Parliament must now do its duty and ensure Brexit is delivered, as instructed by the people

Parliament must now do its duty and ensure Brexit is delivered, as instructed by the people

There is no doubt that had the Benn Act prohibiting a no-deal Brexit on October 31st not been passed, the EU would have agreed to a Brexit deal a while ago. The Benn Act ceded control of our departure to the EU in the same way as an employee who declares his intention to leave his job but only on condition his employer provides a good reference, cedes control of his departure to his employer. The Benn Act gave a lifeline to the EU who made no secret of their wish to disregard the referendum result – and they have form – and keep the UK inside the EU. By simply refusing to reach a deal, they could thwart Brexit.

Leaving without a deal would be as disruptive to the EU as to the UK, if not more so, but the EU seems to be prepared to gamble that at the end of the day, Boris Johnson will heed the Benn Act and sign a letter seeking an extension, something he’s consistently refused to contemplate. The law cannot force citizens to do anything, it can only punish them if they don’t and if it comes to court, the very Act which the Prime Minister is deemed to have broken may well be found to be unconstitutional. Parliament may well be found to have transgressed into affairs that are the preserve of the Executive and that parliamentary sovereignty does not mean the rule of Parliament over the people or the Executive.

But Boris Johnson has done enough to make the gamble too risky for the EU. When Parliament meets for this rare Saturday sitting, it must carry out the duty with which it was entrusted by the electorate, more than eighty per cent of whom voted for parties that promised to respect the outcome of the 2016 referendum.

The argument advanced by some like TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady that Labour must oppose the Prime Minister’s deal on the grounds that it ‘would clear the way for a grubby trade deal with the US, and for Donald Trump to get his hands on our NHS’ and that it threatens workers’ rights and environmental standards assumes that the Tories will win the next general election. It is perversely defeatist and hugely demoralising, in complete contrast to the upbeat message from the Labour Party with Jeremy Corbyn ‘champing at the bit’, confident of victory. Instead of threatening doom and spreading despondency, O’Grady should reflect the views of the majority of trade unionists and say: ‘Get Brexit over the line on October 31st and vote Labour at the general election to protect and advance rights and standards’.

Politicians and pundits incessantly talk of a crisis gripping the country. Yet, in the country at large, there is no sense of a crisis as workers go about their business; they may be jabbing their fingers and shouting abuse at each other in the House of Commons, but in the Hare and Hounds, there is tranquility and calm with the only noise coming from those watching a football match.

There is no crisis in the country. The crisis is in Parliament; it is Parliament’s crisis, one of its own making: the people voted to leave the EU, Parliament has failed to deliver. Three years on from the referendum and MPs continue to put obstacles in the way. We have entered a dangerous terrain where a Parliament created by the people turns on any Prime Minister or government seeking to implement the will of the people. In the name of the sovereignty of Parliament, MPs dismiss the sovereignty of people from which parliamentary sovereignty is derived in the first place.

Step by step, Labour has been forced to row back on its commitment to respect the referendum result; today, only Corbyn stands in the way of Labour turning into another ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ party. Labour’s conference stopped short of calling for a second referendum on a Brexit deal; it called for a public vote on a deal that it hopes to negotiate with the EU if it wins a general election; there was no mention of a public vote on a deal before a general election.

Following Theresa May’s dysfunctional negotiations with the EU, Boris Johnson went into Downing Street with one simple message: to get the UK out of the EU on October 31st, deal or no deal. He knew Parliament’s implacable opposition to a no-deal Brexit when he made his ‘do or die’ stand. A general election before Parliament has done its duty and the Prime Minister has delivered on his promise would be a cop-out; it is tantamount to a second referendum.

Parliament must not be let off the hook. It must deliver Brexit with a deal or without one as instructed by the biggest public vote in British history. The shape of a deal is not important; leaving on October 31st is. Once we are out of the EU and have regained our sovereignty, the future is ours to shape the way we choose.