The Remainers’ new-found love of Parliamentary sovereignty is hypocrisy at its finest

The Remainers’ new-found love of Parliamentary sovereignty is hypocrisy at its finest

Of all the shocks that Brexit has thrown up over the past year and a half, surely none can compare to the surprise of discovering the identity of the Tory rebels who succeeded in clubbing together with Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP to inflict a defeat on the Government over the EU Withdrawal Bill yesterday.

By some staggering coincidence, it emerges that the valiant heroes who mounted their spirited crusade to save Parliamentary sovereignty last night were the same people who have repeatedly rebelled or threatened to do so on more or less every major Parliamentary vote on Brexit and generally attempted to slow down and delay Brexit at every opportunity available to them.

Who could have predicted that from the swirling mists of the Commons backbenches would emerge a gallant band led by none other than Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve, Ken Clarke and associated sidekicks, riding in at the last minute on a daring and noble quest to save Parliamentary sovereignty at its moment of greatest peril?

With each new Brexit development that arises, an increasingly embarrassing charade is played out where all manner of reasons are concocted by politicians – across the political divide – for opposing whatever aspect of Brexit is currently under debate, be it triggering Article 50, leaving the single market, or even allowing the EU Withdrawal Bill to be given a Second Reading in the House of Commons at all. Every possible justification under the sun is wheeled out apart, of course, from that of attempting to block Brexit altogether.

Such tactics are to be expected from an opposition party that is so paralysed by indecision and internal divisions over Brexit that its only policy on Brexit has been to oppose for opposition’s sake at every turn, loudly trumpeting its pretensions of being a ‘Government in waiting’ while failing to present policy proposals of even fleeting substance on the single greatest issue currently facing the country.

The chicanery of the rebels on the Government benches is much harder to excuse. Their claims to be fighting for Parliamentary sovereignty while attempting to throw every possible hurdle in the way of the UK leaving the European Union – the origin of 60% of the UK’s laws, the overwhelming majority of which have been written onto the statute book without even a nanosecond of debate in Parliament – are simultaneously arrogant, patronising and disingenuous, but are ultimately fooling no one.

Ken Clarke alone has been candid in acknowledging that his motive throughout is to thwart the process of the UK leaving the European Union, while Heidi Allen was at least honest enough to admit that she was “a little overwhelmed by the legal expertise all around [her]” during the debate. Meanwhile, the rest of the rebels, egged on by hardline Remainers in the opposition parties, continue to indulge in the farce that their persistent attempts to throw traps and obstacles into the path of Brexit are borne out of noble and principled intentions, completely unrelated to their enduring ambitions to derail Brexit altogether if given the chance.

For now, the rebels revel in the belief that they have finessed their hypocrisy and obfuscation down to a fine art, and that their subterfuge has gone undetected. This is all very well when it comes to patting each other on the back while smugly glugging down glasses of wine to celebrate the defeat of their own government and party.

But while they may have succeeded in deceiving themselves, the people who they cannot deceive are the British public, who are quite capable of seeing through their elaborate rhetorical gymnastics and recognising yesterday’s stunt for what it is – simply the latest cynical attempt to place yet more spurious stumbling blocks in the way of Britain leaving the EU.

Nonetheless, special praise must be reserved for the extraordinary contortional abilities of Labour’s Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna and Chris Bryant among others. The Commons is regularly treated to a dazzling display of their talents as they succeed in going from demanding in one breath that the UK must remain in the single market and Customs Union¬†– accepting EU laws for evermore with no British say over them at all, let alone any modicum of Parliamentary scrutiny – to delivering impassioned speeches asserting the fundamental importance of Parliamentary sovereignty in the next. Such acrobatic skills should be in a circus, not the arena of public debate.

Sadly for our constitutional crusaders, last night’s amendment is unlikely to have anything like the desired effect. Writing the Withdrawal Agreement directly into UK law has already been demanded as a condition of the deal by the EU and agreed to by the UK, so the Amendment is completely superfluous in that regard. It simply increases the risk of a disorderly Brexit by creating legal ambiguity and uncertainty over what would happen if a Withdrawal Agreement Bill cannot be passed in good time before Brexit, but achieves little in the way of stopping Brexit outright.

The net effect is more to strengthen the hands of both Jeremy Corbyn and the EU, at the expense of the rebels’ own party and country respectively. Ironically enough, the MPs most likely to use the opportunity to rebel over the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement itself are committed Brexiteers who feel the deal hasn’t done enough to respect the referendum result, rather than the pro-EU members of the so-called ‘awkward squad’, who may well see their efforts backfire on them in the long run as a result.

The Remainers’ whirlwind romance with Parliamentary sovereignty is frankly little more than an embarrassment. That it is a sham marriage of convenience is plain for all to see. Not only does it demean the intelligence of the public but it also shows a fundamental disrespect for the 17.4 million voters who voted to take back democratic control from Brussels to the UK, not to have sophistry and subversion used to undermine their vote altogether.

If they truly wish to fight against democracy then so be it, but it is time they dropped the dishonesty and let the public judge them on their true intentions instead.