Prorogueing Parliament will scupper any EU goodwill in Trade Talks, prorogueing the Tory Party Conference is better

Hearing British politicians talk in a cavalier way about proroguing parliament to push through any controversial policy should remind the British of the age when prorogueing and circumventing Parliament was all the rage (and instilled a different rage in the electorate): the reigns of kings James I and Charles I. In trying to get money without having to ask Parliament, Charles adulterated the “Ship Money” statute by applying it not just to the coastal and harbor cities, but to the whole of England. According to its Wikipedia item, demanding Ship Money of its own was possibly even an infringement of Magna Carta.

But prorogueing, closing down parliament will remind many continental politicians and opinionmakers of much more recent events; events that are closely connected to autocracy: Napoleon and the (Interbellum and) Second World War. Spanish news programs and media are sure to refer to the moment in 1981 when a rogue right-wing officer of the paramilitary Guardia Civil, Antonio Tejero, marched in to the Cortes plenary chamber shooting, making MP’s dive for cover behind their desks. It was Tejero’s expressed aim to roll back the “Transicion”-process from Franquista dictatorship to western democracy. Thanks to the Spanish king, he couldn’t.

The ECSC/EEC/EU being founded as a co-operation, if not union, of democracies is sure to react very negatively to any Western European government sidelining its national parliament; Victor Orban was ostracized from the dominant EPP Christian Democratic federation around the European Parliament for doing far less.

This is extra relevant now that a No Deal “crashing out” of the UK is ever more likely, and now that the British Parliament itself is running out of ways to block, prevent that. With No Deal, there is no agreed transition period whatsoever, causing immediate and massive disruption to traffic, trade, transnational production chains, tourism, etcetera. That means that getting things rolling again is of the utmost importance, and that means speedy negotiations between the UK and EU to get arrangements and piecemeal agreements to get things sorted and regularized.

And then any Cavalier (= Tory) Prime Minister will have a massive problem: which EU or Western European politician will receive a European prime minister who has closed “his” parliament to get his way, let alone do serious negotiations with him on anything, however vital and/or urgent? Even Juncker, who addressed Orban as “dictator” but still welcomed him, will be unavailable.

So, anybody aspiring to become British Prime minister, boasting he will “get No Deal Brexit on time” even if it means prorogueing Parliament, should also tell his swooning party members that that will mean a prolonged disruption of the economy and people’s daily lives, on a scale similar to the three day working week of the 1970’s.

If a Cavalier politician is serious about getting a new Brexit Deal, surely it would be wiser not asking the queen to prorogue Parliament, but to prorogue his own party conference until around Christmas? Or is tub-thumping at your Conference more effective than the hard slog of negotiating with an unwieldy Parliament and an EU who say the deal is already closed?

* 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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13 Comments

  • John Marriott 17th Jun '19 - 6:34pm

    This suggestion from Mr Raaaab smacks of Hitler’s ‘Entmächtigungsgesetz’ (enabling act), which sealed the Nazi dictatorship by a veneer of legitimacy. No thanks, Dom, stick to your karate!

  • John Marriott 17th Jun '19 - 6:39pm

    Sorry, you German speakers, that word should have read ‘Ermächtigungsgesetz’. What I wrote first is actually just the opposite, which might actually have been better with hindsight.

    Isn’t it ironic that, for some Brexiteers, ‘taking back control’ seems to mean putting this control in a limited number of hands!

  • Ah but they be our betters. Nothing like returning to our forelock tugging past, I suspect many of our Brexiteer regulars are practising their forelock tugging in the mirror as I type. They knows their place which is way above any old Jonnie Furrin, just below their betters who will decide for them.

  • David Evershed 17th Jun '19 - 7:31pm

    Atlee prorogued parliament in 1949 to reduce House of Lords powers . I doubt Atlee was sympathetic to Hitler – nor Raab.
    Source:
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/18/what-has-john-bercow-done-now

    Extract as follows:
    “There is a part-precedent for this in the passage of the 1949 Parliament Act, which reduced the powers of the House of Lords to delay certain legislation. The law was blocked by the Lords twice, over two parliamentary sessions.

