by Frank Schnittger
Tue Sep 24th, 2019 at 03:26:21 PM EST
The judgement of the UK Supreme Court is about as bad as it could be for Boris:
- It is unanimous - therefore there is no minority report the government can cling to in part justification for its stance
- It is clear cut - no equivocation - the prorogation was unlawful, void, and of no effect - therefore Parliament can resume sitting immediately, and Bills in progress through the house will not have lapsed.
- Although the judgement does not say so explicitly, it follows the PM advised the Queen to act unlawfully
- The Parliament has lost two weeks work during which time it could not fulfil its primary functions - so real harm has been done, and the effect of the prorogation is described as "extreme".
Logically Boris should now resign - but of course he won't - the laws are for the little people - nevertheless there are now clear grounds for holding him in contempt of parliament.
However, more than ever, Parliament needs to avoid a general election now, because:
- Boris in situ in No.10 would have a considerable political advantage - possession in 9/10ths. of the law.
- Boris will turn it into an explicit people vs. Parliament election - undermining the whole nature of UK Parliamentary democracy
- An election will take the UK past Nov. 1st., and out of the EU by default.
Therefore an immediate change of government is required, as Boris has previously said he may ignore the law and refuse to extend A.50 under any circumstances.
However under the FTP Act, a vote of no confidence in the government would trigger a 14 day delay followed by a general election, so another procedure may be required.
Could parliament vote no confidence in the PM personally (i.e. not in the government in the from of words required by the FTP Act), instructing him to resign, and requesting the Queen to appoint a replacement? This would avoid the necessity of Parliament having to agree on a replacement, something it would have difficulty in doing.
Presumably the Queen would then appoint the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition to the role of PM and he could try to form either a Labour minority or a national unity government of some or all opposition parties. If the Tories then tried to vote no-confidence in his government, he could even afford to lose some opposition MP's support or some abstentions and still retain power.
Opposition parties could then allow a de facto status quo to persist where Corbyn leads a caretaker government for long enough to seek an A.50 extension, negotiate a "better" Brexit deal, and to organise a referendum probably in late winter or early Spring - all without some bitter Corbyn opponents ever having to vote for him. The in-built advantages of being in possession of the Office of PM would then work in Corbyn's favour.
Much has been made of the continued ambiguity of Corbyn's stance on Brexit - refusing to explicitly back Remain. However if Corbyn is to negotiate a new Brexit deal with the EU in good faith, he cannot pre-judge the outcome of those negotiations.
He could ask his Brexit Secretary to negotiate a better deal (i.e. May's deal with a N. Ireland only backstop plus a much more fleshed out political declaration outlining the future UK/EU relationship a Labour Government would seek in negotiations during the Transition period). He could even agree to take the Backstop out of the Withdrawal Agreement entirely, and instead negotiate an amended Good Friday Agreement devolving trade supervisory powers to the institutions set up under that agreement - the N. Ireland Assembly, Executive, The North/South Ministerial Council, and the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Many things are possible with a bit of imagination and good will.
He could also ask his Foreign Secretary to negotiate a better deal for Remaining in the EU, with a significant social democratic rather than neo-liberal reform of EU policies. The coming to power of a new Commission under Ursula Von der Leyen could prove fortuitous timing in this regard. Anything cooked up under Juncker is more or less guaranteed a bad press in the UK.
He could then consider the merits of both deals before recommending one to the British people during the referendum campaign, pledging to implement whichever deal achieves majority support in the referendum and thus maintaining good faith with both Leave and Remain Labour voters.
Corbyn's "fence sitting", much derided by political analysts and the media, could yet prove pivotal in reassuring the British people that a fair attempt is being made to give them a genuine choice between two realistic options - the Best Brexit Deal available, or a better deal for Remain.
But we have to get rid of Boris first...