Man plans, God laughs: House of Commons votes to trigger Article 50

The House of Commons has voted to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – by which the UK will begin secession negotiations with the EU – by the end of March 2017. And they did so by an overwhelming majority: 461 votes to 89 – a margin of 372. Those MPs who voted against the will of the people’s majority are all listed HERE. “To those in Leave constituencies, good luck. You’re going to need it…,” Euro Guido warns. They are perhaps those whom Ukip ought to focus on (if they could but think and plan strategically), just as Sir James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party didn’t stand candidates against MPs who were in sympathy with their demand for referendum. What’s the point of Eurosceptics fighting proven Eurosceptics?

But this Commons vote doesn’t, as some seem to think, render the Supreme Court appeal a mere “side show”. The vote isn’t binding: Labour insist the Government must publish “the plan” for achieving Brexit, and the House of Lords could (and most probably will) frustrate the process. In the great theatre of Parliament, we are only half way through Act III: the dénouement is still impeded by sundry nœuds de vipères.

But there is light, and the Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser is a prophetic voice crying in the Guardian wilderness:

“No plan survives contact with the enemy,” said Crispin Blunt in Wednesday’s Commons debate on Brexit. And in a typical bit of faux Commons outrage, he was rounded on by members of the Labour party for describing our EU negotiating partners as “the enemy”. That was not what he meant, of course.

The quote was taken from a 19th-century German field marshal, Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke: “No operation extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main body of the enemy.” In terms of Brexit negotiations, it means that there is no way of knowing in advance how things are going to turn out when article 50 is triggered. It is unknown territory. And nothing will make it otherwise.

But this much we do know: triggered it will be. Because the British people have clearly said this is what they wanted. And the Commons have now accepted this with a whopping majority. OK, the question asked on 23 June didn’t come with explanatory footnotes, so there is some room for interpretation. But the vote clearly requires the government to return sovereignty from Brussels. And even the Labour party – bar 23 rebels – has conceded. “It was close but it was clear,” said Ed Miliband. “We are leaving the European Union.”

To say otherwise would have been electoral suicide for Labour. 70% of the party’s MPs have constituencies that voted leave, and Paul Nuttall, the new Ukip leader, intends to target northern Labour seats at the next election. So instead of open hostility to Brexit, they have been obliged to accept the triggering of article 50 and confine their hostility to guerrilla action. The idea is to pretend to accept the headline result while sabotaging the negotiating process, hoping the government slips up.

The government, in turn, has conceded that it will have to offer a back-of-a-fag-packet plan ahead of the negotiations. But don’t expect any detail. Keir Starmer called for an end to uncertainty. That’s unrealistic – these are liminal times. And there won’t be – can’t be – some smoothly managed exit. There was a non-militaristic way for Crispin Blunt to have said this. It’s an old Jewish proverb: man plans, God laughs.

Man plans: God laughs. What a laser beam of theological lucidity this shines into the whole Article 50 morass. But this wisdom is met with the usual abuse from some of Giles Fraser’s fellow socialists:


This sort of loving exchange and gentle rebuke has become part of his daily diet: he has lost many friends, and feels that loss acutely. Please pray for Giles Fraser. No other member of the clergy has endured the hate and vitriol that he has during the whole EU Referendum campaign and ongoing debate. ‘Brexit recycles the defiant spirit of the Reformation‘, he declared in May. ‘Democracy is far too important to be the preserve of the elite‘, he proclaimed in June. And they hate him for it. ‘A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house..

  • bluedog

    Deft work by Mrs May, Your Grace. Her actions showed clarity of thought and courage, almost the Nelson touch, one might venture. To completely outmanoeuvre Mrs Miller, Lord Neuberger’s court and Ken Clarke in one successful day’s work seems bear the mark of greatness.

    One has a vision of Tarzan, prowling his arboretum in darkest Gloucestershire, and swearing at inanimate objects as the dreadful reality of utter failure overwhelms him.

