You are currently browsing the daily archive for September 13, 2019.

The past seven days in Britain have proven further the old adage that a week is a long time in politics.

Last Saturday, September 7, Conservative MP Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye) resigned from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet. Her resignation is not a huge loss, as she is a Remainer, however, the optics were potentially damaging to the new PM.

She was upset about the 21 Conservative MPs who had the whip removed last week. (The PM’s brother Jo had resigned from Cabinet days before for the same reason.) Fair enough. However, she allegedly told The Sunday Times about her resignation before she notified the PM, according to Buzzfeed’s Alex Wickham:

On Monday, September 9, talk revolved around Boris’s ‘unfair’ prorogation. A few weeks ago, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan reminded us of the facts:

Before prorogation took place, however, former Conservative-now-rebel MP Dominic Grieve put forward a Humble Address procedure in Parliament on Monday afternoon. He wants every detail of correspondence behind prorogation as well as the emergency Brexit procedures contained in Project Yellowhammer. The Guardian has this summary of this extraordinary measure with regard to prorogation correspondence (emphases mine):

Grieve’s demand for the release of all written and electronic contact about the temporary suspension of Parliament and Operation Yellowhammer documents since July 23 to be released was approved by MPs by 311 votes to 302 on Monday.

It asked for all correspondence and communications, formal or informal, including WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook Messenger, private email accounts, text messages, iMessage and official and personal mobile phones connected to the present Government since July 23 relating to prorogation.

It listed key individuals of Mr Johnson’s Government, including senior adviser Dominic Cummings and director of legislative affairs Nikki da Costa.

Grieve was Attorney General just a few years ago, so, apparently, this move is legal, even though one wonders about the legality of requesting private correspondence given EU data protection rules. An update follows below.

That was followed by Speaker of the House John Bercow’s announcement that he would be relinquishing his post by October 31. A standing ovation from Opposition MPs followed, at which point most Conservative MPs left the chamber. Then, a 90-minute verbal floral tribute followed to the Remainer from a variety of Opposition MPs, also Remainers. And these are the people who complain they lack adequate time to debate Brexit!

That evening, as MPs continued to sit in session, the PM once again put forward his motion to hold a general election. His prior attempt had been defeated a week earlier.

Once again, Boris was defeated. Those who voted Aye were in the majority, but he needed two-thirds of all sitting MPs to vote for it.

Still, no one can rightly call him a dictator.

Recalcitrant MPs should have listened to Gina Miller. This is probably the one time I agree with her — and that is only with the second sentence in this tweet:

Gina’s case on illegal prorogation was rejected, but it goes before the Supreme Court next week on appeal. Former Conservative PM John Major (pictured in the background) piggybacked his own anti-prorogation case onto Miller’s:

It’s a bit rich for Sir John to complain about Boris’s prorogation:

Around the time Parliament was preparing for prorogation, a poll was released saying that the British public do not want another extension to Brexit:

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, all hell broke loose in the House of Commons.

Black Rod, the Lady Usher in the House of Lords and Queen’s representative for the prorogation ceremony, entered the House. She was there to prorogue Parliament and summon all MPs to the House of Lords where they had to listen to a very long list of all the achievements of their Parliament. It took ages.

I stayed up to watch everything on BBC Parliament, but the following video has better views of a few other scenes in the Commons. The noise that Opposition MPs made was terrible. Then, a vexed Black Rod, who stood on the red line designating the governing party’s boundary in the House, glared at the Speaker as he made some great peroration, to borrow the word he uses against those with whom he disagrees. He then barked at two Conservative MPs telling him to get on with it and leave the chamber. One Labour MP climbed on top of Speaker Bercow to prevent him leaving!

This video is around six and one half minutes long and is well worth watching:

Here is a potted version with subtitles of the proceedings:

It was part of Bercow’s job to silence the chamber and allow Black Rod to speak.

