THE resolution being shown by Boris Johnson – and senior Cabinet Ministers – over Brexit will reassure most of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the European Union, and all those who favour an immediate resolution to this political crisis.
Their steadfastness, after MPs voted in the Saturday showdown in the Commons to delay ratification of the PM’s exit deal, showed they have still not given up hope of leaving the EU in 10 days time on October 31.
Yet, as MPs brace themselves for another totemic week of political and legal wrangling as Speaker John Bercow determines whether it is within order to put Mr Johnson’s plans to a meaningful vote, Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy’s response spoke volumes.
Shrugging his shoulders in despair when asked what happens next after MPs backed Tory grandee Sir Oliver Letwin’s delay mechanism that “withholds approval” until legislation implementing the agreement has been passed, he told Sky News: “I don’t know.”
Full marks for honesty. And he’s not alone. No one is now able to second guess the intentions of the outgoing Speaker or rival Leave and Remain factions – even more so in a week which was due, until this latest Brexit stalemate, to be dominated by votes on the Queen’s Speech.
With the PM leading a minority administration, and relations with Northern Ireland’s DUP now in tatters, there would – in normal circumstances – be every prospect of the legislative programme being defeated, thereby forcing a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson and, quite possibly, leading to Parliament’s dissolution and an election.
Yet these are not normal times – the Government’s opponents do lack unity – and there is a likelihood that the current stalemate will intensify unless leaders heed Theresa May, Mr Johnson’s predecessor, after she warned that this Parliament will be guilty of the “most egregious con trick” on the British people if it fails to deliver Brexit.
It is why the Government must be clear, at the outset of a new political week, about its precise intentions – the petulance shown by Mr Johnson, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and others is unacceptable – and how MPs can scrutinise a deal which, let it be remembered, will have profound economic consequences for every family and every region, of the United Kingdom.
However, at the same time, the leaders of the Remain groupings – most of whom voted in favour of holding a referendum in June 2016, the subsequent triggering of Article 50 and 2017 manifesto commitments backing the implementation of Brexit – need to be clear about their objectives. Is it to frustrate Brexit, force a second referendum or overturn the original result? They can’t keep blocking the Government for opposition’s sake.
And then there are the courts. Though the Supreme Court ruled, in an unprecedented case, that last month’s prorogation of Parliament was unlawful, Brexit should, primarily, be a matter for elected MPs – they should not be looking to involve the judiciary in the minutiae of political procedure as Mr Johnson’s high stakes strategy enters its most critical phase yet.