  • Dreadnaught

    Those of the Remain persuasion should reserve some of their oppropbrium for the EU bureaucrats who according to various reports, are stacking up the heavy weaponry to blow these islands and May’s efforts, out of the sea for having the temerity to stick up the traditional two fingered salute to their undemocratic behemoth.
    Instead of undermining May & Co, who unlike Cameron and his cronies when the vote went against their own judgement did not cut and run, but have risen to the task of maginging the ‘fall out’ of the referendum result despite continuous bleating and snarking for details from the Corbin the Quiet crew.
    They should be putting people before politics in common cause, to secure the future economic stability and decocratic integrity of this Nation, not for the first time, Standing Alone before a so-called ‘European Superpower’.
    The Left arebehaving like hyenas and jackals nipping at the heels of a weakened quarry but in their case, they are engaged in simple political opportunism that they hope will divide the population of this Country so they can pick over whats left of their appeal to their lost traditional voter base.
    How long before they actually come clean, don the cloak of victimhood and claim ‘We are all immigrants Now’: the white working class is the enemy within and has let this Country down: We feel your pain – Vote for us.
    Outright scaremongering didn’t work; 17 million people rejected the appeals from the wealthy of Loviedom and the blatant bias of the reporters and editors of the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation – Get over it! or Go emigrate.

    • Politically__Incorrect

      Agreed. The rallying cry to accept the result and pull together, instead of against each other, should be made louder. I’m not sure how many of these Remainers actually believe in the EU. I think they just don’t like not getting their way, even though they probably don’t really want it anyway.

      • Dreadnaught

        People under the age of fortywill have no idea that we existed adn even built an empire without assistance from anyone else but ourselves. Seventy years of peace and progressive prosperity are sad to say, taken for granted.

        • Merchantman

          They will have no idea that all this came about on a carpet of lost British Lives because all but a few of the Europeans couldn’t resist the toxic whiff of euro totalitarianism. Lest We Forget.

          • Dreadnaught

            Never a truer word MrM.

  • Albert

    Mrs May just seems far cleverer than her predecessor.

    • Old Nick

      One cannot help wondering why her predecessor had not got a team of Sir Humphreys working on a contingency plan for Leave. But maybe one is naïf.

      • Sybaseguru

        I have a suspicion it may be best this way – if I were a civil servant I would see major opportunities to make my name now we have brexit, so we should get the brightest and best on the team. A contingency plan would have been seen as a dead end job to shuffle the dead beats into.

        • Old Nick

          Good point. What puzzles me though is that it seems (from what we hear) that the options and possibilities were not mapped in advance. But I guess we will need to wait 30 years before we will know about that.

          • Anton

            We want Daniel Hannan on the team.

          • Old Nick

            The thinking man’s Brexiteer !

    • Merchantman

      It’s the union jack bloomers what does it.( with apologies to Mrs Proudie)

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        How on earth did you know?

      • Anton

        I think you mean the Union Flag bloomers. The Union Jack is the flagstaff from which the Union Flag flies. I shudder to think of Union Jack bloomers…

  • Anton

    Much more delay and there won’t be an EU to exit (Italy going eurosceptic now)… What a shame!

    • Oisín mac Fionn

      And yet the EU is still here, along with the euro.

      The British have been predicting its demise for years. In this they have much in common with Christians who’ve been saying “any day now” for the past 2000 years.

      You’re still waiting for your saviour and will still be waiting for him this time next year, this time next decade, this time next century, if you live that long. And you’ll still be predicting the downfall of the EU too.

      We probably do have some troubled times ahead. But what keeps us together is stronger than what is trying to drive us apart. The EU will survive despite Britain wishing destruction on us. And once we get through this difficult period, we’ll emerge stronger and more prosperous than ever. We’ll also know who our friends are. Those who stuck with us when the going got tough. Those who didn’t may end up regretting their choices.

      Time will tell.

      • Anton

        “Those who stuck with us”? Who is “us”? Your words project a myth of Britain vs the Rest of Europe that the rising opposition to Merkel, Hollande, Renzi etc shows is nonsense.

        Yes, time will tell. But you won’t, if your prediction of the UK Referendum result is anything to go by.

        • Oisín mac Fionn

          We are the countries that haven’t fallen prey to rampant populism and want to stay together rather than break apart.