Here are a few more scenes:

The ‘SILENCED’ signs were rich, considering these MPs are thwarting Brexit at every turn. A Leave supporter did a nice Photoshop of the Speaker’s chair:

All of the MPs were supposed to follow Black Rod to the House of Lords, but only the Conservatives and a handful of Opposition MPs did.

The rest stayed behind to film themselves in the Commons — not allowed — and to sing songs, such as The Red Flag!

The Labour MP crawling on top of Bercow was re-enacting a similar prorogation scene in Parliament from 1629:

After Bercow returned from the House of Lords, he received a second standing ovation, largely from the Opposition:

On Wednesday, September 11, The Guardian reported that Cabinet minister Michael Gove wrote Dominic Grieve in response to his aforementioned Humble Address procedure requesting private correspondence on prorogation. The government — rightly — will not hand over said documents:

A letter from Michael Gove addressed to former Attorney General Dominic Grieve states that the request would breach the rights of those named in the communications – including civil servants and special advisers.

This is an unprecedented, inappropriate, and disproportionate use of [the Humble Address] procedure. To name individuals without any regard for their rights or the consequences of doing so goes far beyond any reasonable right of Parliament under this procedure.

These individuals have no right of reply, and the procedure used fails to afford them any of the protections that would properly be in place. It offends against basic principles of fairness and the Civil Service duty of care towards its employees.

Excellent move, excellent reasoning.

However, the government did release more information about Operation Yellowhammer, which looks a lot like what we saw reported in the media earlier this year in anticipation of the original March 29 departure date:

We have enough to go on at this time. Why release procedures that could compromise national security?

Michael Gove explained that Yellowhammer details what to do in a worst case scenario. Those scenarios might never happen. They are contingency plans:

That day, three Scottish Appeal Court judges declared that the PM’s prorogation is unlawful, as they believe it is intended to stymie Parliament:

The case goes to the UK’s Supreme Court next week. The Guardian reported:

The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the power to interfere in the prime minister’s political decision to prorogue parliament.

Lawyers acting for 75 opposition MPs and peers argued Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament for five weeks was illegal and in breach of the constitution, as it was designed to stifle parliamentary debate and action on Brexit.

The judges failed to issue an interdict, or injunction, ordering the UK government to reconvene parliament, prompting a row over whether the decision meant MPs could go back to the House of Commons.

The court issued an official summary of its decision declaring the prorogation order was “null and of no effect”, but Carloway said the judges were deferring a final decision on an interdict to the UK supreme court, which will hold a three-day hearing next week.

Conservative MP Nigel Evans reiterated the PM’s position:

A hypocritical Labour MP showed up alone for PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) late that morning, following the Scottish judges’ declaration. Too bad he did not spend that energy in a vote for a general election:

On Thursday, a High Court judge in Belfast dismissed a legal challenge against a No Deal Brexit. A BBC article says:

One of the three cases brought was by the victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord who plans to appeal the decision.

The court heard arguments that a no-deal would have a negative effect on the peace process and endanger the Good Friday Agreement.

But the judge said the main aspects of the case were “inherently and unmistakeably political”.

Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey also excluded a challenge against the suspension of Parliament because the issue formed the “centrepiece” of proceedings in England and Scotland.

As the week draws to a close, a reporter for The Times (paywall) says that the EU regrets alliances with Labour and other Remainers over their incoherent policies on Brexit. Labour’s Keir Starmer is on the left in the photo, with party leader Jeremy Corbyn on the right:

As far as the government’s negotiations in the EU, Boris has made a largely favourable impression, although his negotiator David Frost is seen to be driving a hard bargain in some areas. This thread comes from the Director of the Centre for European Reform, who confirms that, to date, no firm proposals have been presented to the EU. That said, he says some EU nations believe that Boris wants to make a deal before October 31:

Elsewhere in Brussels news, Guy Verhofstadt’s wine from his estate in Tuscany is reportedly very good. Perhaps that was what he poured in this documentary clip about the EU’s Brexit Steering Group:

On Monday, September 16, the PM will meet over lunch for Brexit talks with Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg.

More to follow anon as this sorry saga continues.

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