Theresa May is pursuing a dangerous strategy for her Brexit endgame

Theresa May is pursuing a dangerous strategy for her Brexit endgame

It’s not often politicians have the power to shock these days. Predictable self-interest can usually be relied upon to trump their constituents’ concerns and dictate their actions in most situations. Having to take account of their thought processes on a daily basis takes the fun out of guessing what horrendous cock-up they might inflict on the British people next. But Theresa May really is in a league of her own – for sheer incompetence in negotiation, stupidity in execution, mendacity, duplicity and stubborn adherence to failure, few can match her. And that really is saying something.

Even now, despite losing two votes on her flagship policy and getting a mixed response from the EU to her desire to extend Article 50 for three months, she has come out and repeated the same lies about her dreadful Withdrawal Agreement. She’s promising to submit it – unchanged – to a third vote in the House of Commons. It is time for MPs to make up their minds, she claims. Well they jolly well have. They have chucked her deal out by a thumping majority. Twice. And rightly so. It is a toxic sell-out of this country for vast expense with only years of painful wrangling with the EU on offer, before we end up in a position where people we don’t know in Brussels can make laws for virtually every sector of our economy. It is not Brexit, it’s serfdom.

Anyone foolish enough to believe that Theresa May has any more respect for the British people than she has for her country or her party need only count the number of times she has promised to leave the EU on 29th March 2019, with or without a deal. Or listen to the blatant untruths she constantly repeats about the ‘Withdrawal’ Agreement. Her promises are not worth the paper they aren’t written on.

So it would be an extremely foolish person indeed who believes: a) that she regrets having to extend Article 50; b) that she is compelled to do so (the No Deal vote was not binding on the Government, and there was no requirement to propose an extension); and c) that she won’t drag us into years more chaos and repeated votes on her ‘deal’. It will be Brexit purgatory for the next decade if she isn’t stopped now. She has brought the Government, her office and, by extension, our country into disrepute. Vote for the deal and she’ll break international law, vote for the deal and she’ll resign, vote for the deal and she’ll splash some cash in your constituency… Just vote for the deal and she’ll stop her verbal waterboarding of the British people.

And failing all that, she will agree an extension to Article 50 with the EU and impose it on Parliament – with all its billions of pounds in costs – by breaking the law.

May has the ability of seeming to be hapless, but she is backed by a team who have led her – and the country – quite deliberately to this self-inflicted political crisis. The object, of course, is to overturn the referendum result and stop Brexit. And they aren’t shy about tearing up parliamentary procedure and testing constitutional law to destruction to achieve this aim. At the time of writing, key no-deal legislation vital for maintaining trade flows after 29th March is sitting in the Prime Minister’s office awaiting the moment she can kill it dead by pulling off her Brexit betrayal. Number 10 has now issued a briefing document (reproduced in full below this article) explaining just how the Government intends to keep the UK in the EU, even if Parliament votes not to change Brexit Day from 29th March.
We have reached May’s endgame. And it is diabolical.

“The House has been clear that it will not support leaving without a deal on 29 March,” says Number 10 (even though the House has legislated for just such an outcome). “Furthermore,” we learn, “the Speaker has been clear that he will do everything in his power to facilitate opportunities for Parliament to stop such an approach”. (This confirms what many might suspect, that John Bercow, Dominic Grieve and the TIGers are all enrolled in the Sabotage Brexit Service run from the Cabinet Office).

“Therefore the choice is unlikely to be between a deal and no deal, but between the deal and a longer extension,” claims the author of this plan. This is of course legally and factually wrong. Exit without a deal is the default position under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act.

According to the document, Parliament’s vote for an extension on 14th March gives the Government executive power to agree and enforce any extension period agreed with the EU. Under any conditions.

Is that even possible? There were, of course conditions attached to the (non-binding) amendment on 14th March.

Unfortunately dictators cannot always have what they want without a fleeting acknowledgement of due process. If the EU agrees to an extension, the law will still have to be changed. According to the briefing note, the exit date on the European Union (Withdrawal) Act and any other legislation due to come into force on 29th March 2019 can be changed simply by a statutory instrument under section 20(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act.

The statutory instrument “would need to be made and in force by 29 March,” and is subject to a debate in both Houses of Parliament. Whoah! It’s going to be a hectic week. Meaningful Vote 3 followed by Betrayal Votes in both Houses…

Stopping Brexit on 29th March by secondary legislation is legally questionable in itself. Given that there is a huge financial cost to an extension period (“As an EU member state during an Article 50 extension period, we would continue to have rights and obligations until our exit”), changing this date is in fact a revenue-raising measure. And you cannot raise new taxes, because in effect that is what May would be doing (VAT is part of the EU budget contribution), without primary legislation. This is why the Budget goes through the House as a Finance Bill.

But let’s not quibble about that. MPs can still be rendered impotent even if they choose not to go along with this chicanery.

“A rejection of the SI would create a clash in UK law,” claims the document, “because a large volume of EU Exit legislation preparing the UK statute book for the moment EU law ceases to apply is due to enter into force on exit day…
It would not stop the extension being agreed or coming into force, that is a matter of EU and International law, not domestic law“.

Yes, read that again. And again. And again.

So Theresa May is proposing to use executive powers to repeal the provisions of an Act of Parliament and to raise revenue to send to the EU (i.e. demand taxes from all of us), and impose this on the country even if both the Commons and the Lords decided at this late stage to respect their pledges and voted for No Deal.

Even though this would create legal and financial chaos for businesses when the no-deal Brexit legislation still kicks in, but they have to obey EU law at the same time. You cannot serve two masters. Brussels knows that perfectly well, even if May doesn’t.

This dangerous strategy is lunacy, and could precipitate capital flight and economic meltdown. What tax law would businesses obey? What processes would apply? The UK’s reputation as a great place to do business would be lost overnight, irretrievably. There could well be civil disorder.

One thinks that a certain judgment won by a certain Gina Miller might also contradict this plan. So let’s get an injunction and ask the Supreme Court also?

But given everything we know of Theresa May, she is still likely to try this on and do her damnedest to drive the UK over a Brexit cliff-edge by trashing parliamentary process, the law and the constitution in order to make the country ungovernable so we scream for it to stop, please just stop, we’ll do anything, where do we sign to say we want to join the United States of Europe…

This is not just a cynical abuse of power by a fanatical Remainer. It is a clear and present danger to the rule of law and the economic political and social fabric of the country.