Jo Swinson joins 120+ MPs in signing Church House Declaration to defy Johnson attempts to close Parliament

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From The Guardian’s Ben Quinn:

Boris Johnson was described as a threat to the very nature of British democracy at a cross party meeting of MPs who signed a pledge to an alternative parliament in the event of the prime minister shutting down parliament to make a no deal Brexit happen.

In a highly symbolic gathering in Church House, where MPs met during the second world war, Labour’s John McDonnell took to the stage alongside the former Conservative MP, Anna Soubry, as well as the Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party.

Each one signed the ‘Church House Declaration,’ which declared that shutting down parliament would be “an undemocratic outrage at such a crucial moment for our country, and a historic constitutional crisis.”

It added: “Any attempt to prevent Parliament sitting, to force through a no deal Brexit, will be met by strong and widespread democratic resistance.”

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Matt (Bristol) 27th Aug '19 - 5:24pm

    Overjoyed that this is happening.

    Jo Swinson was right to challenge Jeremy Corbyn on his refusal to openly challenge Boris Johnson prior to the end of the parliamentary session, and right to challenge him on his viability as leader of a ‘unity’ government (Clarke and Harman are the obvious leaders for such a government and most of Labour can see this a mile off).

    But right now we MUST cooperate with Labour, the SNP, any independents and moderate Tories to prevent the ridiculous overreach by the executive that the hard-Brexit Tories are sponsoring as a way of pushing forward their project, which more and more is about unifying Britain with the methods and the worldview of Trump and his fellow-travellers (whether or not this was definitely the case in 2016, which is slightly more moot).

    The terminology used is modelled on that used by Rory Stewart and other ‘constitutionalist’ conservatives during the leadership election and the parliamentary debates of the late May era. This too is a good call. We need these people, whether person-by-person, on en masse in their own new party.

  • Geoffrey Dron 27th Aug '19 - 7:33pm

    There’s a bit of amdram about this.

    Anyway, even to a remain voter like myself, ceding any further substantive powers to Brussels in furtherance of the federalist project would also be an undemocratic outrage.

    In 2016 I thought the UK should stay and fight over this.

    In 2019, I think we must address the federalism issue, not dodge it. Because, in a GE, Lynton Crosby will ensure it’s prominent.

  • Paul Barker 27th Aug '19 - 8:25pm

    ” A Federal Britain in a Federal Europe.”
    Hasn’t that been Liberal policy for more than a Century ?

  • Geoffrey Dron 27th Aug '19 - 8:53pm

    @Paul Barker

    Federal UK – one look at the populations sows this is impractical

    In federal Europe – if still the case, it’s been disguised.

    In any event, a constitutional convention whose conclusions are sanctioned by a GE would be required.

  • Can’t see why people are so scared of the word federal. Just means a united Europe, like United States. you can be proud of being a Texan and also a proud American. Problem with Brexit though is that we’d be a subservient non-voting colony of the USA, not a proper state, guess we’d be citizens of nowhere

  • Richard Underhill 27th Aug '19 - 11:17pm

    John King: Paddy Ashdown tried to take on this issue, saying that federalism should mean DEcentralisation.

  • Geoffrey Dron 28th Aug '19 - 4:25am

    @John King

    The Anglo-American and Continental approaches to federalism are completely different. A loose almost confederal arrangement might just be acceptable to Brits if arrived at by the processes adopted in the formation of the US, Canadian and Australian federations but a) Brussels seems set upon a close union with centralised power, and b) the Canadian and Australian examples demonstrate the original intentions as to power distribution don’t always work.

    Brussels should have shown more willingness to contemplate a two-tier (economic and political) arrangement, with only the inner tier pursuing the political project. As to common armed forces, forget it.

    In any event, unequivocal acceptance by the British people in a GE or referendum would be essential.

    Brussels ideologues bear considerable responsibility for the mess we now find ourselves in.

  • There have been umpteen opportunities to avoid so called “no deal Brexit”. The remain camp in parliament have not voted for one of them. This is an attempt to force Britain to stay in the EU . Thankfully, 120, in some cases soon to be ex, MPs is nowhere near enough to achieve it, .

  • Peter Martin 28th Aug '19 - 7:30am

    @ John King,

    “Problem with Brexit though is that we’d be a subservient non-voting colony of the USA, not a proper state, guess we’d be citizens of nowhere”.

