How Continental Europeans view proroguing Parliament and abandoning EU inhabitants of the UK

In my earlier June 17th LDV piece on the concept of proroguing Parliament I reminded readers that the last person on the continent trying to disband a sitting EU parliament was the fascist colonel Tejero who in February 1981 entered the plenary session of the Cortes to disband at gunpoint the Spanish parliament finishing Spain’s transition to a full constitutional democracy.

To give you a flavour of how proroguing is seen here, a small list of continental heads of government who disbanded parliament to get their way without hindrance:

Napoleon in 1799 fled Egypt to conduct a Paris military coup (with grenadiers intimidating parliamentarians in their session) on “18-19 Brumaire” (November) to make himself “First Consul” under a constitution without Civil Rights. Making his brother king of the Dutch vassal “Batavian Republic” in 1806, he eliminated the last vestiges of its parliament. And Napoleon’s nephew in 1851 did the same with the French parliament, eliciting the famous  Karl Marx pamphlet.

Mussolini grabbed power from a string of Liberal governments in 1922, and in combination with conservative politicians had a law adopted in 1923 by a divided parliament giving him an absolute majority after the 1924 elections. The Socialist MP Mateotti protesting over electoral fraud was immediately killed.

These examples give you a picture of how “positive” prorogation is seen on the continent.

Now that the Dutch and other continental parliaments resume work (the Dutch reconvene 3 September, our King’s Speech coinciding with Jo’s Leaders speech at conference, 17 September), they are disturbed by Johnson’s prorogation, and at the same time very alarmed at Home Secretary Patel’s total betrayal of all EU inhabitants of the UK now that a No Deal exit draws near.

The London correspondent of the Telegraaf newspaper (one of the five national Dutch newspapers with 400,000 subscribers) Joost van Mierlo wrote in his column being gobsmacked when Patel said on 19 August that in case of No Deal, all rights of EU inhabitants will be annihilated on 1 November. You see the same furious astonishment from the pressure group The3Million in their opinion piece (updated after a Home Office reaction) in The New European, 22 August about this message.

Of the 3 million EU inhabitants, only 1 million have now received their Settlement papers. But the BBC writes that the Advertising Standards Authority and the Commons Home Affairs Committee recently both slammed the Home Office advice/advertising on the “Settlement Scheme” as misleading, and the application procedure/websites as full of technical glitches and problems. Van Mierlo says that the telephone app for applying works only with Android phones, NOT with I-phones (50% of the market); the Home Office promises I-phones will get one before New Year’s Eve, 60 days after Brexit. And the glitches get worse after that start. Van Mierlo, like over a million EU inhabitants, thought he had until December 202 to finish his Settlement application procedure; but now can do nothing because Home Office websites are inundated by panicked EU citizens.

Both the Commons Committee and The3Million feel the xenophobic “Hostile Environment” that victimised the Windrush West Indians will wreak havoc among the disenfranchised EU inhabitants.

And with parliament prorogued, no remedy there.

No European government will take that lying down.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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30 Comments

  • Malcolm Todd 30th Aug '19 - 3:22pm

    Oh, come on.
    Prorogation is certainly a morally and constitutionally dubious tactic, with blatantly mendacious justification (though it will only achieve its goal, if it does, due to the abject failure of the opposition to act cohesively or decisively over the last 6–12 months, which shows no sign of coming to an end).
    But you can’t equate prorogation with “disbanding” or “eliminating” parliament, without revealing colossal ignorance of the term. To do so is just helping to crank up an already bitter and close-minded division in this country that worries me even more than Brexit.

  • Malcolm Todd
    What I find telling is the petition does not rule out proroguing or dissolving parliament in the name of Remain. In fact, it’s almost a promise to prorogue it for those ends. It says: Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved UNLESS and UNTIL the Article 50 period as been sufficiently extended or the UK’s Intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.

  • Bless Glen you are inadvertently making the case why proroguing Parliment is wrong. But, but our enemies might use it to get policies through we don’t like you squeal, indeed Glen and that is why it is wrong, it can be used to get things you don’t like through. So if you believe that is a threat you can’t with any degree of consistency or integrity agree Depeffel is right, but you will, for you the precious of Brexit is everything.

