BORIS JOHNSON’S planned suspension of Parliament has produced much anger and mobilisation, on the grounds that it is an attack on democracy.
And it is true that, if he gets away with this, he is unlikely to stop there.
As Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon wrote in yesterday’s Morning Star, Johnson wants “to impose an even more neoliberal economic model on the backs of the majority.”
And in Manchester, Jeremy Corbyn accused Johnson of being ready to “dance to the tune” of Donald Trump to get a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
However, it needs to be recognised that the prorogation, though done for Johnson’s own ends, was made possible by the anti-democratic action of the majority of MPs over the last three years in frustrating the outcome of the 2016 referendum.
There is an element of what Naomi Klein called the “shock doctrine” in the prorogation, the threats against Tory rebels and the launch of the government’s “Get Ready for Brexit” campaign.
They are intended to create a momentum that is unstoppable and to signal that anyone who stands in the way of Britain leaving the EU on October 31 will be pushed aside. That applies just as much to EU negotiators as to domestic opponents.
Johnson says that the “anti-no-deal” brigade are undermining his chances of getting concessions from the EU, in particular over the Irish backstop. But it is by no means clear that his strategy will work.
The parliamentary arithmetic is such that Tory rebels could join with Labour in the Commons this week, to seize control of the agenda and force through a Bill mandating a further delay to Brexit.
And as far as EU negotiators are concerned, their chief, Michel Barnier, has refused to move on the backstop, saying that is “the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.”
The EU’s position is that part or all of the UK must remain in the EU’s customs union, which of course negates the referendum result.
However, so far Britain has tabled no new proposals to the backstop, which questions whether Johnson really wants an agreement.
The recent proposal of “dual autonomy,” from two non-British academics and former EU civil servant Sir Jonathan Faull, merits consideration.
Here, rather than border customs checks, the UK and Ireland assume responsibility for policing their own exporters, with the knowing export of goods non-compliant with regulations in the other’s territory being made a criminal offence.
The Morning Star believes that the referendum result should be respected, and Britain should leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.
However, in the latter case, there will certainly be problems, particularly over the supply of fresh food and medicines, despite Michael Gove’s claims to the contrary.
Half of Britain’s food is imported, and 30 per cent of that comes from the EU, plus another 11 per cent from non-EU countries as part of EU trade agreements. If there is no deal, then tariffs and delays will result.
Food and drink manufacturers are facing difficulty in securing additional frozen and warehousing space in November, as that space has already been booked for Christmas supplies.
This issue could be resolved if the big corporations were forced to co-operate instead of compete.
Labour should demand that the government take urgent steps to ensure supplies and avoid price rises.
However, Labour’s position of blocking a no-deal Brexit risks Johnson sacking the Tory rebels and calling a general election on his terms, where he will paint Labour as an anti-democratic, referendum-cancelling party.
Corbyn is correct to reject Tony Blair’s advice against forcing an election now, but Labour will need to make clear that it respects the referendum outcome.
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