    Have you tried telling the Canadians they don’t live in a “proper state” and are “citizens of nowhere”?

    Sure, there are indeed problems for a smaller country living alongside a larger one. One way to solve them is to say let’s join in too. We can apply the same arguments for Canada joining up with the USA as the Federalist Remainers are making for the UK to stay a part of the EU. Wouldn’t it be so much better for the Canadians to use the same dollar? Wouldn’t it be better for them to be “inside the tent” so at least they’d get a vote and have some influence?

    The other way to solve them, or try to, is to do just the opposite and assert as much independence as possible.

  • Peter Martin 28th Aug '19 - 8:16am

    @ Geoffrey Dron,

    “Brussels ideologues bear considerable responsibility for the mess we now find ourselves in.”

    Yep. Spot on.

    I don’t think that there would be anywhere near the same opposition to the EU if it wound itself back to what we had in EEC days. Sure, some people would still complain about loss of fishing rights, or some of the more irksome regulations that might emanate from Brussels but that would be a price most were willing to pay to make the European wide trading bloc function as it should.

    The treaties of Maastricht and Lisbon changed all that. Parliament should never have given away powers which were not its to give away. Its powers are lent to it at the start of a Parliament and need to be returned undiminished to the people at the end of the Parliament – unless the people give express authority in a referendum.

    We didn’t have those referendums and that’s when it all went wrong for the “ideologues”.

  • Dennis Wake 28th Aug '19 - 8:19am

    Peter Martin: Canada is not a small country. It has 3,843,144 square miles. The USA has about 3,619,739 square miles depending on which of its dependencies are included.

  • Peter Martin 28th Aug '19 - 8:31am

    Dennis Wake,

    Don’t forget the superpower known as Greenland which is geographically a part of North America and has a area of 2.2 million sq km. Why isn’t Antarctica recognised as a country and given as seats on the UN security council and G7 etc?

    It has a land area of 14 million sq km 🙂

  • @John King
    In all honesty and fairness do you believe that the States would still be United if they had an identical form of government to that of the EU?

  • Denis Wake

    The population of Canada is smaller than England’s. The point being made is that the idea that you need to be in a political and federal union with the closest big economies to avoid becoming a rule taker is a nonsense. A lot of you chaps are simply trying to project the idea of a mythical Pan-European culture, despite the reality that the languages, economies and political systems are all different. In terms of pop culture there is virtually no crossover that isn’t actually American in origin and in terms of things like science the values are pretty much world wide. There is no such thing as European Culture. In the past you could argue for Christendom, but that era was not that great and we now live in post-religious times. It makes no more sense to be in a political Union with Germany or Bulgaria than it does to be in one with Japan or Columbia.

  • Dennis Wake 28th Aug '19 - 9:30am

    Glen: Apart from the fact that Colombia and Japan are on the other side of the world. Come off it. There is a European culture which is partly from a Christian heritage. If you talk to Chinese or other Asian people ( maybe except Indians) they recognise it at once and think we are crazy to leave the EU. Most Asian countries are multi lingual but that does not mean they are not Chinese or Filipino and of course Asian. You need to get out more or pay attention when you do. I think it is time to draw a line on all this nonsense.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Aug '19 - 9:40am

    This entire debate is now futile. The government really is going to ask the monarch to suspend parliament.
    Regardless of one’s view of Brexit, this is outrageous and wholly anti-democratic.
    What are the combatants on this thread going to do about it?
    I have written to my MP asking him to do what it takes to stop this coup.

  • Peter Martin 28th Aug '19 - 9:53am


    “A lot of you chaps are simply trying to project the idea of a mythical Pan-European culture, despite the reality that the languages, economies and political systems are all different.”

    Yep. Quite right. The differences between Canada and the USA are quite minor in comparison to what we see in Europe. Who would know that Neil Young was Canadian rather than American , or Justin Bieber too to use a more modern example? It’s the same story with New Zealand and Australia. The culture and political systems are virtually identical. Yet there’s no desire on the part of either Canadians or Kiwis to give up what they have.

    That doesn’t mean they want to have poor trading and other relationships with their bigger (in terms of population and GDP) and more powerful neighbours. They all seem to rub along just fine without having to get into bed with each other.

    On the other hand the drive to a supposed unity is creating hostility between countries such as Germany, Italy, and Greece. Italy has a trillion euro debt, largely owed to to Germany if we count in the Target2 liabilities. There’s no chance of this ever being repaid! Simply because Italy doesn’t have the euros. What’s going to be the German reaction if Italy exits the euro? No one will then be able to pretend any longer!