          Britain has always been a reluctant member of the EU. Other countries are not. Though populism is on the rise everywhere, nowhere does it coincide with isolationist tendencies quite like it does in Britain.

          Populism failed in Austria. And when voters are faced with a stark choice between in and out, it will fail in Italy, France, the Netherlands and elsewhere too. The Italians voted against changes to their political system, they didn’t vote against Europe. And few will vote to break the euro. Their livelihoods are at stake.

          Britain has made its decision and will soon be on its own facing a united bloc. Your choice. Your problem. Rumours that you might be allowed to stay in the Single Market or you might be allowed some form of associate European citizenship are just rumours. The reality is that you’ve chosen to leave, so leave is what you must do. Completely.

          You won’t be missed. A more contrary, carping, complaining nation doesn’t exist. Never happy with any decision or any compromise, constantly trying to prevent any kind of change or progress. The EU will be much more effective without you. As the French say, Brexit will turn out to be un mal pour un bien.

          • Anton

            What you call rampant populism, wiser heads call democracy.

            Do you really believe what you write or are you just trying to wind people up?

          • Oisín mac Fionn

            What you call democracy, wiser heads call mob rule.

            No need to ask you whether you believe what you write. Your brainwashed mind that hobbles by on a diet of slogans and mantras clearly believes whatever it reads in the Daily Mail.

            If the mob wins out in the UK, there’s clear blue water separating the rest of Europe from the contagion.

          • Anton

            Mob rule means a breakdown of law and order. Democracy means the will of the people. Should I credit you with enough intelligence to understand the difference; or should I not?

          • Oisín mac Fionn

            It’s on this blog that we hear the threats of the populists about what will happen if the “will of the majority” is not respected. And yet the will of the majority is a changeable thing. Hold another referendum tomorrow and the result may be very different. So what the Brexit party means by “the will of the people” is its will. That’s all that counts, isn’t it?

            If you respect democracy so much, you should not oppose another democratic consultation. The truth is you only respect democracy insofar as its results support your agenda.

            The cries of those on this blog who condemned the Irish referendum result were shrill indeed. Where was your respect for democracy then?

            You are no democrat. All you want to do is whip people up into a frenzy so they vote the way you want them to vote, and then prevent another vote from ever taking place. That’s not democracy. It’s pure demagoguery. And demagogues rouse rabbles, i.e. mobs. That’s the implicit threat if the government doesn’t implement a referendum result that no law compels it to implement.

            By “will of the people” you mean “will of the mob”. And there you are threatening the retribution of the mob if politicians fail to obey you.

            I’m sickened by attitudes like yours because we all know what they ultimately lead to. Fascism and dictatorship lies along the road you and those like you are taking us down. Be it on your conscience, if you have one. And that I sincerely doubt.

          • Anton

            The richest pasture for fascism and dictatorship is in the Mediterranean countries being forced into 50% late-teen unemployment by the Euro economic policy, and more northerly countries facing cultural challenge from increasingly large and violent minorities whom their leaders invited in without bothering to consult the people. Of you and me, I am the democrat. You call it democracy when you agree with it and populism when you disagree.

  • Richard B

    Yes thank the Lord for Giles Fraser, who’s not quite alone in CoE as there’s Clifford Hill, founder in 1980s and e-reviver of ‘Prophecy Today UK’ magazine.
    But the question must be: why were almost all church leaders ignorant of God’s purposes for our nation?? Obviously they’d not sought and listened to Him, as did 20-odd ordinary believers over the years who’ve come to my attention!

  • Tom Cook

    I’m shocked (shocked!) by the number of so-called liberals who openly advocate undemocratic EU rule because they don’t like the sort of government they think will be elected if the voters are given a choice. These people (such as Sophie Grace) don’t seem to see any irony in that.

    • Merchantman

      We need to be free of this extra despotic monster.

  • chefofsinners

    Pray for Giles Fraser? Sigh.
    Alright, because my enemy’s enemy is my friend:

    Oh Lord
    Please stop Giles from being bullied by the silly left wing friends he has courted for so long, even though it’s what he deserves.