  • Weasel words abound, but the fact is that BoJo is trying to bypass parliament because he can not rely on its support. So it becomes a matter of principal for each of us. Do we believe that the ultimate power in our democracy should lie with an elected Parliament ? If we do, then what is happening now is an intolerable attack on democracy.
    It seems many are only democrats when it suits. Could a left wing Labour Government do something similar to put through a program that lacked parliamentary support ? Would that be OK ? The problem with principles is that we are supposed to stick with them even when it is inconvenient.
    One upshot of all this is that when the dust settles people will understand the urgent need for a written constitution and a bill of rights.

  • Just a PS to my previous post, my late father in law was a staunch monarchist. His main argument was that the monarchy was a bulwark against any dictator who tried to usurp the institutions of government. At this moment is time, I wish I shared his confidence.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Aug '19 - 8:02pm

    As Allied forces entered Italy via Sicily the King sacked Mussolini, who was found hanging from a lamppost, upside down. Nazi forces enter Italy from the north. Power derived from the barrels of guns.

  • @ Richard Underhill “As Allied forces entered Italy via Sicily the King sacked Mussolini, who was found hanging from a lamppost, upside down”.

    There was a twenty one month gap between those two events….. you’ve missed the bit in the middle.

    You’ve also missed that within a year of Mussolini’s demiose, public opinion forced a referendum on whether to retain the monarchy or become a republic. In hopes of helping the monarchist cause, Victor Emmanuel formally abdicated on 9 May 1946.

  • It’s falling apart at the seams in Downing Street tonight, the Chancellor apparently believing he’s got a neighbour from Hell.

    According to the Guardian tonight : A furious Sajid Javid has confronted Boris Johnson and demanded an explanation of why his media adviser was sacked without his knowledge, amid claims that a deep “culture of fear” has taken hold within the government.

    Sonia Khan, Javid’s media adviser, was escorted from No 10 by an armed police officer after a meeting with Johnson’s top strategist, Dominic Cummings, in which she was accused of being dishonest about her contact with the former chancellor Philip Hammond and one of his ex-advisers, who have been trying to block a no-deal Brexit.

    Khan is the second adviser working for the chancellor to be sacked by No 10. She is also the fourth young woman in a month to be axed from the prime minister’s network of advisers and senior staffers.”

    Happy days……

  • John Peters 30th Aug '19 - 9:18pm

    Perhaps the Ship of State won’t be quite so leaky in the future. I’m all for stability.

  • Frankie
    I don’t support proroguing parliament. The point I’m making is that I think Remainists like you would support proroguing parliament as long as it resulted in staying in the EU which is why the petition is phrased the way it is.

  • I was angry when the Government announced its plan to prorogue Parliament because it was an effective power play that was easy to do. And it was easy because the opposition cannot offer a response that unites people behind an attractive alternative. Rage is not enough: suppose we get our extension, what happens then?

    If the opposition has had a big enough scare, a possible positive outcome might be a plan Parliament (and ideally the country) can get behind. I very much hope so.

    One group promoting a possible way forward is EFTA4UK (the clue is in the name): https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/efta4uk-project-funding

  • John Peters – “Perhaps the Ship of State won’t be quite so leaky in the future. I’m all for stability.” Beware what you wish for. Once the Ship of State has been scuttled by the new captain and is at the bottom of the ocean, all leaks stop. 😉

  • William Fowler 31st Aug '19 - 7:25am

    The bit I don’t understand is why MP’s agreed to pass a law whose default position is to default to no-deal, how can they complain about something which they put into law?

    I also don’t understand why if they are going to now pass new legislation ruling out no deal they don’t offer a compromise of saying no deal can’t pass unless ratified by a referendum, at least that could be seen as democratic.

