The Prime Minister of Britain Boris Johnson in a televised interview on Sunday September 2th stated that it was possible that Britain will leave the European Union without a deal – despite the fact that a law was passed last month which prevents this. The European Withdrawal No 2 Act 2019 – popularly known as the ‘Benn Act’ essentially requires that the Prime Minister must request an extension for Brexit from the European Union until January 31st 2020, and that if such an extension is offered, it must be accepted. This act only comes into force in the event that Parliament has not approved a Withdrawal Agreement or a No Deal departure from the EU before October 19th 2019. This act makes it abundantly clear that Parliament has no desire to simply ‘slip out of Europe at the end of October and that it must formally and deliberately approve any departure plan.
Additionally to this specific bill, previous debates and acts – such as the Cooper-Letwin Bill – clearly show that the one thing that Parliament can agree on is that it does not want a No Deal Brexit.
From Boris Johnson’s statement therefore: it is possible to conclude that either Boris Johnson is lying to the British public when he says that a No Deal remains possible, or that he intends to flout (or otherwise bypass) the law that was passed forcing him to seek an extension in some way or other.
If Boris is lying, and he knows that leaving without a deal is no longer possible, then his interview shows to me that he has no compunction in lying to the British public – indeed in that he has a proven track record:
- Making-up quotes for news articles
- Making-up ‘Euromyths‘ – notably about ‘straight bananas
- The Brexit Bus £350m lie
- Misattributed transport regulations for kippers
It is conceivable that Boris is lying about a No Deal being possible so that he can maintain what he refers to as his ‘negotiating position’ with the EU. This would seem to me to be nonsense however since the EU are surely as aware as Boris is of the law that requires him to request an extension! (Not forgetting the fact that the concept of negotiating by hiding your true goals and by lying is far from the best approach to successful negotiations.) Nevertheless, even were this true it would imply that the Prime Minister of Britain considers it acceptable to lie to the British public. No matter how such mendacity is justified (for the good of the public, or to maintain the illusion of a negotiating position) it remains the case that the PM is prepared to lie to the public. How then can the public trust anything else that is said by such a person?
Of course, Boris may not be lying, he may indeed have a way around the law…
In which case of course, Britain has a Prime Minister who is clearly prepared to ignore the rule of Parliament in order to achieve her or his own ends. The British democracy is a ‘Parliamentary Democracy‘ (I’m ignoring the monarchistic influence here…) and as such, it is the Parliament which is considered to be supreme. The Parliament empowers a Prime Minster to act and is thus responsible for holding a Prime Minister to account. Any Prime Minister then which chooses to ignore the rule of law or the will of Parliament is literally demonstrating that they have no respect for the British democratic processes. In this case then, if Boris is not lying about a No Deal being possible he must be setting himself outside of and above the democratic system in the United Kingdom…
Either answer demonstrates (to my mind) a lack of respect for the public as well as a lack of respect for the democratic processes.
The Prime Minister of Britain (and many others) have often claimed that the British public are fed up with Brexit and that they just want it done. I honestly don’t know if this is true or not, but what I can say is true, is that the legislation passing the referendum (European Union Referendum Act 2015) made no obligation that the result should be implemented or considered in any way. Hence, in a Parliamentary Democracy, it remains the purview of Parliament as to whether or not (and how) the result should be implemented. To that end – whether or not the British public want ‘Brexit done’ or not is an irrelevance… the question at hand is whether or not Parliament wants ‘Brexit done’.
This may appear to be contentious – discarding the expressed opinion of the electorate as an irrelevance – however the fact of the matter is that this is the system that is in place. I would argue that if Boris Johnson truly wishes to ensure that the will of the people can be respected, then he should target the very system that allows him to ignore their voice. He should question the system that allows him to become Prime Minister without being elected by the country, he should question the processes which prevent MPs from being removed from their positions unless they are jailed for more than 12 months. If Boris truly wants to implement the will of the people the perhaps he should present his deal to them (once agreed with the EU) and really ask them whether or not they want a No Deal.
If however he thinks that that sort of thing is best left up to the people’s representatives – then he should listen to them rather than trying to bypass them – because throughout all of this confusion one thing in this is certain… the British public didn’t vote for Boris Johnson to be Prime Minister.