    (God laughs)

  • DoctorBohemiangirl

    Fraser isn’t a prophet, he is singularly misguided. He also does not engage with any form of discussion or critique of his positions. He made assertions about the EU and that are unverifiable and/or refuted and again does not acknowledge these. Sophie’s critique above is not abuse, it is a very reasoned setting out of why he is in very large ways a bit of a hypocrite, who rails against discrimination in one arena, whilst putting it in motion for a whole swathe of the population in another, without reflection at all. His delightful lapping up of the commons vote yesterday is ugly to see.

    • carl jacobs

      Yes, well-reasoned is the proper description. A 52/48 result isn’t clear at all. But a 48/52 result? Now THAT would have been clear. It would have settled the issue for all of time and eternity. No more votes needed. Ever.

      Hell hath no fury like a progressive woman deprived of her divine right to progressive Gov’t. Well, not “divine” right. What’s the Secular equivalent?

    • ZX10

      ‘not abuse, it is a very reasoned’ so stating that someone if the cause of ‘racism ‘and ‘fascism’ two words that are rapidly loosing all power thanks to stupid people using them to shame their opponents into silence is Reasonable ?

    • carl jacobs

      We are in deep, deep shit, including the prospect of indefinite rule by quasi-fascists … and their fellow travelers…

      Gasp! “We” might not win elections! Is that allowed?

      It occurs to me that the Mars One project is available for disaffected Socialists looking to flee the wrath to come. And look here. Mars is already nothing but dirt and rock and poisonous air so it’s already 80% along the way to becoming a Socialist Paradise. They don’t call it the Red Planet for nothing.

      • Albert

        🙂 You’re on form today, Carl.

        • Don’t encourage him, Albert. He needs more humility.

          • carl jacobs

            I shall be the humblest person in the world. No one shall match carl for his humbility.

          • CliveM

            American and humble don’t belong in the same sentence.

            But good post, so what the heck!!

          • IanCad

            Americans have no reasons to be humble.

          • Albert

            Did you type the word “no” by accident?

          • IanCad

            Trust you to put me on the spot Albert. If we’re humble because we are useless, it is no merit. If we are not humble because we’re the greatest then we are, at least, being honest. Now, where was I………?

          • CliveM

            Digging a hole?

          • Old Nick

            Uriah Heep meets Donald Trump

      • Royinsouthwest

        An excellent suggestion! From their celestial vantage point the progressive citizens of Mars would be able to look down on Earthly bigots and Fascists with the sort of disdain described by H.G. Wells in the opening paragraph of The War of the Worlds.

        No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

    • Albert

      As a churchman, Dr Fraser is hardly my cup of tea. But, from your comment, I’m guessing you’ve never listened to him on the Moral Maze.

    • Albert

      a hypocrite, who rails against discrimination in one arena, whilst putting it in motion for a whole swathe of the population in another, without reflection at all.

      Perhaps I’m not yet awake today. But what are you talking about? Specifically, I mean.

      • Dominic Stockford

        Interesting to see this poster has made only a handful of comments over the last two years, anywhere. One example is the following:

        “Doesn’t work. I lived all over the world as a child including the US. The place I feel most strange is the UK. Let them be Americans, it’s far better.”

        Rather telling, in the context of their remark above..

        • Albert

          Oh well spotted! Yes, very odd. But the lack of debate by DoctorBohemiangirl is also particularly interesting given DoctorBohemiangirl’s opening gambit:

          He also does not engage with any form of discussion or critique of his positions.

    • Albert

      He also does not engage with any form of discussion or critique of his positions.

      Would that describe the majority of your posts, do you think?

  • Don Benson

    On many issues I would disagree with Giles Fraser but I always salute his courage in not tailoring what he says to what he thinks others would like him to say. Over Brexit he is of course spot on and his view is exactly in line with many great figures from the Labour Party (such as Tony Benn) who always viewed the ‘Common Market’ as dangerously undemocratic – the EU has taken that original fault to a level which is now best described as a dictatorship.