    Since the existing law which the new act was replacing – the 1911 Parliament Act – required three parliamentary sessions to pass before the Commons could overturn the Lords, the Attlee government prorogued parliament – ending the session – and began a new special session”

  • The easiest way of avoiding a no deal Brexit would have been to vote May’s deal through. As it is No deal is the default setting of the EU. There isn’t going to be a people’s vote and a snap election could backfire by creating a Brexit Party and Conservative alliance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again the ideologues of Remain are actually aiding the things they think they’re avoiding . The most likely alternative not being social democracy, but rather a democratic socialist government. It’s really quite comical.

  • But Glen your getting what you wanted a no deal catastrophe. Now of cause when you get it you won’t want it and you’ll certainly sware blind tis nothing to do with you. But dear Glen it is and you’ll get months if not years to justify the debacle you voted for. Your looking at that most frightening of fates, actually getting something you wished for, bless will he hard.

  • Bernard Aris 17th Jun '19 - 7:59pm

    An even more striking example is the Italian Parliament after Mussolini’s 1922 “March on Rome” (which the Duce himself did by train); the Fascist were a tiny minority in the parliament until a collaborating rightwinger and imperialist, Giacomo Acerbo (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acerbo_Law )introduced a law replacing proportional representation by a system giving the party with the biggest share of votes (over 25%) 67% of the seats. The law was passed with armed paramilitary fascists present in the chamber; and later the socialist MP Matteotti was murdered after calling this unlawful. Mussolini duly won the “elections” of 1924, and in 1925 proclaimed a fascist state, scrapping parliament altogether. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Fascism , the Doctrine paragraph.

  • Bernnard Aris 17th Jun '19 - 8:21pm

    As far as I can make out from the quotation offered above, the Attlee prorogation was temporary and parliament was reconvened in “Special session”, probably especially the Commons. The Raab variant will be more like what Charles I did: a total cessation of all debate and NO special session, because then Speaker Bercow could possibly pull another obscure rule out of the handbook of parliamentaery customs to (re)start a debate about wether the Raab government wasn’t infringeing paerliamentary and even Magna Carta (for the House of Lords) priviliges.

    This means that (probably somewhere in October, after some weeks of fruitles debates and inconclusive indicative votes) Raab would make the queen prorogue Parliament until well after Halloween, stopping all legislation in its tracks, further disrupting things important for UK citizens, enterprises and government departments.

  • The latest YouGov survey shows that a majority of Tory members are preferring the separation of Northern Ireland or Scotland from the UK, significant damage to the UK economy, and the destruction of their party to the abandonment of Brexit. Prorogueing Parliament, or any EU-reaction to this, is unlikely to concern them at all. Luckily, … needs the party and its position in Government to remain PM for more than a few weeks. That, not constitutional considerations, is the motivation on the Conservative side we can put some confidence in.

  • Peter Hirst 18th Jun '19 - 1:45pm

    The Conservative MPs are so torn between what is best for their own political ambitions, The Conservative Party and the nation that it would be best for them to take a sabbatical of at least a few years and then return to sort out the mess of their own making. The whole idea of sidelining parliament is absurd and shows the need for a proper constitution. We can only hope that sense will prevail and some egos suffer a permanent downgrading.

  • Laurence Cox 18th Jun '19 - 5:13pm

    @Bernard

    I would like to think that should Raab make the Queen prorogue Parliament, Betty Windsor would be justified in offering him hospitality in one of the Royal palaces, to wit the Tower of London.

  • You have to understand to Brexiteers and Lexi Brexit is a vitality symbol, it is their poltical Viagra. They feel young and empowered again, and no price is to high. Loss of economic power, not an issue, loss of Scotland and Ireland why even London not an issue, just as long as they can feel virial again. It is very sad, the last ravings of the old, poor and ignorant who are voting to make themselves poorer, more marginalised and in many cases dead; still as long they can console themselves with a hard Brexit no cost is to high.

  • Frankie
    You do talk a lot of cod psychological clap trap. It’s like something Criswell would say in the intro to an Ed Wood film or one of those strange 19th Century pamphlets pondering whether or not cockneys had souls. You do know there is no such thing as a hive mind and that you have no special insight into what anyone but yourself thinks ?

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