On the failure of Westminster │ Kurtis Prosser
The above famous piece of art – by street artist Banksy – is circulated widely on social media, showing the floor of the House of Commons, the benches filled on either side, not with MPs but chimps. In the current state we are in with Brexit, you would be forgiven if you thought that is what it is really like in the corridors of power.
In an ideal world, we would currently be wrapping up the negotiations around our Withdrawal Agreement, preparing for the next stage of negotiations around the future relationship with the EU, and preparing to enter into a new chapter in our history.
Sadly, we are not close to any of those things. In fact, we are currently in a downward, never-ending, spiral of speculation, disagreement, and dismay at the current state of the debate that still surrounds Brexit. We have seen the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement come to Parliament twice, be defeated twice, and on both occasions suffering crushing defeats at the hands of Parliament.
Following on from this, we then had to bear witness to Mrs. May trying to force through legislation to make the deal more palatable, yet these failed spectacularly, and we are now faced with more uncertainty regarding our political standing than ever. And it begs the question, who is to blame for this unmitigated dumpster fire we now find ourselves attempting to put out?
Well, the first port of call is obviously the Prime Minister herself. Her deal can be ripped open, examined and critiqued in nine ways from Sunday, and it certainly has done little to quell the uncertainty around Brexit, nor to draw together the nation that seems to be in a perpetual state of division. Moreover, we have the inability of Mrs. May to realise the concerns of MPs and, even with her most sincere intentions to listen to them, she has failed time and again to do anything to help.
But the buck does not stop with the PM. She is but a cog in the Westminster Parliamentary machine and this, I believe, is where the problem lies. Since the PM brought back her negotiated Withdrawal Agreement in the final months of last year, there has been a constant flow of criticism from all sides of the House of Commons; from those who say it doesn’t actually deliver Brexit, and from those who believe it is a bad deal, negotiated by a Conservative and thus will be the worst deal imaginable anyway.
However, whilst the opposition to the deal is mostly well justified, and MPs on both government and opposition benches do provide justifiable opposition to the deal, the current deadlock that we now face is a monster of Members’ own creation. Whilst there may be a perfectly good reason to oppose the passing of the deal through Parliament the first time, the current gridlock is something that should not be happening.
We are now at one thousand and one days since the vote and we aren’t really closer to any sort of deal or understanding than we were on the 24th June 2016. And quite frankly, the fact that some MPs who believe themselves to be Holier than Thou on this issue are as much of a problem to the progress of Brexit as the PM and her deal.
You see, it is easy to blame the Prime Minister for this mess, it is her deal after all. However, we have seen even the staunchest opponents of the deal climb down their ladders and back the deal in the second Meaningful Vote. Much of the responsibility of the failure to pass the Withdrawal Agreement through parliament falls at the feet of those who refuse to do what is best and get on with trying to make a success of what is largely, and rightly, considered to be a pig of a situation.
The Prime Ministers deal is not perfect, far from it, but at the current point in time, there is neither the time nor the want to have to renegotiate a brand-new deal. This only leaves three options for Parliament to vote on. First, you have the deal currently on offer, not the best, but it’s all we have. Secondly, you have the prospect of ‘no deal’ which, depending on who you ask, will either make the country filthy stinking rich or it will signal economic evisceration for some time to come. Thirdly, and finally, you have the prospect of no Brexit whatsoever, and whilst you may have some on the benches of Parliament wanting that, to renege on the promise made to the British people of delivering Brexit would be a fatal and potentially everlasting blow to faith in Democracy in Britain as we know it.
It almost seems as though the decision is clear cut, and with the EU repeatedly reiterating the message that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be re-opened under any circumstances, then the choice is really being made for MPs by those in Brussels. You can either back the deal, however much you dislike it and make a success of a terrible situation, or you can either back no deal or no Brexit, both of which have unknown consequences both for the economy and for social cohesion respectively.
But for some reason, MPs have refused to commit to the first option, but most of them have also refused to commit to backing the second or third options. Therefore, despite some MPs having the most sincere objections and reasons for not voting the first time around, Members should seriously consider the potential impacts of not backing May’s deal in the next vote. If they do not, then it is a clear failure of the Westminster system, and risks irreparable damage for years to come.