Commons Speaker, John Bercow risked becoming Britain’s latest ‘saboteur’, last week. At least, that’s what the Brexit cheerleaders would have you believe. The Chancellor Philip Hammond was labelled as such for daring to highlight the challenges of Brexit, and Bercow caused outcry when he suggested that MPs could vote against any Brexit deal. He said it’s “opinion, rather than a constitutional fact” that MPs must vote in favour of a deal owing to the referendum result. And you know what? He’s right.
The main slogan of the Leave campaign was “Take Back Control”. Apparently we needed our borders back, our NHS back, and most importantly, our parliamentary sovereignty back. For too long Brussels had ruled over us. MPs had become minions of the EU. It was time to put the power back into Parliament, to leap into a new Golden Age under a reinvigorated parliamentary democracy. ‘Vote Leave’, ‘we want our sovereignty!’ they cried. But that’s not what they want. Not really.
The problem with referendums is that simple questions are asked about horribly complex issues. We voted to leave the EU, but we didn’t vote on how we should leave. Few people knew about Article 50 or Brexit bills as they cast their vote. Parliament’s job is to debate that for us. MPs exist to represent their constituents, and any deal should be scrutinised to ensure it would benefit British people. It should go through the usual process of law, with parliamentary committees picking it apart until it reaches MPs as a chiselled masterpiece.
Wait, MPs debating a bill? No! Let a handful of Tories negotiate the deal and make MPs blindly vote it through! This is the paradox of the Brexiteers. The people who voted for control don’t want parliamentary control. In fact, any time someone speaks up in favour of parliamentary sovereignty, such as Bercow, those Brexit cheerleaders rise up in a worryingly unstable pyramid, deeming them traitors, enemies of the people, and dictators. Woe-betide anyone who tries to debate the Brexit bill in Parliament. ‘Oh no, we can’t have that,’ muse the Brexit bullies.
Uncertainty is crushing Britain. The exchange rates are laughable, the government is a mess, and Boris is still peddling the £350million-a-week claim. When John Bercow said that if MPs feel the Brexit deal isn’t good enough they have the right to vote against it, he wasn’t going against the will of the people. He was defending Britain’s parliamentary sovereignty. He was defending our democracy. Brexiteers say that’s what they want too – but not, it seems, when it gets in the way of what they really desire.