This article was published by the Edinburgh Evening News on 4th September 2019. You can also read the Evening News version online, here.
The sight of Jacob Rees-Mogg MP lying across the government front bench in the House of Commons earlier this week was one of those picture moments that says a thousand words. The photo showed the sheer arrogance, disrespect, sense of entitlement and contempt for parliament that has been shown by this Tory government.
Boris Johnson has been wrongly claiming for the last few weeks that he is negotiating with the EU to try to get a better Brexit deal. The EU has said that no meaningful discussions have taken place and the UK Government has provided no potential solutions to the border in Ireland to enable the now infamous backstop to be removed. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, called the bluff of Mr Johnson by challenging him to come up with alternative arrangements in 30 days. No alternatives are being provided as they don’t exist.
The Tories are determined to deliver a no-deal Brexit and that would be devastating for our economy. That is not my analysis but that of the PM’s own Government. That is why we are all working cross-party to try to prevent a no -Brexit.
We managed to use a procedural mechanism on Tuesday to get hold of the Parliamentary timetable today in order to pass a Private Member’s Bill from my Labour colleague, Hilary Benn MP, that will instruct the Government to seek an extension to leaving the EU to 31 January 2020 in the event that it has not secured a parliamentary vote for either a deal or no-deal.
I am writing this before heading to the Chamber for the debate and the vote, and I’m confident of success, but it is the last chance for Parliament to have its say as the PM has decided to take the unprecedented step of suspending parliament for five weeks to prepare for a Queen’s Speech. We are due a Queen’s Speech but the reason the Government is doing this is to push ahead with no deal on October 31. It’s an attempt to sabotage our democracy.
We are in uncharted waters but leaving no stone unturned in trying to prevent a disastrous no-deal Brexit. The waters are so uncharted that the PM booted out 21 of his own MPs for voting against a no-deal Brexit this week. These include the Father of the House Ken Clarke, the Chancellor of just a few weeks back, and the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill.
Given that the PM himself voted against his predecessor’s Brexit deal and kept his Conservative whip, it is surely another example of how he views life: one rule for him and another rule for everyone else.
Boris Johnson says we will not have a general election then proposes a motion to call one. This is a trap. The reason he is now keen for an election is that he could take the UK out of the EU with no-deal whilst the election is ongoing. He needs 434 MPs to back him under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act but we will not fall for that bear trap.
As an opposition MP I always want a general election but not if it is a trick to pave the way for no-deal. We must get the Benn Bill on to the statute book and, critically, implemented before we go to the country in a general election. That can’t happen before October 31. Otherwise, the unintended consequence may be a no-deal Brexit by the back door. We must be focused on the national interest and not narrow party politics.
Mr Johnson said, “come what may, do or die, we will leave on October 31”. Well, if I have anything to do with it, we will not be leaving on October 31 with a no-deal and I will continue to fight tooth and nail, through parliament and the courts, to ensure that this PM doesn’t lie and obfuscate his way to a Brexit that will have disastrous consequences across the country for years to come.