This blog is hosted on Ideas on EuropeIdeas on Europe Avatar

Boris Johnson: The dictator

We thought that Prime Minister, Theresa May, was dictatorial. But her replacement, Boris Johnson, has taken the word to new depths.

Mrs May tried her best – but failed – to pass Brexit by bypassing Parliament.

But Mr Johnson is determined to ride roughshod over Parliament, if he must, to ensure Brexit happens on 31 October, deal or no deal, come what may, do or die.

Today’s front page of The Times announced:

‘Boris Johnson would refuse to resign even after losing a confidence vote so he could force through a no-deal Brexit on October 31, under plans being considered by Downing Street.’

The Times reported that Mr Johnson would ignore the result of a confidence vote and stay on as Prime Minister.

Could he do that? Apparently, yes.

Constitutional experts have confirmed that Mr Johnson would not be under any legal obligation to quit if he lost a confidence vote.

Catherine Haddon, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government, said that technically, under the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, the Prime Minister was not required to resign upon losing a vote of confidence.

“In terms of a strict reading of the legislation, Boris is not required to resign. It is completely silent on all of this,” she told The Times.

“The onus is on the incumbent Prime Minister – they get to choose whether they resign. If they do not it is hard for a new government to be formed without dragging the Queen into politics.”

The Times reported:

‘Experts say that it is only convention that dictates that a Prime Minister losing a vote of no confidence has to resign.’

Conservative MP, Dominic Grieve, former Attorney-General, commentated that it would be absolutely extraordinary if Mr Johnson refused to quit if his government lost a vote of no confidence.

“The Prime Minister who has been defeated on a confidence motion has a duty to facilitate that process not to obstruct it,” he said.

“It would be utterly extraordinary for a Prime Minister to refuse to leave office when he has lost a vote of confidence and there is an alternative individual available [and] able to form an administration.”

Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s senior advisor and now regarded as the (unelected) de facto deputy Prime Minister, asserted last week that Britain would leave the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

He told colleagues that, “nothing will stand in the way of that” and that the Prime Minister, even after losing a vote of confidence, has the power to set the date for the next general election after Brexit has been delivered.

Mr Cummings, who was the Campaign Director for Vote Leave in the referendum, said it was now “too late” for Parliament to stop a no-deal Brexit. He made clear he would do “whatever is necessary” to take the UK out of the EU by 31 October.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman told the press yesterday that:

“The UK will be leaving the European Union on October 31 whatever the circumstances, no ifs or buts. We must restore trust in our democracy and fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people by coming out of the EU on 31 October.

“Politicians cannot choose which votes to respect. They promised to respect the referendum result. We must do so.”

But asked if Mr Johnson was committed to “respecting” a no-confidence vote against him, the spokesman would not specifically answer.

Today, a cross-party group of MPs mounted a legal challenge to the Prime Minister’s ability to prorogue (i.e. close) Parliament in order to force a no-deal Brexit.

The group, which includes Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, Labour’s Lord Peter Hain, independent MP Heidi Allen and SNP’s Joana Cherry, have lodged legal papers in the court of session in Edinburgh to rule on whether Boris Johnson has the right to suspend Parliament in order to force through no-deal Brexit.

The crowdfunded challenge, led by the Good Law Project, the same team that won a victory at the European Court of Justice last year over whether the UK could unilaterally cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50.

It’s clear that we are now heading for one almighty constitutional crisis, and nobody can be clear what will be the outcome.

The country has now been taken over by a completely new government, unelected by the electorate, and with a manifesto entirely at odds with the Tory manifesto that got the party into power at the last general election in June 2017.

That 2017 manifesto promised to ‘deliver the best possible deal for Britain as we leave the European Union delivered by a smooth, orderly Brexit.’

But it is now almost a certainty that, instead, Mr Johnson’s new government will not achieve any deal, let alone ‘the best possible deal’, and contrary to what his party promised, he will deliver a rough and disorderly Brexit.

Just how rough and disorderly is starting to become clear.

Writing in the medical journal, The Lancet, Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK would face unprecedented levels of disruption to food supplies.

He added that the public so far had been kept “largely in the dark” by the government about the gravity of the situation.

Some fresh food prices could rise by 10%, he said, hitting the poorest hardest. This could become worse by November, as the UK is heavily dependent on fruit and vegetables from the Mediterranean in the winter months.

Professor Lang said on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the public health advice to eat five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day would have to be abandoned.

Add to that the shortage of vital medicines in the event of no-deal.

Earlier this year, a government minister announced that he was the world’s biggest buyer of fridges to stock-pile medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This is costing hundreds of millions of taxpayer’s money.

Senior managers in the NHS have told me that patients will needlessly die as a result of shortage of medicines.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Chief Executive Mike Thompson said this week:

“Pharmaceutical companies have been doing everything in their power to prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU, including increasing stocks and planning alternative supply routes where possible. But some things are outside of their control.”

How ironic that the leading slogan of Brexiters in the referendum was, ‘Take back control’.

The bottom line? Britain would not have voted for Brexit in 2016 if they had known this would be the outcome.

Now, our new unelected government is planning to impose on us a terrible, harsh and catastrophic Brexit in which the country will suffer, with the poor and vulnerable suffering most of all.

This government does not care. They are determined to jump over the cliff edge, taking all of us with them, as if this was a fantastical, cult religion that demanded such a dreadful sacrifice.

Somehow, the likes of Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and Dominic Raab have seized the reins of power, with no intention of letting go, even if Parliament votes for them to do so.

And hard-nosed Brexiters have the barefaced cheek to call the European Union undemocratic. None of the shockingly undemocratic plans now being cooked up by Cummings and Co could happen in the EU, which has a much more robust democracy than ours.

After all, to get elected as the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen required the votes of an ‘absolute majority’ of MEPs – over 50%.

If the same rules had applied to our EU referendum, Leave could not have won, as they only got the votes of 37% of the electorate – an absolute minority.

It’s now time for all good parties to come to the aid of the people. We urgently need a new ‘national government’, an emergency coalition of mature states people, to steer the country back to normality and safety.

 

________________________________________________________ 

  • Join and share the discussion about this article on Facebook:


Comments are closed.

UACES and Ideas on Europe do not take responsibility for opinions expressed in articles on blogs hosted on Ideas on Europe. All opinions are those of the contributing authors.