Another update from Brexit Britain

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.

92 thoughts on “Another update from Brexit Britain

  1. Ohh Ellen, I don’t know what to make of it either, apart from our democracy is going to hell in a handcart! Great writing and wit from you, which lightens things and a good summary of our politicians seemingly making it up as they go along. Hugs Xx

    Liked by 2 people

      • It is so scary, Ellen. I saw something the other day and it’s worth sharing. Over in Israel they wrote about an American chap who has gone to live in Tel Aviv. There is a border in Tel Aviv between Israel and Palestine and many Palestinians have a visa to come across and work in the Israeli section. Tel Aviv is also next to the ocean. Most Palestinians have not seen the ocean, so this American chap has organised volunteers with cars and they collect people and take them to the ocean for the day. The pictures are of Palestinians and Israelis all swimming together, some in robes, with most adults and children in rubber rings and everyone laughing as they jump the waves. They were also sitting under tents on the beach all sharing food. They are the happiest pictures. It struck me what can be done at grass roots level. Our politicians have made a mockery of representing their people, so it begs the question on what could be done at grass roots doesn’t it? Xx

        Liked by 3 people

  2. I had thought that the US was a laughing stock for having a leader who was a lying sociopath and clearly incapable of governing. It appears that we have decided to follow suit. It would be hysterically funny if it wasn’t so serious.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Did I read this correctly? ..” because no one from the Conservatives volunteered to count the no votes.” Seems like a simple enough plan to win a contest. Only count the winning votes. Why didn’t we think of that?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know, I know. If I could explain it better, I would, but I don’t really understand it. I’d be willing to accept that they were all a little addled by this time. The thing is, it wasn’t an amendment any majority was likely to have wanted, so there’s no way it was done deliberately.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The amendment was brought in by Kinnock – a Remain supporter and no friend to Corbyn.
        The tellers were appointed by the government side…but did not act. The Deputy Speaker realised that something was wrong – ‘a blockage in the No lobby’ – but if the tellers do not act the vote for that side falls.
        No one kicked up because the May withdrawal agreement is what both Johnson and the Remainers want. The latter can say that there has been Brexit…the former can claim that he was forced into it as the only solution. Remember that Johnson – a remainer – only took on leadership of the Leave campaign because he thought it would lose but would be a vehicle for support for a leadership bid among grassroot Tory members.

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        • Thanks for the detail. I looked for it but by the time I went on my search it had gotten buried in the endless outpouring of more Brexit news. I didn’t pay enough attention at the time it happened. Where I’ll disagree with you is on the idea that Boris believes in anything other than his own career–which he built by attacking the EU for fictional regulations.

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    • A mess, yes. But embarrassing? Having grown up as an American (do I need to list the coups we sponsored or mention Vietnam?) , I’m past being embarrassed by my country. As long as we’re not sitting back twiddling our fingers, we can hold our heads up.

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    • The amendment? I don’t have the actual wording, I’m afraid, but it puts Theresa May’s despised Brexit agreement back on the table. There are many reasons to dislike it, for both Brexiteers and Remainers. It may end up complicating things, but the coalition opposing a no-deal Brexit is a fragile one, so it’s going to get messy anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, what are we to do now? No parliament no Mr Speaker. Can we have a few weeks to lie down in a darkened room? Somehow don’t think will get the chance. So going to spend a few days with my fingers in my ears, singing a favourite song. And then have another go at seeing where we go. Awaiting the next chapter, and the next podcast from BBC Brexitcast (Very Good). And attempt to make sense of it in a few days. Off to do some history to give my brain a chance Britain in the 1800s, oh things were not so bad
    then!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I left thirteen years ago, but I was never much of a soap opera watcher. I seem to remember hearing about this one but never did watch it. There is a soap-opera quality to all this, though, complete with cheesy plotlines where nothing ever gets resolved. And some of the actors sounding like they haven’t had time to rehearse their lines.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Soap wasn’t so much a soap opera, though it was run like one, it was a really funny parody on them, with some really quirky characters. Politics mimics Soap more than it does soap operas. If you’re not from that country you can sit back and enjoy what is going on, even laugh a little. If it’s your country you probably cry more than laugh.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Down in Louisiana they use a small boat called a pirogue to get through the swamps. Is that similar to what’s going to become of Parliament ?

    If only the former colonies could go to The Queen (meaning QEII but George III would probably be an improvement over who’s there now ) for a final answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Y’know, the tension between either the monarch or the prime minister (or under Cromwell, the Lord Protector, if I remember his title correctly) and parliament has been going on for centuries. The idea of appealing to a single leader when parliament’s either in gridlock or getting in the way of the leader’s agenda is always tempting. Unfortunately, it doesn’t lead anyplace good. But don’t ask me for another solution. I don’t have one to offer.

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    • Some solution to the border problem in Ireland. Right now, because both the UK and Ireland are members of the EU, they have an open border, which was part of the Good Friday Agreement that ended the troubles in Northern Ireland. Once there’s a closed border, the agreement’s been violated and no one knows what happens there next. A resumption of the violence isn’t out of the question. No one’s been able to resolve that. Next, all the agreements that keep imports and exports flowing smoothly between Britain and Europe come to an end with no backup system in place. That’s why there’s been at least some stockpiling and why people are worried about shortages. Those are probably just the fringes of what will break down, but they’re the two issues I’ve been able to get my head around.

