Tom Richmond: This is a national emergency so why is Parliament not sitting this weekend to resolve Brexit?

THERE has only been one Saturday sitting of Parliament in my lifetime. It was in 1982 when MPs resolved to liberate the Falklands – and spare Britain from international humiliation following the Argentinian invasion.

Should Parliament be meeting in emergency session this weekend to discuss Brexit?

Yet, given the extent to which the country is becoming an international embarrassment because of the mishandling of Brexit, I’m perplexed that MPs are not meeting in emergency session this weekend.

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After all, there is now less than a week until Britain is supposed to be leaving the European Union next Friday and, frankly, the country cannot wait any longer for Theresa May to report back on the latest EU summit, its implications regarding any extension to Article 50 and to allow a series of indicative votes to see if there is any way out of this constitutional crisis.

Theresa May leaves the latest EU summit.

More than 1,000 days after the country voted to leave the European Union, every day without a resolution to Brexit – and its impact on families, jobs, livelihoods, services and investment – is another day in which public confidence in Parliament, already fragile, drains away as political and personal tensions mount.

And while Mrs May struck the wrong tone with her almost spiteful Downing Street statement in which she castigated MPs – the people tasked with holding the Government to account – for their obduracy, now is not the time to play the ‘blame game’ or rerun the referendum which was held in June 2016.

Neither Mrs May – or Parliament – can carry on like this. Delaying difficult decisions until next week – irrespective of whether the UK leaves the EU on March 29, April 12, May 22 or some future date – means even less time to attempt to find a consensus or compromise, now the two most elusive words at Westminster on this most worrying of weekends.

THOSE who think they could do a better job than Theresa May include Liz Truss, the Treasury chief secretary whose opinion of her own abilities is so inflated that she is content to be known as ‘the Truss’.

Let me deflate her pretentious ego and remind the Cabinet minister, who grew up in Leeds, that this region has still not forgiven – or forgotten – the then Environment Secretary’s hopeless response to the 2015 floods.

More than three years on and Leeds MP Rachel Reeves has had to write to Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary, to tell him how heavy rains triggered fresh fears of flooding in parts of the city worst hit by the full force of Storm Eva.

“I would urge you to impress upon the Chancellor the vital importance that Leeds gets full flood defences as quickly as possible,” she added. “The absence of flood defences is literally keeping people awake at night every time there is heavy rain. That has to end.”

I agree. Perhaps Ms Truss would care to explain how she intends to help the city where she grew up. It is called leadership – and is more important, at this time, than self-promotion.

EDUCATION Secretary Damian Hinds was named and shamed at Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this month for declining three requests from headteachers, dating back to last September, for a meeting over funding shortages.

It is a familiar criticism. And, true to form, his interview on the Today programme this week was dominated by Brexit before a cursory mention about a new scheme to prevent plagiarism at universities. No wonder teachers are so disconcerted by his continuing discourtesy towards them.

WHO is the more powerful? Speaker John Bercow for preventing another vote on Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement or Arlene Foster whose Democratic Unionist Party continues to hold the Government to ransom over the so-called Northern Irish backstop.

It’s certainly not the Prime Minister, who remains in office but not in power. Yet what makes the influence of the DUP all the more galling is their continuing refusal to restore power-sharing arrangements at Stormont so politicians from all sides and communities in Northern Ireland can shape – and influence – these matters.

EVEN though he is the new favourite to succeed Theresa May, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt showed his naivety when he said that the Speaker’s ruling could not have been predicted. Given that the Parliamentary bible, Erskine May, rules out repeated votes on the same motion, and that this was widely known before Monday’s confirmation by John Bercow, Mr Hunt revealed his own limitations.

STEVE Bannon, a former strategist to President Donald Trump, gave an interesting justification after describing Boris Johnson as a “role model”. He said that he was referring to the former Foreign Secretary’s recent hair cut and diet. He forgets that policies should matter more than personal appearance.

AN election must be imminent – the latest election leaflet from Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew contained no fewer than 29 MPs of the Tory politician in an attempt to dispel the view that the junior defence minister is not a particularly effective constituency MP. Even more, his endorsement of Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement was the proverbial exercise in fence-sitting.

FORMER Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey should be assured of one vote if she stands for the Tory leadership – her partner is Shipley MP Philip Davies and they undertook their first joint interview this week.

“We’re a couple, two individuals 
but a couple,” she said. They clearly think they are the Tory answer to Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper.