The full text of the legal advice given to the government - or rather to Theresa May - over the Brexit Withdrawal Agreements terms and legalities have now been laid before parliament and the public at large.
There was always the widely held conviction that when the government only released a brief summary of the legal advice it had been given by the Attorney General there would be unending suspicion about what the full text actually said and the likelihood that the full text would include some damning detail that the PM had deliberately tried to hide or, at best, not say too much about. Some might just put this down to politics and the ways of politicians but there is a substantial body of the public and parliament that rightly believes that a massive deception has been engaged in by Mrs May, the civil service and some of her loyal cabinet ministers.
Following three vote defeats in the Commons yesterday, Mrs May has added to her woes by continuing to deny that she misled parliament over the interpretation of the full legal advice - something that no rational person believes for a moment. Doggedly, and very much on script, the PM repeats and repeats her contrived message about the deal 'she' has negotiated with the EU. She doesn't listen, doesn't hear other voices, doesn't recognise the catastrophe she is intent on bringing about and doesn't perceive the gravity of her situation or the importance of alternate opinions and potential strategies. Parliament will vote on this whole matter next week and though strange things happen in politics there seems at present to be little chance of the Withdrawal Agreement being voted through.
So what then ? All sorts could happen.
- There could be a leadership change - which would be necessary if any re-negotiation process was to be viable,
- there could be a general election - which would probably favour the Labour Party right now,
- there could be a move to have a second referendum - though the legal issues over what this would do to the original referendum vote are quite complex and constitutional,
- there could be a decision to have no-deal and just up sticks and away on WTO terms,
- there could be a request to extend Article 50 or - and this is the nut-cracker thought.....
- there could be no Brexit at all - a withdrawal of Article 50 and a reinstatement of Britain's continued membership of the EU.
Right now BB doesn't believe anyone has the slightest idea what the outcome of the vote will be and therefore has no idea what direction the nation will pursue. And whilst parliament has, suddenly, developed some verve and character and put the government in its place it has no means in itself to take the country forward in a more satisfactory manner than the doomed Withdrawal Agreement. Parliament can vote and insist on procedure and oversight but it doesn't create strategies - those have to be politically created by - usually - government. In the absence of any governmental ability to acknowledge any alternatives then we may well see either the emergence of a caucus of Conservative Party members seizing the reins and ruling in some executive committee fashion with the government itself held in a state of permanent contempt of parliament and therefore boxed off and beyond intervention. By British standards, this is Draconian - not seen since Charles 1 stormed into parliament to try and arrest dissenters - and that ended up with civil war. Great care has to be exercised here if the constitution - unwritten and interpretive as it is - and the integrity of parliamentary democracy is to be upheld and exercised in a way that the wider public will both recognise and support. We are fast reaching a position of absolute no confidence in the government and a rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement next week will more or less ratify the consensus against the government. These are challenging, if dangerous times, for us politically and democratically...but events will unfold - BB suspects - by default rather than design.
Alongside Britain's woes, Mr Macron is up against it in France. He may see himself as the new 'de Gaulle', but the reality is that his administration is short of money and his proposed tax rise regime has foundered with the Yellow Jersey revolt on the streets of Paris and other cities. Having swept into power with his En Marche army, he is now discovering that you need more than a genial face to rule. In some respects he is as blind to events as Mrs May is.
Add to this the increasing pressure on Mrs Merkel to abandon her claim to the Chancellorship until 2022 and we see two of the prime movers and shakers of the EU faltering. Add the British dimension into this and the prospect of an accelerated decline in the EU's influence and ability to manage the leviathan and we can see the sparks of chaos.
If we reflect on what was happening in Europe 90 years or so ago we might draw some parallels (not in terms of persecutions or pogroms but in political stability). This is a dangerous time for democratic Europe. Break a few political bones and the potential for a level of discord amongst European states becomes something of a potential reality.