Taking back control

By Martin Vogel

A quick post today offering a round-up of the best of yesterday’s instant analysis of the Brexit mutineers’ victory in Parliament.

Chris Grey takes a sober view, noting that it will likely have little impact on the direction of Brexit. He puts the furore down to a poor grasp of Brexit on the part of the Westminster-centric media:

“For all the talk of parliamentary sovereignty and taking back control – what happens with Brexit is now largely beyond the control of the UK and largely in the control of the EU. This has been so ever since Article 50 was triggered… A lot of the excitement about the amendment 7 vote derives from the fact that British political journalists have not caught up with that fact. They have a huge expertise and a sophisticated understanding of Westminster politics – the procedures, the votes, the personalities, the drama – and are heavily invested in regarding that as central to the plot. By contrast (with some honourable exceptions) very few British political journalists have more than the most superficial grasp of Brexit issues.”

While he is confining his view to the likely shape of Brexit, it seems to me that the vote has a broader relevance to the constitutional struggle within the UK that the referendum unleashed. David Allen-Green emphasises that Wednesday’s vote has an impact on the relationship between the Government and Parliament.

“The former cannot now assume that it has practical command of the latter… The UK government has so far made a series of unforced mistakes on Brexit. It needs help. And by a cross-party majority in parliament showing that it will stand up to the government on its approach to Brexit, there is a real chance that the UK government will now get the help it needs. Wednesday night’s defeat is not a lot, but it is enough to make British ministers realise that there are things they cannot get away with. For a country that is going alone, a broader base for making key decisions is crucial. That broader base prefers a softer form of Brexit.”

He concludes that a softer form of Brexit seems more likely. Perhaps. But the week’s events show that the Government seems scarcely reconciled to what Theresa May signed up to in Brussels, let alone the implications of the Commons vote. Jonathan Lis provides a must-read takedown of the irreconcilable contradictions at the heart of the Government’s cakeism. He ends with this assessment of Britain’s unique place in history:

“Never before has a world power elected to amputate various limbs in front of its horrified friends, half-heartedly glue some of them back together at those friends’ behest, and re-sever them immediately afterwards. Nor has it reacted with such fury to some of its own parliamentarians offering a couple of bandages.”

It gives a whole new meaning to the idea of British exceptionalism.

Image courtesy Mollie Goodfellow.