral. He’s been photoshopped into everything from a couch surrounded by the Simpsons to a high jump to a graph of the shrinking number of MPs left in his party, the Conservatives. You can find a handful of them here, and they’re worth a look.
From there, let’s check in with the MPs the prime minister, Boris Johnson, threw out of the Conservative Party. They had to go looking for new seats in the House of Commons. The seats are–well, it’s sort of like the lunch room in whatever your worst year in school was. One bunch of kids sits over here and another bunch kids colonizes that table over there, and if you’re not part of either group you can’t sit with them, you have to search out a corner and try to look like you’re happy there and hope no one tells you it’s their spot and you have to get out. So a group of rebels stayed on the Conservative benches even though they’d been tossed out of the party and even though they’d been told that no one wanted to have lunch with them ever again.
This is, apparently, a big deal. Just like it was in school.
Then Boris Johnson’s brother, Jo, announced that he was quitting the cabinet, saying he had to put the national interest above family loyalty. Not long after that, Boris Johnson said he’d rather be dead in a ditch than ask the European Union for an extension, raising the question of whether he’d defy the law parliament had passed.
Then a cop fainted in Yorkshire. What’s that got to do with anything? Johnson was supposed to be making a short, non-political speech about police and money and recruitment, and he had two rows of stoic-looking police trainees lined up behind him. They’d already been waiting in the sun for an hour before the speech started because it–or possibly he–was late.
Once he got going, he made a long rambling (and in some accounts incoherent) speech about Brexit and being dead in a ditch and the election he hasn’t been able to call but wants to, and a cop collapsed. Which is usually a speaker’s cue to end the speech, and he acknowledged that but kept going for a while anyway.
The chief constable of the area said he was disappointed that Johnson used his officers as a backdrop to a topic other than the one he’d agreed to.
Johnson might be smart to watch the speed limit next time he drives through Yorkshire.
The bill the Commons passed went to the House of Lords, where the people who’d been expected to stall it didn’t bother. From there, it should go to the queen for her signature, at which point it will be law.
But it’s not exactly the law everyone expected because while it was still in the Commons an MP proposed an amendment that would bring back the deal Theresa May negotiated–a deal so unpopular that both pro- and anti-Brexit MPs voted against it–and it passed without being voted on because no one from the Conservatives volunteered to count the no votes. That may have been an accident or it may have been a deep and nefarious government plot. If it was, it was deep indeed, because the amendment was introduced by a Labour MP–that’s the opposition–not by anyone backing the government.
What’s more likely is that this is a bit of procedure so arcane that no one remembered it and it was able to ambush them.
The amendment could have been stripped out in the House of Lords but wasn’t, so a deal that no one liked has wandered back into public life like a three-year-old who woke up in the middle of a party and is wandering around sleepy-eyed and wondering why everyone’s acting funny.
Will Johnson defy the new law? At one point he said he would–he’d refuse to accept any delay and Britain would leave the EU by Halloween, dressed as a gorilla and over-hyped on sugar. Then his foreign minister said the government would follow the law but challenge it in the courts. And his chancellor said the government will “absolutely not” ask for an extension.
Do the three of them know each other? You’d think so. They all sit in on cabinet meetings. Do they talk to each other? Probably. Do they listen? I’m guessing the answer’s no.
MPs who backed the bill are consulting lawyers about how to enforce it. Shops renting gorilla suits are consulting their calendars. I’m consulting my couch, because this stuff makes me dizzy and, excuse me, I have to sit down.
A prime minister going to prison for defying a law isn’t impossible. Whether he’d still be a prime minister at that point–. You guess is as good as mine.
Meanwhile, the High Court ruled that Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament is constitutional.
Proroguing? That’s when the prime minister sends Parliament home without any dessert. It’s usually done before an election and isn’t a political move. In this case, it was an attempt to keep the anti-no-deal bill from passing but it didn’t work. Parliament had just enough time and they didn’t like that mess they were serving for dessert anyway.
How anyone figures out what’s constitutional when you have an unwritten constitution is beyond me, but never mind. I’m not on the court so no one needs my opinion. And the High Court’s opinion doesn’t necessarily mean more than mine, because the High Court isn’t the highest court. The issue will go to the Supreme Court.
At several points in this sequence, we learned that Johnson has a problem with girls. I’m not talking about anything legally questionable, he just doesn’t seem to think much of them. He’s called former prime minister David Cameron (who’s from his own party) a “girly swot” and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a “big girl’s blouse.” Apparently if you attach girl to anything, it becomes an insult.
As one commentator said–sorry, I have no idea who; I’m quoting second hand–it’s like “being governed by a nine-year-old.” He might’ve mentioned that he had a nine-year-old boy in mind but he didn’t. In his mind, all nine-year-olds are probably are boys.
What can I tell you about those last two paragraphs that you don’t already know? Not much, I suspect. We’ll move on.
After the prime minister’s brother resigned, another cabinet member, Amber Rudd, stepped down, calling Johnson’s approach to Brexit “political vandalism.” The government, she said, wasn’t holding negotiations with the EU, although it claims to be, and 80% to 90% of its energy is going into preparing for a no-deal Brexit although it says it wants a new, better, shinier deal than Theresa May’s deal.
Meanwhile, back at the pub, the Wetherspoons chain has promised cut-price drinks if the UK leaves the EU. Brexit, they say, will be good for drinkers. To demonstrate, they cut all of 20 p off a drink. I’d love to tell you how much that would leave you paying, but short of marching in and ordering a pint (the closest Wetherspoons I know of is an hour away and anyway, I don’t drink) I don’t know a way find out. Their online menu is no help. Basically, though, this isn’t free booze we’re talking about and it’s not a life-changing discount. If you wonder how much 20 p is worth, you can buy four plastic bags with it, or a tin of mushy peas (you’ll get 1 p in change).
There’s talk of the government trying to push the EU into expelling it by refusing to nominate a new British commissioner, but the EU says it’s happy to function without one.
What next? Well, “A Downing Street source said: ‘We intend to sabotage any extension. The “surrender bill” only kicks in if an extension is offered. Once people realise our plans, there is a good chance we won’t be offered a delay. Even if we are, we intend to sabotage that too.’ ”
The “surrender bill” is what the government calls the bill blocking a no-deal Brexit, although, as Corbyn pointed out, Britain isn’t at war with the EU.
A former Supreme Court judge said there’s no shortage of ways the law can be enforced. “An application will have to be made to the court for an injunction. The simplest way of enforcing the injunction would be for the court simply to direct an official to sign the letter on behalf of the PM and to declare that his signature was to be treated in every legal respect as equivalent to the prime minister’s.”
In the meantime, France is threatening to block a British request for an extension to the period before it has to leave the EU. They’ve threatened that before, though, and no one seems to be taking them seriously.
Think it’s crazy over here? It’s only going to get wilder.
In the meantime, if you’re tired of Brexit updates, I apologize. I think I speak for a large part of the country when I say that we are too. Unfortunately, they matter. Regular service will continue on Fridays. Just check in then and ignore everything else.