Time for parliament to take back control

by Jonathan Todd

There is no mandate for no deal Brexit. We did not vote for it in the 2016 referendum or the 2017 general election. On both these occasions, we were told that Brexit would be negotiated. That it would deliver “the exact same benefits” and more.

Theresa May could not negotiate these benefits. Boris Johnson won’t. Nor would Jeremy Corbyn or anyone else. This is less the art of the deal and more the impossible Brexit cocktail.

We can’t mix this cocktail and keep the UK united. We can’t exit the single market and customs union and avoid a border on the island of Ireland or in the Irish sea – otherwise the UK serves as a backdoor to EU tariffs and regulations. We can’t allow a border on Ireland and uphold the Good Friday Agreement – risking peace on the British Isles. We can’t deny Nicola Sturgeon that such a UK is a very different one from that which Scotland voted to remain part of in 2014 – creating grounds for a rerun of that vote.

We can’t mix this cocktail and maintain our prosperity. We can’t erect trade barriers with our biggest trading partner and avoid this. We can’t be poorer and afford better public services. We can’t move overnight from EU membership to third country status and not subject business to a sudden erosion of competitiveness, which no amount of preparation can fully mitigate, while also so diminishing the leverage of our trade negotiators that they will grasp at chlorine-washed terms.

We can’t mix this cocktail and sustain illusions of “taking back control” and being an “independent country”. We can’t stop the world and get off in the 1950s – we can only choose, as we inevitably must, with whom we align. We can’t Brexit and not be a pawn in the destructive games of Trump, Putin and the IRA – with a senior IRA member wanting “Brexit … as hard as hell.”

Despite all this, there are those that believe this cocktail can be mixed. Especially when authoritatively told as much by a posh speaker. Jacob Rees Mogg, for example, says that the bottles can be thrown on the floor and the cocktail will mix itself, confirming the boundless credulity of Brexiteers.

They now speak less of “the easiest trade deal in history” and more of “clean Brexit”. Neither will produce the outcomes promised in 2016. A vote which Dominic Cummings now seeks to enforce “by any means necessary”. If this vote had clear meaning, this would be more justified. But this meaning remains contested.

In a parliamentary democracy, Brexit should not mean Brexit but whatever parliament interprets it to mean. Which, if nothing else, is not no deal. Yet, taking a step on the totalitarian journey, the government now seeks abruptly to curtail parliament’s block on no deal.

“It repeatedly raises the question,” Zoe Williams writes of The Handmaid’s Tale, “at what point in the totalitarian journey do you run, and when is it too late?”

When Elisabeth Moss’ character touches a decapitated Abraham Lincoln memorial, she seems to be thinking back to the America that Lincoln represents, destroyed by Gilead.

There was no inevitability that Lincoln would achieve this status. Born to illiterate parents, much of his learning was self-taught. Astute political positioning helped him unexpectedly secure the Republican presidential nomination. Bold leadership, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, assisted the Union to a civil war victory that was far from certain.

For those of us who see the European Union as sitting in the same venerable tradition as Lincoln of rights, democracy and the rule of law, it is frustrating that such audacity most frequently comes from Cummings, the Robert E Lee of the Brexit debacle. Against whom Lincoln prevailed not only through high principle but also low cunning. Pro-Europeans have not had enough of either.

This must change. Not with street violence. But with parliamentary allegiances. Between, in the first instance, all those opposed to no deal. Then to find agreement around a process for giving Brexit meaning.

In a parliamentary democracy, this must be rooted in parliament. Rather than, as the government risks, the UK crashing out of the EU on a no deal that parliament opposes, the UK’s future should only be one that parliament votes for. Which might entail this representative institution voting to subcontract this to a carefully calibrated process of direct democracy.

As the prime minister stamps his foot about the backstop, while offering little that the EU will interpret as a viable alternative, there is scant prospect of agreeing a new deal with the EU. Leaving no deal as the only possible outcome afforded by this strategy.

Parliament must, urgently, find the resolve and means to reject this. No deal is not what parliament intended when it voted to trigger Article 50. In that vote parliament was supporting a process intended to find a negotiated Brexit.