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      • I have never given the issue mush thought one way or another. Reading your posts has gotten some interest. I got Google to help and read about the border problem. And the additional paper worker and delays in moving goods in and out of the country. That could cause a trade slowdown. I saw UK glory’s thirty per cent of their food. There could be good shortages. But to me those problems are not what is driving this movement. Seems to have more to do with control. So they want more control if it means a lower standard of living, and would it even mean that. Both sides tend to greatly exaggerate the evils/ bad results of their opponents positions.

        I saw some of the closing ceremonies of parliament on the news. Strange sight for an American.

        I have always thought the Queen was nothing but a figurehead head of state with no real power. Now the news has reports that she may actually have some power and her consents may be needed. More strange thoughts to someone fgom ghd US Southern Appalachians.

        The past may not be as past as I thought..

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        • Sorry about the typos. I will once again take the pledge to do better. But solving mental word problems is god to ward off dementia. Then if it as therapy for the brain. I have started working crossword puzzles. .

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        • 1. The past is never past.

          2. The queen’s consent is needed but she has very little (or possibly no) leeway in what she consents to. It’s an odd, contradictory system.

          3. Any number of people who voted for Brexit have a sense that the days of the empire, when Britain was a world power, will come back. They won’t. And shouldn’t, but that’s a different argument. What I think will happen is that Britain will end up losing control not to Europe but to the US, which will want lower standards on food imports.

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          • And here’s the lovely diversion bringing me back to my main reason for being online today (must finish newsletter): *some* of us in the US want the UK and EU to join our demand for higher standards on US food. Personally, I want “Any farmer who attempts to sell food crops containing any identifiable pesticide residues shall, following the immediate destruction of all alleged food, be required to sell the field at $10 per acre to a responsible person who has vowed not to spray poisons on food.”

            If we did this in the US I might someday be able to eat an occasional scone.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Whew. That takes no prisoners. I can’t remember what I said where in these Brexit posts, but one of the fears here about Brexit–deal or no-deal–is that it will drop the UK out of the EU standards and at that point lower them to levels the US negotiates, because we’re not likely to be in a position to play hardball in negotiations with a much bigger country that wants to import to us.

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  6. These are the days of never-ending melodrama on both sides of the pond, and the media seems to be getting lost in the muddle at this point. Again, I applaud you for at least trying to make sense of all the bits and pieces!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Guardian‘s doing a good job of breaking the Brexit melodrama down, periodically running summaries of what’s happened lately, or what might happen next. The BBC also has some very good capsule summaries. I’m grateful to both of them.

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  7. As an American, I do not grow tired of your Brexit posts. They help me get a better feel for what is going on. And honestly, it helps take my mind off the bozo we have for president. I’m seriously beginning to wonder if Boris Johnson and Donald Trump were twins separated at birth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely not a Spoons–the discount wouldn’t be enough to tempt them into that. I just saw a headline that a court–Scottish, I think–has declared the prorogation illegal. Not that the lower court decisions carry any weight. It’ll be interesting to see that the Supremes say.

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  8. We get lots of Brexit snippets over here but nothing like this! Maybe you should apply to the ny Tina’s to be their roving Brexit reporter! I’m sorry to say it’s a relief to know others are as messed up as we are. The bottom line everywhere as far as I can see is that if term limits were enacted everywhere then there would be no career politicians and perhaps decisions would be made based on what’s right rather than what would mean re-election. But the career politicians would have to approve that so I guess we’re all stuck with them forever 😢😢

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you can convince the Times, I’m available, but somehow I think they’ve got that covered–at least as much as they want to.

      As for term limits, when you look at our non-career politicians (Trump comes to mind; after that my mind shuts down), the idea loses some of its shine. I think we need to acknowledge that there’s a lot to be learned about running a country, and that it takes time to learn it. Then we need to divorce politics and money. That might help a bit. They might even be able to concentrate on running the country instead of raising funds. (If I get one more fund-raising email from a politician, I’m going to explode. At the end of one election campaign, they start on the next one.)

      I’m rambling. We have enough short-term thinking as it is, and I’m afraid term limits would reinforce that. If in six years, I’m out of office, guaranteed, what would encourage me to think beyond six years?

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      • Hmmm…good points. Thought about Trump but hopefully he is simply an aberration. I would hope if term limits were reasonably set that good, honest candidates might break from their normal lives to help run their countries. But it won’t happen so no use hoping for it. The money angle is an interesting idea. We’d have to eliminate lobbyists too I’m afraid.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lobbyists, I’m sure you’re right. Britain has some restrictions on the amount of money that can be spent in political campaigns (I don’t understand it fully so I won’t try to explain), and it helps although it doesn’t seem to be enough. Campaigns are much, much (much, much, much) shorter here as well. I expect that cuts back on the cost and also the wear and tear on the citizenry.

          Is Trump an aberration? To an extent, but look at the Five Star Movement in Italy, with a comedian at its head. They rode a wave of get-the-rascals-out and one became the mayor of Rome. From what I read (which is limited to a blog or two and the very rare news article) they were a disaster there. Jesse Ventura–a wrestler–became a one-term governor in Minnesota while I still lived there. He had a very testy relationship with the press, banning one newspaper from his press conferences for I can’t remember what sin. I’m sure someone with a better memory than mine could come up with more examples.

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