Acres of outraged tabloid vitriol have been poured over the Speaker for ruling that the Prime Minister cannot keep forcing the Commons to vote on her unchanged, botched, blind Brexit deal until it passes. And yet Speaker Bercow’s ‘bombshell’ statement was as correct as it was predictable. The precedent he invoked is well-known and well-established. Indeed I highlighted its existence in a point of order to a packed House of Commons, which included the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House, last week.
The purpose of this sensible rule is to ensure that the executive branch of government cannot just bully the legislative branch and ignore the expressed will of the House of Commons simply because they do not agree with it. As the Speaker said, votes in the House of Commons matter and they must be respected. So the Prime Minister’s anger at having her intention to play a high-stakes game of chicken with the anarcho-Brextremists on her own side snatched away from her was hard to justify, and it certainly should not have come as a surprise. Meaningful vote three, four, five and more ad infinitum were taken off the table by the Speaker who rightly decided to assert the rules.
The Prime Minister has only herself to blame for the mess she has made of Brexit. From the beginning, she has attempted to exclude parliament from having a legitimate say in how it could be best interpreted and delivered. When the Supreme Court forced her to abide by our constitutional requirements and legislate to trigger Article 50, she did so only grudgingly.
She has eschewed the chance to build cross-party alliances, or debate where a consensus lies on the form of Brexit that could command a majority across the House and the country. Instead, the Prime Minsiter alone decided that her Brexit would mean leaving the single market and the customs union, thereby creating the Irish backstop problem. She alone decided that she would only countenance forcing her Brexit deal through with Conservative and DUP votes, putting her own party’s interests very far ahead of the national interest. She alone decided that parliamentary votes could simply be ignored.
This Prime Minister has made our country a global laughing stock as her plans have floundered. After the chancellor’s Spring Statement last week, the IFS revealed that our economy is already 2% smaller than it would have been if the referendum had not happened. That means that, all other things being equal, Philip Hammond would have had £15bn more at his disposal to spend on ending the agonies of austerity. Nor would he have had to waste a further £4bn preparing for a ‘no deal’ crash out of the EU, spent only to make the Prime Minister’s threat to her own right-wing Brextremists appear more credible. The real price of this Prime Minister’s misguided authoritarian instinct and incompetence is being paid by my constituents every day.