    Given the terrible mess MP’s have made of things surely a reduction in salary, tax free expenses and pension should follow.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Aug '19 - 7:39am

    David Raw 30th Aug ’19 – 8:58pm This was the front page story in the Daily Mail yesterday. Cummings asked to see her ‘phone. She refused. He called the police. The Mail said she was “frogmarched” out of the building The colourful language might be a journalistic exaggeration.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Aug '19 - 7:54am

    David Raw 30th Aug ’19 – 8:51pm Sorry, I was very young at the time.
    An important consequence was the effect on Jews in Italy.
    When the German President died the Chancellor decided not to have an election for a successor but to amalgamate both jobs under a single title Fuhrer (Leader).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_von_Hindenburg
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_II,_German_Emperor

  • I have signed the petition against the actions of the government. However they have a game plan. At present if the opposition have one I have yet to see it. Except of course to install a new Prime Minister but not sure who it would be.
    I do not support our system of democracy – but it is the only one we have.
    The most likely outcome is that a fudge will be found on the Irish issue and the claim made that this is a victory.
    In the meanwhile the can will have been kicked down the road far enough for a general election to be held.

  • Jayne Mansfield 31st Aug '19 - 10:00am

    @ Malcolm Todd,

    I agree.

    Quite, frankly, I doubt that a couple more weeks of parliament sitting would do anything to motivate the opposition parties to change their behaviour. Colours have been nailed to the wall.

    The division in the country is not just frightening, it is terrifying. So thanks a bundle to those who have, and continue, to crank it up.

    Hail Boris, King of the world.

  • @Jayne Mansfield

    I hope you are being pessimistic when you say “The division in the country is not just frightening, it is terrifying.”.

    I see no sign in my small town of 50 thousand souls. We reflect the average of a slight Leave majority. I’ve only heard one person mention Brexit and he was studiously ignored by the others present. Perhaps I don’t get out much, I certainly don’t seek others’ views on Brexit.

  • The unwillingness of the EU to renegotiate the unacceptable WA means that the only way to leave the EU is without a deal. Remainers should be honest and admit that their furore about preventing no deal is really about preventing Brexit.

    All of the fuss about prorogation is part of their determination to remain in the EU despite the referendum, causing the greatest damage to our democracy in centuries.

    Parliament voted for A50 which compels us to leave with or without a deal.

  • jayne mansfield 31st Aug '19 - 2:39pm

    @ John Peters,

    I am pessimistic John, and I believe with good reason.

    There was a time when I thought that with good will, compromise would be possible, I no longer do. Colours have been nailed to the mast ( not wall). There are some who really would seem to prefer a Boris Johnson, Rees Mogg, Priti Patel government rather than accept that others might have a different view and attempt an conciliation that achieves a better outcome than if one chooses to ‘fight to the death’.

    I have always admired Norman Lamb’s approach. I don’t know what speciality he had as a solicitor, but like solicitor friends of mine, he probably has plenty of experience trying to help different factions understand that compromise and conciliation are ultimately in the best interests of all parties.

  • Peter 31st Aug ’19 – 1:52pm……………The unwillingness of the EU to renegotiate the unacceptable WA means that the only way to leave the EU is without a deal. Remainers should be honest and admit that their furore about preventing no deal is really about preventing Brexit……………….

    The ‘story’ so far

    1)The EU have a negotiated deal with the UK government.
    2) The UK parliament rejects the deal it’s own government has signed.
    3) The UK prime minister resigns and a new PM is elected by fewer than 100,000 members of one UK party.
    4) The new PM refuses to negotiate unless the EU abandons the Irish Backstop (a UK proposal to prevent a hard border in the island of Ireland).
    5) The UK prime minister visits Germany/France and states he has a plan to solve the dealock.
    6) The EU asks that the proposal be presented in time for EU internal discussion (30 days)
    7) Nothing from the UK.
    8) The UK prime minister shuts down parliament (and still hasn’t offered any new proposal.
    9) ????????????????????

    10) It’s all the EU’s fault; unbelieveable!!!!!

  • John Peters 31st Aug '19 - 4:42pm

    @expats The only place it’s all the EU’s fault is found is in your entertaining story.

    We do appear to be reaching the end game now.

    If MPs manage to get a bill through parliament to extend the deadline or prevent no deal there will have to be an election to break the deadlock.

    The Tories will have flushed out all the Remainer MPs (they will be deselected). I expect a pact between the Brexit Party and the Tories in the Labour heartlands.