If the prime minister fails to agree an alternative to the Withdrawal Agreement, we should, belatedly, accept that any negotiated Brexit runs through this agreement. With no Brexit being our only other alternative.

Convincing ideas don’t need to be sustained by the cutthroat tactics of Robert E Lee or the disingenuous charms of Jacob Rees Mogg. The Brexit cocktail isn’t that. The UK self-destructively swallows it or takes back control via a fortified parliamentary backbone.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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15 Responses to “Time for parliament to take back control”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Hey goofs I’ll heh wait a minute I didn’t agree to that what’s going on
    He’s been set up shot
    We’re here now having arrested the supposed killer of the president
    Marvin spits out his good

    I didn’t agree to they gambit

    My life has no meaning I have to see her dead

    The exact same benefits(not and more was labours not all the parties view on not being in the single market and not being in the customs union,
    But supporting a customs union which to be technical is any trade deal anyone has to buy a sell abroad ,
    Both labour and Tories stood in that and up to recently until labours new views
    Another referendum where labour would negotiate a deal out of the single market our the customs union but with a customs union ( something the Tories promised Pre Mays deal) .

    No one is talking about a border in Ireland ex wit the EU as a scare story.
    Do you think Southern Ireland would do what the EU told them if they insisted it
    To reference the Belfast agreement( think it’s a disgrace that both Christianity of his death was brought into make people think it was gods wish to have the desk saw power sharing for the sake prisoners who hadn’t served their sentences be released) but a new Belfast agreement could be negotiated if wished
    And to implement what we agreed for wouldnt have anything to do with power sharing in Northern Ireland.

    Nicola Sturgeon knows 40% of SNP voted brexit in fact one if the SNP seats in Aberdeen your recently say 50.02% vote remain.
    If Scotland wants independence everyone from Novara media to frank field to Michael Portillo all Brexiteers gave been happy with it.
    Of course a hard border between Scotland may happen one day
    But even if Scotland left it would be no different to the minimum pricing in Alcohol in Scotland at the moment.
    That sees Scots pop to England to buy their booze travelling a couple of miles back too scotland .

    Move to third world Country status what a cheek, it’s the desecration of communities and demographics that caused abtecitvin the first place.
    If there was another referendum I’d take this article show it to the public to get them to vote leave.

    You have lab t even asked why leave win, why a third of labour voters voted leave why the same with the sNP and the stories and the brexit party are doing better in the polls,
    And labour may have lost votes to the libdems but they won’t come back any time soon even if labour did follow
    This twaddle,

    Trump may want brexit as he understands the blue collar working class do you have a problem with the bankers , the city CBI and Bank of England Richard branson wanting remain,
    I won’t comment on the IRish fella in the Irish times seems like he’s baiting you,

    As for posh speakers I take it Afua Hirsh Shami Chaktabarti Harriet Harman or polly toynbee aren’t posh ,
    To quote zoe( the magic money tree exists it’s the Bank of England Williams) who last week praised the monarchy for being diverse then criticised it for not stopping Bojo Proroguing parliament is silly and she’s well posh
    As for brexit being authoritarian like a sci-Fi distopia aren’t they normally about overriding the will of the public stopping democracy- which is what those stopping brexit want.

    Dominic Cummings is a intelligent man who stood up to the elite with brexit the idea that a Republican president takes away democracy in a sci fi Novel is inspiration for you thinking you’re rebel is daft,
    Frankly this article is a disgrace ,a waste of twenty minutes of My life,
    I’m embarrassed.
    You should be ashamed to publish such neo liberal nonsense ,
    Totally vile , and not a word of truth ,frankly this article is pathetic .

  2. Tafia says:

    There is no mandate for no deal Brexit. We did not vote for it in the 2016 referendum or the 2017 general election. On both these occasions, we were told that Brexit would be negotiated. That it would deliver “the exact same benefits” and more.

    That Todd is complete and utter bollocks – a downright lie even.

    Prior to the referendum we were told by both campaigns, the government’s leaflet and in two TV broadcasts that voting to leave the EU meant leaving the Single Market, leaving the Customs Union, leaving the jurisdiction of the ECJ and leaving all financial and political EU apparatus. That is the Leave we voted for, that is the Leave which must be delivered in order for both the Conservatives and Labour’s pledge to honour the referendum result in full.

