It seems that, in their endeavours to halt Brexit, our Lordships have hatched an ambitious plan to overrule both the House of Commons and the UK electorate!
The former MP Douglas Hogg, now Viscount Hailsham the younger, has put down amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill designed to place the power over Brexit in the hands of those in our Upper House.
This is explained by Christopher Howarth in a piece for Brexit Central where he goes through each of the amendments to show how they could pan out.
The first amendment is pretty straightforward in that it calls for a second Brexit referendum.
But a second new clause of his would, if passed, give the House of Lords the power to delay, frustrate and ultimately reverse Brexit and is, says the author, carefully disguised.
Referring to the new Clause 49 put forward by Viscount Hailsham, Howarth says that there are two triggers to this:
"In sub-section (1)(a) it provides that the Withdrawal Agreement itself needs to be “subject to the consideration of a motion in the House of Lords”, which in practice would give the Lords a veto. The government could bring forward a motion and their Lordships could remove it." Writes Howarth.
The second trigger, he says, is in sub-action (7) of the same clause, which requires the government to enact the domestic implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement by the 31st January 2019. There is already a tight deadline to get this done by Brexit Day and the Lords could easily filibuster into February says Howarth. The Lords could thus block the Withdrawal Agreement.
Then the Lords would point to sub-section (5) that says:
“Her Majesty’s Government must follow any direction in relation to the negotiations under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which has been—
(a) approved by a resolution of the House of Commons, and
(b) subject to the consideration of a motion in the House of Lords.”
So if the Lords vetoed the Withdrawal Agreement and the government tried to proceed with a no-deal Brexit, the opposition could amend it but the Lords could also veto it.
This could force an extension to any EU/UK talks with the UK probably having to pay a very heavy price for it!
"That is their Lordships’ plan:" Writes Howarth "throw as much mud as possible into the system and hope it fails. Such a strategy would, of course, wreak immeasurable damage to the Government’s negotiating position – why would the EU offer a deal when the Lords can help deliver an even better one for the EU?
"Holding open the option of Remain is a recipe for a bad deal, which in turn leads to an excuse for the Lords to reject the Withdrawal Agreement, leading to Remain – a self-fulfilling legislative prophecy."
If the house of lords votes this through today then we will all know exactly where they stand – that it has effectively become a legislative chamber acting in the best interests of the EU, not the UK, and therefore cannot be trusted and it now has no place in UK politics at all.
And howarth ends by saying:
"The idea of the unelected House dictating that we remain in the EU would be akin to an unelective dictatorship. Have their Lordships thought that one through?"
My answer to that is, yes they have and we should act to abolish the whole sorry thing at the earliest opportunity!
And David Davis has warned the House of Lords that if they vote to let Parliament control Brexit negotiations in this way, it would lead to a major constitutional crisis.
In an exclusive article for the Sun he writes:
"When all is said and done, I’m a Parliamentarian before a Minister, and a democrat before a Conservative.
"But there is a clear distinction between the important work of revising legislation and attempting to overturn the referendum result to keep the UK inside the European Union, in direct opposition to the British people."
And, pointing out that these amendments give Parliament a vote before the negotiations have ended and that they put in artificial deadlines and micromanagement clauses, they were nonsensical and, exactly as Christopher Howarth pointed out, David Davis writes:
"This would give the EU Commission a clear incentive to delay the negotiations or present unacceptable propositions until the deadline has passed and the Government is stripped of its ability to negotiate freely."
And right on cue, Michel Barnier, the EU Chief Brexit negotiator is today demanding that the Irish border question be sorted by June or the talks will collapse.
"He repeated recent declarations that unless Britain came up with fresh thinking on how to avoid a hard border by the June EU council summit, further talks were in danger of collapsing." Reports the Guardian.
As far as I am concerned the Irish border question is being used as a cheap bargaining chip with hopes that continual reference to the Good Friday Agreement will make the UK cower into submission.
So it's good to see Dr Graham Gudgin and Ray Bassett saying the same thing in Policy Exchange, referring to the EU Commission and the Irish Government together with their Remainer allies in London, as 'using the Irish border as a weapon'.
And the authors say that the whole UK including Northern Ireland can leave the EU while avoiding a hard border and preserving the Good Friday Agreement.
They then outline how this could be achieved and also point out that the Good Friday Agreement has very strong support, probably more today than when it was written. That would outweigh any problems that Brexit threw up, they say. Labour Brexiteer Kate Hoey also Tweeted that this piece was 'another excellent article putting down the gloom merchants'.
another excellent article putting down the gloom merchants
Don’t listen to the doom-mongers – why the UK (including Northern Ireland) can leave the Customs Union, avoid a hard border and preserve the Good Friday Agreement https://t.co/LTo5xUCUBk via @@Policy_Exchange
— Kate Hoey (@KateHoeyMP) April 30, 2018
Looking at the above you could be forgiven for thinking that the EU and the majority of the UK establishment were choreographing their efforts to keep the UK tied into the bloc, wouldn't you?
But of course that's just conspiracy theorising about what would, in any other age, have been considered as treasonous activity … isn't it?