It's Not Too Late

4 December 2018


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Brexit Debate Starts with Contempt Allegations


The minority Tory government if Theresa May is an inept bunch to be sure, and said bunch has been asked to undo a generation's worth of integration with European economies. Needless to say, it has been a shambles. The farce is now approaching its climax as the House of Commons begins its 40-hours of debate on the deal negotiated between the UK and the EU on the terms of departure. The government has provided a bonus laugh track in the form of a contempt of parliament debate to start things off. At the same time, the EU has said Britain can still stop the whole Brexit process. It's the ideal option.

The contempt of parliament allegations have found support from the Speaker, and so there will be a debate about that. The charges arise from the failure of the government to publish the full legal advice of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox on the Brexit deal. Instead, the government published an overview of the document, contrary to an earlier vote of the House. After the Speaker decided there was an arguable case for contempt, the Tories tabled a motion to refer the matter to the Privileges Committee. The issue is more of a distraction than a disaster, but it is the sort of distraction that takes away from the government's credibility at a time when it needs every gram of the stuff it can get.

As things stand now, the House can either approve the agreement made with the EU or it can reject it. Given that Brexit Day is March 29, a rejection of this deal would likely mean that the UK leaves without any sort of agreement at all. Under simple WTO rules, the UK would have restricted access to EU markets and vice versa. Economic models suggest this would result in an almost immediate recession, a run on the pound and a jolt of inflation.

For that reason, Ms. May is claiming there is no Plan B. However, there is a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D. The first is a second vote in Commons to simply reconsider the matter. If the House rejects the deal when it votes on December 11, there is nothing preventing the House from voting on it again later on and accepting it.

The second option is a general election. That would mean a campaign right after the New Year and would mean selecting a government only a few weeks ahead of Brexit Day. No doubt, there would be extensions offered and accepted, but the great question would be whether the new government would be any more effective than the old one. One doubts it.

Finally, there could be a second referendum. The questions would be "Do you want to leave the EU under the terms negotiated by the government or leave without an agreement?" and "Do you support leaving the EU?" The British people got themselves into this mess, and the British people should be on the hook for figuring a way out.

Staying in the EU remains an option, at least according to the EU advocate-general. A statement issued earlier to day from AG Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona read in part, "[T]he Advocate General proposes that the Court of Justice should, in its future judgment, declare that Article 50 TEU allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, until such time as the withdrawal agreement is formally concluded, provided that the revocation has been decided upon in accordance with the Member State's constitutional requirements, is formally notified to the European Council and does not involve an abusive practice."

The statement is non-binding, but it is significant that there is a body of opinion in the EU that says a withdrawal from the EU can be reversed up until the moment it actually happens. It's not too late for Britain to change direction on its march to irrelevance.

© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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