    Remember Labour’s promises in the 2017 general election? the Tories no deal is better than any deal?

    Just in case you forgot:-


    The rest of your article is somewhat drivel as well.

  3. Tafia says:

    Typo the Tories no deal is better than any deal?

    ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’ that should be

  4. Alf says:

    Corbyn’s plan is: 1) block no deal; 2) trigger and deselect all of the remaining rump of Blairite MPs; and 3) win the election whenever it comes.

    Sounds like a winner to me.

  5. John P Reid says:

    The threat of peace in Northern Ireland is being dragged into this..by brexiters

    people who accuse brexiters of causing this to happen are the ones who are weaponising the idea that they’re the ones who are some how trying to oppress catholic’s yet the remainers aren’t the ones who are storing up hstred and trying to stop democracy with hate , they’re hyoocrites to say brexiters are fascists or a coup or against democracy, they’re no such thing

  6. Anne says:

    Said it a long winded way, but quite right. I am very please to report that the Parliamentary allegiance has won the day. The Tory party is a total disgrace – to expel 21 of it’s members, including Ken Clark is unbelievable and, for fair minded people, quite unacceptable – the Tory Party have become a right wing mob – run by the unelected Dominic Cummings – he sacks advisers at will – this is unacceptable practice.

  7. Vern says:

    I think you really ought to be saying that “it’s time the people should take back control!”

  8. oli_betterworld says:

    Any party pushing for a 2nd referendum should put these 2 options on the ballot paper:
    A. – Cameron’s deal (Remain –): Amendment to the existing EU treaty especially ~ immigration: Change from free movement of people to free movement of workers
    B – May’s deal…

    1. Conservatives can’t disagree with the proposal as both options were put forward by them

    2. It respects the 2016 democratic vote and addresses the concerns brought by Leavers and the British people

    3. The party promoting a 2nd referendum will indeed negotiate a new deal with EU BUT based on a ‘Remain’ platform

    4. It offers clear and fair options: It is different from ‘simply’ Remain. It is Remain (- -) OR May’s deal…

    5. Yes Cameron’s negotiation failed but time for EU to prove they are negotiating in good faith – similar concerns growing up part of Europe

    6. Will force EU to make its position clear as to whether they want the UK to stay, and listen to its state members

    7. Free movement of people Vs free movement of workers: EU could leave to its state members to decide which option to go with – aligns with Mr Macron ‘2 speeds’ Europe

  9. John P Reid says:

    Boris’s Plan was Ape the brexit party get their vote
    If Miners who lost their jobs can give Ann Widdecimbe a standing ovation, then Boris by kicking our the Rensiners can get Brexit party voters votes

    It didn’t work look AT the polls

    But I know locally of 20 life long labour voters birexvbrexi party in May who’ll either vote Brexit party or for the first time vote Tory if the BXP doesn’t stand
    Also many ex UKIP are joining the stories are becoming candidates in marginals, as UKIP imploded they’ll get those votes

    Look at the Polls average

    Labour 24.4%
    Tory. 33.5%
    TBP. 13.5%
    Libdem. 17%
    Greens. 2.7%

    Not saying that as many as 8% of TBP will go Tory but it’s not far off
    Once those ex labour who’ve gone to the BXP go to the Tories labour wont get them back
    Even if labour could get 9% of libdems plus a few percent green it wouldn’t be enough

  10. John P Reid says:

    Miners who had Scargill as their hero voting story as are pro brexit https://mobile.twitter.com/Politicalpain1/status/1172042624125087744

  11. John P Reid says:

    One Labour MP for In a Northern Brexit seat

    Just said
    “My Labour Leavers are more Labour than they’re Leave, but my Labour Remainers are more Remain than they’re Labour.”

  12. John P Reid says:

    how on earth did the first 7 lines of my first post get on there, they make no sense cant believe I typed that?

  13. Tafia says:


    I have read some poor and misguided drivel about Brexit but you are well up thre with the best of them.

    A. To amend the existing EU treaty (the Lisbon treaties) would take several years, require the unanimous consent of all member states and trigger acceptance referenda in France, Denmark, Ireland and several others. Apart from which, Cameron’s proposals were rejected by the EU.