    Perhaps time to “Go back to your constituencies, and prepare for government!”

  • John Peters 31st Aug ’19 – 4:42pm…………[email protected] The only place it’s all the EU’s fault is found is in your entertaining story………

    I’m sorry, Peter, but your..Peter 31st Aug ’19 – 1:52pm..The unwillingness of the EU to renegotiate the unacceptable WA means that the only way to leave the EU is without a deal….

    Seemed, at least to me, to put the blame on the ‘unwillingness of the EU’…If that was not your intention then, please, accept my apologies..

  • Van Mierlo says that the telephone app for applying works only with Android phones, NOT with I-phones (50% of the market);
    That wasn’t the HO fault, it was due to the way Apple had locked down the iPhone. Apple has subsequently changed the way the iPhone operates toallow the style of usage the HO application requires.

    However, from other user feedback, you do need an iPhone grade of camera; something most cheap Android phones lack…

  • Bernard Aris 1st Sep '19 - 3:44pm

    And at the same time my article got posted, The Guardian published this article about the DISCRIMINATION of EU citizens by the Home Office, keeping them (42% at least) in limbo in order not to have to deny them Settlement:
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/30/eu-citizens-uk-settled-status-alarm .

  • Peter Martin 2nd Sep '19 - 8:17am

    If the WA is accepted, albeit with some concession from the EU on the backstop, it will still create a class of privileged EU citizens, whose rights would be superior to UK citizens and enforced by courts which would be inaccessible to UK citizens.

    Is it right that we couldn’t tax EU pensions, apply the same immigration laws or the same laws regarding social benefits?

    https://lawyersforbritain.org/rights-of-eu-citizens-in-the-uk-after-brexit

  • John Peters 2nd Sep '19 - 9:32am

    @Peter Martin
    I don’t see the WA coming back in any form. There are far easier ways to achieve WA lite.

    We seem to be heading to the correct destination which is leave with no new treaty.

    There are lot of people who have contributed to this outcome but a special hat tip goes to the Lib Dems for their dogged enthusiasm.

  • @Peter – “The unwillingness of the EU to renegotiate the unacceptable WA means that the only way to leave the EU is without a deal.”
    The only thing in the WA that BoJo, Mogg et al have complained about is the Irish backstop, which once you follow the legal logic can only be removed if the UK either decides it will remain in the Single Market etc. or comes up with a solution that is mutually agreeable to all before the Art.50 deadline.
    Additionally, the EU has previously stated that a different WA was possible if the UK was more flexible on its “red lines”.
    As yet we’ve heard nothing about what BoJo-Mogg are offering the EU that is new. So we can only conclude that supposed “unwillingness of the EU” is “fake news” spread by those who are desperately wanting to blame everyone else other than themselves… Remember the referendum was only called because Cameron got fed up with the daftness of the 1922 Committee members, such as Mogg etc.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Sep '19 - 10:56am

    @ John Peters,

    “I see no sign {of a terrifying Brexit division} in my small town of 50 thousand souls”

    I’m sure it’s the same everywhere. We occasionally talk about it in my local, with usually a small majority for Leave, but the conversation is always good humoured. Lib Dem Remainers need have no fears they wouldn’t be warmly welcomed if they fancied a quick pint.

    I hope you turn out to be right about the WA. If so it will probably be down to EU intransigence. If they do offer a significant concession on the backstop, I’m sure BJ will take it. But there’s lots of other things wrong with it too. I’d rather we stayed in the EU than signed up to it – even without the backstop.

    https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/12/the-top-40-horrors-lurking-in-the-small-print-of-theresa-mays-brexit-deal-2/

  • John Peters 2nd Sep '19 - 11:06am

    It’ll be interesting to see how far MPs go in frustrating Brexit this week. It will be all to little avail apart from getting a list of Tory MPs to deselect.

    Any Bill to frustrate Brexit will be ignored. Luckily there is ample precedent.

    “Ministers accused of exploiting royal veto to block embarrassing legislation

    Bills on Iraq, Rhodesia and hereditary titles were blocked by Queen – on advice of ministers who had political objections”

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/15/ministers-exploited-royal-veto-legislation

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