The Prime Minister has made his “take it or leave it” offer to the EU – but it is far from clear that either the EU or Parliament will find it palatable. Parliament has said that unless it approves the Withdrawal Agreement the PM must ask for an extension – but the PM has point blank refused.
Behind the scenes, the PM’s office is briefing journalists about ever more cunning plans to avoid the Benn Act, litigants are lining up in Court to compel compliance with it, and Parliamentarians present and past are worrying about whether one of those cunning plans might just work.
We all know the damage this is doing – to businesses forced to delay investment decisions, to judges worried about attacks on the judiciary, to trust in democracy, and to broader civil society – and the longer it continues the greater the damage.
However, there is a solution. And it is one MPs can readily implement after (once again) seizing control of the business of the House.
A simple Act. An Act to ensure that the final decision about whether to ‘No Deal’ rests with Parliament.
If, prior to the day before “exit day”, Parliament had neither (a) ratified a Withdrawal Agreement nor (b) adopted a motion to leave without a deal, Article 50 would be revoked by letter sent by the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Such an Act would be democratic – it would give to Parliament, elected from 46 million of us, rather than a Prime Minister elected from 160,000, the final say on what to do. By changing the default it would give effect to the numerous occasions on which our supreme Parliament has ruled out No Deal. It would put an end to cunning plans to thwart the intention of Parliament as expressed in the Benn Act. It would incentivise both the Prime Minister and the EU to negotiate to avoid the risks each fears. And it would remove any incentive the Prime Minister may have further to prorogue Parliament.
And it would get Brexit done – one way or another – by 31 October. For there is much else to do.
Note: A rather lengthy version of such a Bill, drafted by Helen Mountfield QC, can be seen here. It would not be difficult to draft a shorter version occupying only a single page.