The Brexit update, with some old lady’s bananas

Saturday–that’s yesterday as I write this–was the big day: A special session of parliament was set up to vote of the Brexit deal Boris Johnson had negotiated with the European Union. It was the moment when we were finally going know what was happening.

Or not, as it turned out, because a majority of the MPs didn’t trust Johnson enough give him a simple vote.

Let me explain, because nothing in the Brexit saga is simple. Ever. In fact, let’s (almost) open with a quote from an unnamed cabinet minister, who said, “I really have no idea what is going on.”

Yeah, I know just how you feel. So if halfway through the update, you feel a heavy fog taking over your brain, obscuring clear thought, you’re right up there with the experts. And no, I’m not claiming to be one of the experts,it’s just that I can get befuddled with the best of them.

So, what happened on Saturday? The government proposed its version of Brexit. I won’t go into the details because I did that in the last update and I don’t want to send you all screaming into the sunset. Let’s sum it up by saying that if Theresa May had proposed it, the people who now support it–or negotiated it for that matter–would have denounced it as one step short of treason.

Okay, maybe two steps short. But that kind of hysterical language has been flying around the halls of parliament and the pages of the press.

And you know what? I keep getting search engine questions about British understatement. But it’s not all understatement here. It’s “surrender bill” and “big girl’s blouse” and I’ve already cleared my mind of the rest of the abuse.

Sorry. Where were we? A version of Brexit was put before Parliament and everyone was counting noses. Each member of parliament comes equipped with one nose except for the MPs representing Sinn Fein, who refuse to take their seats because they refuse to recognize Britain’s right to govern any part of Ireland. They may have noses–that has yet to be established–but they weren’t being counted.

According to all counts, the vote was going to be very, very close. 

But before we could find out what the vote would’ve been, a cross-party amendment was tabled, called the Letwin amendment, by people who don’t trust Johnson to walk from one side of the street to the other without pulling some kind of fast one. You know, disappearing up the side of a building; stealing the bananas at the top of some old lady’s grocery bag; that kind of thing. These are, basically, the same MPs who’d passed a law–the Benn act–not long before that was meant to block the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

The problem was, they saw a possible loophole in the Benn act, and presumably Johnson did too, because he kept trumpeting to the press that he wasn’t going to ask for the extension the Benn act demanded. A smarter wheeler-dealer might’ve kept that to himself and pulled his stunt at the last minute, but Johnson loves a headline. “See those bananas?” he kept saying. “I’m gonna have those. Watch me.”

The loophole was this: If Johnson’s deal was accepted on Saturday, the requirements of the Benn act would be satisfied and Johnson wouldn’t have to ask for an extension. But if the enabling legislation didn’t get passed in time, Britain could still crash out of the EU. 

“Look, Ma, no hands! We’re gonna crash out!”

So the Letwin amendment withholds final approval until all the legislation implementing the deal is in place.

We’ll take a shortcut or two here, skipping a bit of the drama, and just say that the amendment passed. 

What happened next? Johnson said he wouldn’t negotiate a delay with the EU. What did he do instead? He sent an unsigned letter to the EU requesting a delay, along with a signed one saying why he thought they should ignore the first one. That may still land him in court, because the law requires him to ask for a delay. 

The government–or at least one of its ministers–is still insisting that Britain will leave the EU by October 31.

The government says it will hold a vote on the Brexit deal on Monday, but it’s not at all clear whether the speaker of the house will allow it. He has, in the past, ruled that the government can’t keep bringing defeated proposals back. 

The government could also try to tackle the enabling legislation.

What’s clear at this point is that an amendment for a second referendum will be proposed. If it passed, this would give the country the choice of staying in the EU or accepting the form of Brexit the government’s negotiated. It looks like Labour–which has been dancing around a commitment to the second referendum–will propose it. I don’t think anyone’s had time to count noses or to make sure no one’s coming in with a few prosthetic noses.

By now, everyone’s exhausted with the endless Brexit maneuvering, but Chris Grey, in The Brexit Blog, makes a good point about why it’s happening: “At the core of the entire row over Brexit, “ he says, is the problem that “as soon as [Brexit] gets defined in any particular way, some who support it in principle do not support it in that version.” The Democratic Unionist Party wants one version, the handful of Labour Brexiteers want something very different, and (he argues) the Brexit Party is so invested in the politics of protest that “nothing can ever live up to their fantasy.”

And that covers only a few of the grouplets that have to be corralled before the government can assemble a majority. 


