Brexit God laughs
European Union

Man plans and God laughs: resist all you want; Brexit will happen

Church of England Bishops in the House of Lords voted against the Government and in favour of Hilary Benn’s Bill to force Boris Johnson to beg Brussels for another extension to Article 50. They they were, orating about the common good and the need for compromise and the imperative of a transformation of the narrative, but not one voice was raised about the need to bring this political purgatory to an end and leave.

That’s the Anglican bit done.

Or perhaps here’s a bit more:

That’s the Anglican bit definitely done.

God laughs.

Boris Johnson is in a bit of a pickle. He has committed himself to taking the UK out of the EU by 31st October (Reformation Day) “do or die”. He was then asked in the House of Commons whether or not, if Parliament so determined, he would go to Brussels and request an(other) extension to Article 50. He responded that he would obey the law. He has since been asked if he will go to Brussels and request an(other) extension, and he responded that he would “rather be dead in a ditch”.

On the face of it, he is hemmed in. As the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill becomes the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act, he is obliged, by law, to write the following letter:

Dear Mr President,

The UK Parliament has passed the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. Its provisions now require Her Majesty’s Government to seek an extension of the period provided under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, including as applied by Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty, currently due to expire at 11.00pm GMT on 31 October 2019, until 11.00pm GMT on 31 January 2020.

I am writing therefore to inform the European Council that the United Kingdom is seeking a further extension to the period provided under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, including as applied by Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty. The United Kingdom proposes that this period should end at 11.00pm GMT on 31 January 2020. If the parties are able to ratify before this date, the Government proposes that the period should be terminated early.

Yours sincerely,

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

He can’t add: ‘PS, I don’t really mean it.’ The wording is clear: “The Prime Minister must seek to obtain from the European Council an extension…” (1.4). He can’t seek with one hand while not seeking with all his heart, soul and mind. If he doesn’t “seek to obtain” (which seeking will be evidenced by his obtaining), he will be in contempt of Parliament and breaking the law.

But he has assured Parliament that he will obey the law.

There has been some absurd rumour that he’ll dispatch Michael Gove to Brussels to do the seeking, permitting the Prime Minister to honour the letter of his word, but that won’t wash with 17.4 million people who seek Brexit in spirit and in truth (ie., the letter of the EU Referendum result). That is to say, if Brexit isn’t given effect on 31st October (Reformation Day), Boris Johnson is toast (and so, quite possibly, is the Conservative Party). He could, of course, resign as Prime Minister on 19th October, making him the shortest-serving prime minister in the history of the United Kingdom, but that isn’t quite the legacy he’d like to leave in his wake/splash.

Or he could, even at this late stage, pull a rabbit deal out of the Withdrawal Agreement hat, for if the backstop is dealt with, that ‘deal’ would certainly get through Parliament. The ERG may not be content (and they may lose the whip if the Prime Minister made supporting his revised ‘deal’ a matter of confidence), but it would undoubtedly pass.

Or… or… or… There is a myriad of possibilities, and game theorists are having the time of their lives (and so are lawyers). There’s even a rumour now circulating that Hilary Benn hasn’t been quite as clever as he thinks he’s been, and there’s a legal interpretation of the the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill which doesn’t oblige the Prime Minister to do as everyone seems to think it does, even as it becomes an Act of Parliament. Man plans, but you can always find a lawyer to argue against it, and this battle may yet end up in the Supreme Court.

Such a complex case may take us beyond 31st October (Reformation Day), so we would leave the EU by default of law while the judges are grappling with the nuances (should there be any).

Another possibility is that Boris Johnson resigns as Prime Minister on 19th October (Reformation Day), during prorogation, so MPs are unable to spend their 14 days (or up to 14 days) trying to put a head on their Remainer chicken, so, for want of an agreeable head, we would leave the EU by default of law.

Another possibility is that Boris Johnson resigns as Prime Minister on 19th October (Reformation Day), during prorogation, and the Speaker overrules the Queen’s order to prorogue and recalls Parliament, so MPs are able to spend a day (or so) trying to find a leader for a ‘Government of National Unity’ (that’s the Bishops’ kind of national unity). But then, finding themselves unable to anoint Jeremy Corbyn (too toxic), and unable to anoint Kenneth Clarke (too Tory), and unable to anoint Jo Swinson (too [fill in the gap]), Remainer MPs (who are the majority) look to the one figure in the House of Commons who has steadfastly aided their cause and is ideally placed to lead a ‘Government of National Unity’.

Step forward Prime Minister Bercow.

O, how God laughs.