Brexit is a big idea that has always lacked a big solution. All it’s ever had is a football chant.
“Sov-rin-TY! D’moc-ras-SY! British borders and trading FREE!”
And those currently vieing to be in charge of the Tories – a team which believes itself in the Champions League, but is in reality languishing somewhere at the bottom of an inter-pub league in Norfolk with a squad consisting mostly of turnips – are attempting to win the manager’s job by shouting these words louder than their rivals.
Perhaps the densest candidate in a narrow field of root vegetables is Dominic Raab, the man who doesn’t know what Dover is for and whose sole qualification for this vital role is a 5-month stint as caretaker Brexit Secretary.
He resigned after not making the least bit of difference, a feat which in many ways makes him the perfect replacement for Theresa May, but not exactly the “change candidate”.
For a man who’s graduated from both Oxford and Cambridge, qualified as a lawyer, and worked on the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Oslo peace accords, he seems strangely stupid. But perhaps that’s the result of the 4 years he spent carrying David Davis’ bags.
Either way, his big idea about Brexit is, well, Raabid. It is literally frothing at the mouth, suffering painful contortions, and trying to bite everyone who looks at it while showering them with highly-infectious spit.
Our Dominic wants to prorogue Parliament, even though there are plenty of rogues in it already.
This does not mean he wishes to make Parliament more rogueish, which sounds sort of charming, or label its detractors as rogue-phobics hating on public schoolboys who believe they are feudal overlords born into the wrong family.
It means he wants to shut it down. Close it. End all legislation. Kick out the MPs, and let Brexit happen by default.
This has the benefit of pleasing the Jacob Rees-Moggs of the world, who love a bit of medieval Parliamentary process, as well as the die-hards who believe the bonkers claim that the only reason Brexit hasn’t happened yet is Remainer MPs.
(They ignore the hung Parliament that was voted in a year after the Brexit referendum, the two years of polls showing Remain consistently ahead, and that the fundamental problem is the existence of a Northern Irish border they had previously forgotten. Because it’s definitely the MPs, and not the fact the whole idea is clearly farked.)
If you get rid of the MPs, they reason, Brexit will happen by automatic process of the law.
The trouble is that if you get rid of the MPs you will also get tyranny, riots, and a fresh civil war to boot.
If you close Parliament it means there is no legislation, no questions, no scrutiny and a Prime Minister effectively ruling by decree, using the ancient powers once vested in the monarch.
Its supporters will say proroguing happens between the 12-month Parliamentary sessions anyway. But that’s planned, has a defined end, and happens only with the assent of both the Commons and Lords, who use it for a holiday. It is always followed by a State Opening, the Queen’s Speech, and a new legislative programme.
Raab’s suggestion is closing a Parliament that has already been running for more than 2 years, for an indefinite period, without its assent and in order to force the country to exit an international treaty through which it does half a trillion pounds’ worth of business.
And it can only happen if the Queen agrees.
Buckingham Palace would in all likelihood tell Downing Street it would be deeply unwise. The Queen cannot refuse what her government wants her to do – but Raab wouldn’t have the government behind him. He’d have the support of a handful of lunatics, and he’d effectively be asking Betty to usher in a period of absolute rule.
If it were to happen, he would be nullifying the general election of 2017 which had the biggest turnout in 25 years and replacing it with executive power. That would not be “taking back democracy” – it would be putting it in a blender.
It *would* mean taking back control of the Northern Ireland border, even though nobody wants one. The worst-case scenario World Trade Organisation rules require a defined border between trading blocs, and also simultaneously block all the trade deals we might make. WTO rules aren’t so much the best idea, as the absolute worst one.
You’d think a trained lawyer had read all these rules before suggesting it – but then, he didn’t read the Good Friday Agreement, his briefing papers on the Channel crossing, or any of the books on his own window sill. What else could we expect, but a big dose of dumb.
So there’s your tyranny – the closure of Parliament without its assent because you’re in a mood with it, just like the Tudors did. There’s your riots, between Brexit supporters, Remainers, angry snowflakes, furious gammon-tinted racists, protesting grannies and YouTube crackpots.
And here’s your civil war. Just like last time, the country split between Royalists and Parliament. The Commons and Lords would not go on holiday but would take to their high horses instead. The Tories wouldn’t know which side to be on, the Queen would probably side with the politicians, and the constitution would be in absolute crisis. Raab would take on the role of Charles I, hunted cross-country while hiding in trees and pretending he had a God-given right to rule.
The English civil wars killed 190,000 in England alone, 60,000 in Scotland and just under half the Irish population. They also established Parliamentary supremacy, but seeing as we have it now it seems eccentric to argue the point again.
And there’s no need to chop Raab’s head off either – although it might have the benefit of making him more intelligent.
Aside from the fact this walking potato calls feminists “obnoxious bigots”, says the welfare state is a “childish wish list”, calls Brits lazy yet allegedly sent his secretary to buy him the same sandwich every lunchtime, Raab’s leadership manifesto is a time machine. If you step inside, it takes you to 1534.
He suggests police should be able to search anyone, even without a reasonable suspicion of a crime. He wants more austerity, less National Insurance, and an automatic right to “build upwards”.
But perhaps most bonkers of all is his plan to introduce apprenticeships for those aged 14 to 16. Let me say that more clearly – he wants to take children out of school, and put them to work on slave wages.
We might need more chimney sweeps after Brexit, but even the retired colonels and village fete organisers who form the Conservative Party membership won’t vote for child labour.
But then, he’s not really vying to be PM. He’s auditioning for the role of Right-wing poster boy, and a shoo-in as Foreign Secretary – with, hopefully, a map on the office wall showing where the ports are.
Raab is no leader. He has never led anything, anywhere, at any time. His career history shows he prefers to follow in a big boy’s shadow, and if he’s not uttering things he’s been asked to by someone who wants to move the PM race further to the Right, then I’m a banana.
Not only will Raab never be in a position to prorogue Parliament, it’s just another threat.
The same kind of anti-democratic trick employed by Theresa May for two years, who refused to end Parliament until it agreed with her and realised too late that’s not how it works.
No-one has ever beaten democracy. Politics is how we vent our anger, because it’s more effective than having a ruck. If the Tories crash the country as their puppetmasters suggest, it will be the last thing that party ever does because the next vote is always imminent . Another on Brexit is inevitable, because EVERY vote will be about that until it goes away.
That’s where those in charge of Brexit have gone wrong. They began a chant, got themselves at the front of a crowd, and are now expected to play like top-flight footballers with the ideas, waistlines and IQs of middle-aged thugs. They forgot they’d be expected to actually play football, that there are rules, and people are watching.
No chant has ever won a match. Quite a few of them are likely to get you kicked out of the ground, though. And we are far closer to de-rogueing Parliament than the deluded Dominic Raab realises.