We’ve now had a breathing space to see what the outcomes in Westminster and Brussels are looking like for this beast called Brexit.
Let’s first look at the so called Conservative Rebels who voted against the government and secured a parliamentary win to get a defined debate over the terms of any trade deal that emerges and the right to exercise amendment to it as necessary. This has caused something of an upset everywhere and there are unpleasant jibes and accusations running around at the audacity of the rebels to try and sabotage the Brexit deal in this way. Like every dispute, there are at least two sides to the argument. One is that the rebels have deliberately forced a vote on getting a debate because they are Brexit saboteurs; the other is that the rebels have reaffirmed the importance of parliamentary democracy in Britain and that if it is ridden over, roughshod, then there is really no point in having it - we should just succumb to what might loosely be termed a benign dictatorship.
Now Brexit is a mighty complex issue with so many drivers and issues engaged by it that it has clearly taken some time to get to the present position where the EU are willing to move talks on into this peculiar thing called Phase Two. We could argue that the government have pretty much messed around for the last 18 months and negotiated so badly that the timetable they are now being squeezed into is of their own making. We could also argue that they have, without so much as a wink at parliament, put a substantial dollop of taxpayers money on the EU’s table, pushed for a two year minimum transition period within which we’ll have all the downsides of the EU but no benefits, more or less agreed that the ECJ’s law will prevail throughout that transition period and possibly beyond, and agreed to a soft border with Ireland - akin to a back door into Britain for any immigrants trying to buck the system.
And none of this has gone through the due process of parliamentary scrutiny. Executive decisions have been made outside of parliament to try and get something out of the chaos of bungled negotiations. Now I’m all for making a decision when needs must but I’d like to think there was a competent person making the call. And that’s where parliament comes in. We supposedly live in a democracy. It’s not that perfect a democracy but for the time being it’s the only one we’ve got and it does hold wild government proposals to account - but only when it’s consulted. So I think the rebels have a point. If we truly believe in democracy then we should engage parliament in the process - I’m certainly not very keen on Theresa May and David Davis making such important decisions on my behalf to satisfy their political ambitions without a robust parliamentary rummage through the details of any deal. The critics will say that that is a time waster, that we need to get the deal and sign up to it as quickly as possible. Yes, we all want a deal, but on past form Mrs May’s deals have been awry and costly. Do you really want the life changing package of the next dozen generations decided upon outside of parliament, under EU pressure and committed to by politicians who have disregarded the sovereignty of parliament. Be careful what you wish for, what starts as a benign dictatorship invariably becomes something rather unpleasant - and by that time you’ve screwed the democratic process into oblivion. So, I’m with the rebels - not as individuals - but for the sake of maintaining what little shred of democracy we still have. If that is portrayed by rampant opponents as the singular reason for Brexit failing then we should look very carefully at ourselves as a nation and consider how we elect our governors for parliamentary scrutiny is our right, every electors right and it should be upheld. The government’s task is to manage its affairs efficiently and work within the timetable that demands. Throw that all away if you will, but you will rue the day come the judgement.
I see the navy thinks the Russians are likely to snip all our internet cables under the ocean. That’s possibly quite so, it would certainly cause a bit of an upset. But what the navy are really beefing about - quite rightly - is that they need more ships, more budget, more of everything in fact. I’m a supporter of the armed services so I’m not against this notion so long as the procurement decisions are made for the right reasons. We give big sums of money away to foreign despots and crooks with our overseas aid so why cannot we look a bit more introspectively at ourselves and say, OK, the navy needs some, the NHS needs some, old age home areas need some, homeless people need some and many other worthy causes need some. Let’s get our own house in order before trying to throw money away in gestures of ludicrous largesse to appear munificent on the world stage. If that’s how our government thinks it’s time to change ‘em.