    But, by maintaining his honourable position despite the attacks he has received, I hope he will have enjoyed that greatest source of internal peace which comes from standing up for what you know to be true when all around you are screaming their incoherent insults. In fact it’s all the insults, in the absence of any convincing attempt at intelligent discussion, which contribute to an overwhelming desire that Brexit cannot come soon enough and it must be
    the full deal, not some botched halfway house.

    • Jon of GSG

      Very well put.

  • carl jacobs

    Remember. To the Left democracy is but a means to an end – a means terribly susceptible to the distortion of false class consciousness. If democracy will not produce the correct ends, then different means must be chosen. Leftism is an inherently aristocratic ideology where the aristocracy is self-identified. That means it is swamped by paternalistic contempt for the masses.

    “They must be lead, you know. By the whip if necessary. They’ll thank us in the end.”

  • len

    Is the EU the enemy of the people of the UK?.
    Well, the EU was conceived with guile, carried out in deception, and when they thought there was no way out the trap was snapped shut.
    Who would want a friend like that?.

    • Dreadnaught

      Take away he politicians and the people of Europe would rub along just fine.

  • CliveM

    I’m going to be honest and say I was concerned. I thought that a cabal of Remainers where succeeding in mobilising enough MP’ s to successfully block Brexit. I was wondering if May was up to it.

    However I should have remembered that publicity on the BBC, does not necessarily equate to a majority.

    And May played a blinder.

    • chefofsinners

      Kermit Starmer showed his political inexperience and played into May’s hands.

      • CliveM


        It’s been a bad 48hrs for labour.

  • Inspector General

    They scatter as swine before the people…

    Must say one expected more of a fight, but the first rule of politics comes to mind – survival in your seat. If you find yourself on a loser, run away and hide, and hopefully no one will ever remember you were there. Similar thing happened with Gay ‘Marriage’ – the great and good who opposed it are coming forward, dropping to their knees, confessing their erroneous stance and testifying to their foolishness. Rather reminiscent of the Chinese Communists of the 1960s when the revisionists were the prey…and yes, their lives depended on the sincerity of their regret.

    As for our treacherous crowd in parliament today, it’s enough to make a fellow vomit, some of those queer road to Damascus wretches, or should that be the road to Sodom…

    • Don Benson

      Whatever name you give the road, along its way are fuddled brains and lost souls. And saddest of all are the naïve young boys and girls who are being led like lambs to the slaughter by a mendacious older generation which grew up in the light and has chosen darkness.

  • chefofsinners

    Of the 89 MPs who voted against last night’s motion, 51 were SNP. -The party which has lost two referenda and steadfastly ignores both, while demanding a third.

  • chefofsinners

    I notice that Sophie-Grace Chappell says ‘Jeremy’ is not a deeply democratic name. And rebukes Giles for attacking the Labour Party.

    • magnolia

      Oh, whoops, did the Blunt parents omit a nationwide democratic vote on what to call their newborn? Tut, tut!!

      Mea culpa also. Decided with my husband, so clearly the offspring are also undemocratically named, (for surely democracy needs things called votes?) Shall I tell them? Should I break the news that they might not have the right kind of names for anyone to heed their opinions?

      Instead they should heed the wise and graceful one, with the common name (well, cough cough, perhaps not quite so common.)

      Maybe Sophie Grace could think about gentle wisdom and eschew rubbish ad hominem arguments?

  • Eh?

    • carl jacobs

      I showing my humbility by using a Cricket metaphor. How do you say “36 runs in an over”?

      • That would be six straight sixes in one over (six balls) and has over ever been achieved by a handful of men.

        • carl jacobs

          Yes, that. It seemed a useful metaphor to explain Albert’s comment. Not that I would say that myself.

  • Oisín mac Fionn

    Politics is a pendulum that swings one way then another. At the moment it’s swinging towards populism and nationalism. But every political movement only lasts as long as the dream it peddles.

    Once the golden promises of a new Elizabethan age evaporate in the economic stagnation that will inevitably accompany the loss of British access to the Single Market, the pendulum will start to swing in another direction.

  • big bwana

    If nationalism means that the government of this country becomes more accountable to the electorate that it is supposed to serve,rather than hiding behind the dictats of the law makers in Brussels, then it’s time we had a bit more of it.