    B. May’s deal (the EU’s deal factually – they wrote most of it and are very proud of it)is totally unacceptable. Less than 9% of Leavers would accept it. It is not Leave in any way shape or form. If you want to play second referendum, you have to offer a version of Leave acceptable to Leave voter or they will igore it and the campaign for a third, fourth, fifth referendum will commence the very next day.

    1. The Conservative rank and file opposed both proposals and quite vehemently uless it somehow escaped your attention.

    2. It does not respect the result of the 2016 referendum in any way, shape or form. Read what was said at the time, by the PM in his address to the nation, in the campaign literature by both sides, and repeated over and over again by politicians on all sides – that it was our decision, it was a once in a lifetime vote, and the result would be honoured. We were told by both sides and by the government leaflet that voting to leave meant leaving the Single Market, leaving the Customs Union, leaving the jurisdiction of the ECJ and leaving all financial and political apparatus.

    3. Why on earth would the EU even bother turning up to negotiate if our position was remain. From their perspective what would be the bloody point. Something to do on a wet wednesday afternoon perhaps?

    4. It is not clear. It is Remain v Remain lite. The arrogance that Remainers have that somehow they should decide what the Leave option should be absolutely sickens me. Does that mean that Leave should decide what the Remain option should be?

    5. The EU have never ever negotiated in good faith over this or any other matter and you would have to be some sort of Grade A retard not to be able to see that.

    6. Bollocks. They only want us to stay on their terms on nothing else.

    7. The EU shifted from the EEA position to it’s current one re;people/workers. It is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaties. Refer back to A if you think the EU are going to amend that.

    Reading your comments I can only assume you are some sort of deluded sixth former or one of those dickheads prancing round Westminster with blue paint on their faces.

  14. anon says:

    @ oli_betterworld

    I don’t know where you get this feeling of knowing what’s best for me, but it has been typical of our politics since I had the EU imposed upon me.

    I have never voted to be in an EU; I have never voted to be parcelled up and labelled as an ‘EU citizen’; and I have never voted for any of the EU’s treaties, departments, or presidents.
    I have certainly never given the EU permission to be the arbiters of what ‘rights’ I may or may not have.

    I can only agree with Tafia’s comment – but I will add a bit of my own reading of the situation.

    I have many friends who have taken part in the Auf Wiedersehen, Pet scenario, so at face value the free movement of workers is preferable to the free movement of people. But not to the point where the UK sees its wages and working conditions pinned at the most poor country’s base level.
    The minimum wage became a low bar, and every boss – armed with Zero Hour or Fixed Term Contracts – knew that there were thousands of available economic units waiting outside the gate if workers started standing up for their rights (assisted by the European Court of Justice: look up Laval quartet)

    In an interview for the Guardian, John Reid, ex-Labour Cabinet member said that when he was in government he wanted Labour to do more to curb immigration, and that Gordon Brown was to blame for the fact that it didn’t.

    “The Treasury insisted on having a free flow of labour because they thought that brought down the cost of labour,” Reid said.

    The whole Labour schtick is to portray the EU as some sort of paragon of workers’ rights – it is not. The EU is corporatist, exploitative, and driven by lobbyist who are quite happy with the free movement race to the bottom – a situation that has been wholly supported by a Labour Party that I no longer recognise.

    Were I to be stood in a pub in the 1970s I would be surrounded by my peers who were indentured tradesmen/women – plumbers, brickies, electricians etc.
    What do I see now – hopelessness, no vision, no chance of leaving the streets on which they are born.

    Let’s get out of the EU, regain control of our MPs, make them aware of the responsibility they have towards our young people – and if they don’t want that, we’ll kick ’em out.

    Can we do any of that with the EU commission, EU council, and what’s laughingly called an ‘EU parliament’?

  15. Peachy Essay says:

    I just find it shameful and appalling. No matter how many dodgy governments and corrupt politicians we have had over the years/decades and indeed centuries, the brazen and continual lying of this one is just soul-crushing. And in pursuit of what? A fecking national disaster of a project that I doubt many of them really believe in.

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