    Just why the so-called Progressive forces in the UK don’t view our more powerful neighbour in the same way as do the Kiwis and Canadians is something of a puzzle to me.

  • Suggest we all move on from pedantic arguments, there are now much bigger fish to fry, it is beginning to sound like the King v Pymm Autumn 1641, this is serious. Vote of No Confidence next week, just noticed that Dominic Grieve will probably support this. Trust that Mr Corbyn stands back in the national interest and lets someone else take over as temporary PM.

  • Peter Martin: Like many people you cannot see the wood for the trees. Canada is not Greenland but it is big and has a substantial population. Russia is enormous but its population is much less than most that of Brazil, China, India, USA and several other countries. There are other considerations which most people understand but you purport not to.

  • Denis
    None of those very different countries are in political unions or are aiming for Asian federalism . If you think there is a distinct European culture clearly define it without including things that are World Wide. So no science, no capitalism, democracy, philosophy and art, all of which exist outside of Europe. What are you left with? Because it sometimes strikes me that the idea of “Europe” is just the old Western empires clubbing together after they were superseded at the end of WWII.

    Mick Taylor
    I’m going to sit back and boggle that the Remainers who thought they were being so very clever when they rejected May’s deal are now wailing because the PM is simply going to stick to the deadline and arrangement according to the rules of the EU .

  • Peter Martin 28th Aug '19 - 11:01am

    @ theakes,

    ” Trust that Mr Corbyn stands back in the national interest and lets someone else take over as temporary PM.”

    Lib Dems: Jeremy Corbyn, you need to show some leadership! Organise Parliament to stop a no-deal Brexit and then we can remain in the EU.

    Jeremy Corbyn: OK I’m prepared to lead a temporary government to do just that.

    Lib Dems: That won’t work. We didn’t actually mean your leadership!

  • Peter Martin 28th Aug '19 - 11:17am

    @ Denis Wake,

    Probably Canada has more woods and trees than we do but the GDP figures are (in trillion US$) :

    Canada: 1.6 USA: 19.4 8.3% of USA
    UK: 2.6 EU(27): 16.2 16% of EU

    So we are in approx twice as good a position relative to the EU as are Canada relative to the USA.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Aug '19 - 1:45pm

    It’s a strange situation where MPs decide on alternative arrangements if parliament is prevented from sitting. In other democratic countries the Supreme Court or equivalent would step in and act as a deterrent to this sort of behaviour. Without a framework, the result is unknown and whichever side wins will lack the legitimacy to heal wounds.

  • Geoffrey Dron 28th Aug '19 - 5:11pm

    @Mick Taylor – no sweat. VoNC on Thu/Fri 5-6/9 with Remain parties having agreed on interim PM (Ken Clarke?). If Chief Whip tells de piffle he’ll lose, he’ll call on other parties to give him the 2 thirds for a GE in mid-Oct.

    Meantime, Remain parties can be choosing unity candidates.

  • @Peter Hirst “It’s a strange situation where MPs decide on alternative arrangements if parliament is prevented from sitting.”
    Don’t see it as strange, if Parliament is sovereign (as Brexiteers want) then it can not be bound by the whim of any particular Executive…
    I thus see the Conservatives have set the stage for some fundamental constitutional reform. The question now is whether Parliament has the courage to actually “take back control” and complete what Cromwell started…
    Who says Parliament has to convene in a specific place to be ‘Parliament’? and can only be convened by the Executive? and doesn’t convene during the Party convention period? Remember we have an unwritten Constitution and it is only convention that dictates that it broadly follows precedence…

    So it seems the way forward is to put some legs on the Church House Declaration and convene a Parliament, who’s first act would be to sideline the current Executive and appoint another…

    So its not really a “constitutional crisis” but a “constitutional reform opportunity”…

  • Yeovil Yokel 28th Aug '19 - 10:34pm

    It looks as if Jane Dodds is going to have an ‘interesting’ start to her Parliamentary career next Tuesday 03/09.

  • Mike Falchikov 31st Aug '19 - 7:40pm

    If the monarch is meant to be the guardian of the constitution why is she apparently unable to refuse the PM’s request to prorogue parliament as unwise in the current situation? We really do need a written constitution.

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