In deference to all the good people who are sensitive about old ladies and bananas: I’m 72. I’ve earned the right to make fun of old ladies. And if Boris Johnson thinks he can get his mitts on mine, I invite him to try.

55 thoughts on “The Brexit update, with some old lady’s bananas

    • Oh yes, we would. The Brexit fanatics would not have gone away, any more than they did after John Major secured opt-outs from the bits of the Maastricht Treaty they so vehemently opposed. This all goes back to the major set of initiatives towards further integration, like the euro, that culminated in that treaty, and the faultlines within, particularly, the Tories that developed when Margaret Thatcher reacted so fiercely against the original proposals when Jacques Delors put them forward.

      BTW, small nitpick – the Brexit Party has no seats in Parliament, but granted, eveything successive Tory governments have done since 2010 has been predicated on trying to squeeze out first UKIP and then the Brexit Party (i.e., the egregious Farage) from taking over a large chunk of Tory voters. The hardliners within the parliamentary Tory party also have a variety of groups, chiefly the ERG (who apparently refer to themselves as the Spartans – but there is unlikely to be a Thermopylae for this lot).

      Liked by 1 person

  1. So who gets to go to the G7 conference at Trump’s Doral Resort next summer if Brexit passes or doesn’t pass? I wouldn’t want anyone to miss an opportunity to pour money into the pockets of an American president who thinks the word “emolument” means give me all your money – whoever and wherever you are.
    I hope you send Boris. Two Agents Orange for the price of one.
    Lawdy, Lawdy, the inmates are running this prison.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. The one thing of which I am supremely glad….I will have shuffled off this mortal coil before the teaching fraternity works out how to set this for a history exam.
    I recall a sudden change of question in a national exam in NZ when the Bay of Pigs wind changed suddenly. Brexit Makes Castro look like kindergarten!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Funny, but some friends we over here this afternoon and we were talking about how national mythology (which generally shows up in school history texts) is antithetical to complexity and the messiness of lived experience. It would be interesting to see what they’ll do with it.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. I listen to the BBC’s Brexitcast more or less regularly and they said in one of them that the EU thinks of the UK like a family of their usually utterly sensible aunty or uncle who lost their marbles and suddenly get the gin out at lunchtime to get drunk. Fits the whole mess rather nicely I find 😁🙋‍♀️🐝 Great post. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I understand the situation so much better now. As usual, you made it fun and so interesting to learn. What a horrible man! Still and all, I continue to feel a bit sorrier for those of us in the states who absolutely dread opening the newspaper or turning on the news any and every day of the week. I look forward to reading more of your witty, substantive, smart and just plain Hawleyesque articles. Wonderful, just wonderful.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Therese. At least the worst of British politics comes with a heavy dose on absurdity. I struggle to find as much that’s funny about American politics–although if Molly Ivins were still with us, she could have.

      Liked by 2 people

      • She definitely would have.

        By the way, I didn’t mean Hawleyesque was plain, I meant it to indicate “it’s that wonderful Ellen style and substance again”.❤️

        Liked by 2 people

  5. “…a smarter wheeler dealer might have kept that to himself…” Yes – it would be fun to see tRump and Boris playing poker, wouldn’t it – outshouting each other “I’ve only got ace high !! “HAH I’ve only got tens high !”

    As for “if Teresa May has proposed this…” Well, if Obama had done any of what’s going on over here, there would have been a lynching.
    “A pox on both their houses !”

    Liked by 3 people

  6. That vote Saturday made the local news here, but not the national news. Most Americans are still pretty much unaware. Glad you are covering it otherwise I would be missing out of the details. Interesting to watch history unfolding and trying to guess the next development. Almost all our national news is about Syria now.
    Trump announced the G-7 will not be at his place.
    Big girl’s blouse? Don’t think I had heard that before.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. On my recent trip to Ireland, I learned that the first woman to be elected to the UK parliament was Constance Markievicz, a Sinn Fein MP (of course) who didn’t take her seat.

    I have no comment on the rest of the Brexit Fiasco (it is too ridiculous, we really need to put Boris in the Tower), but I thought that was at least t teeny bit relevant…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I live here. Himself & I discuss the subject often. Sometimes we even debate it with people who have opposing views – still friends. I chose to watch rugby instead (World Cup tournament going on in Japan) on the basis that I suspected we’d still be no further forward so I might as well watch something I enjoy.

    Nice round up & excellent old lady’s bananas analogy :)

    Liked by 1 person

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