Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson
AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN

Through the “Church House Declaration” around 165 British MPs from across the parties have pledged to form alternative parliament in case the Prime Minister Boris Johnson goes ahead with his plan to prorogue the parliament in the event of his failing to make a no-deal Brexit happen.

The Cross-party declaration has described Johnson as a threat to the ‘very nature’ of British democracy. The Declaration termed shutting down of parliament as “an undemocratic outrage at such a crucial moment for our country, and a historic constitutional crisis”. It also said: “Any attempt to prevent parliament [from] sitting, to force through a no-deal Brexit, will be met by strong and widespread democratic resistance.”

Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National party in the House of Commons promised: “We will block what is nothing less than a coup.” While the British MPs have hardened their attitude, in a surprising development the EU politicians and leaders are ready to look at “realistic” proposals from Boris on the Irish backstop which according to their parameter has been the main obstacle to a Brexit deal.

Nevertheless some prominent leaders of the EU are quite optimist of Boris government’s chances of coming up with workable ideas. Johnson’s Europe envoy, David Frost, will be in Brussels this week for meetings as both sides strive to avoid a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. With Boris Johnson meeting Angela Merkel and Emmanuel in the wake of G7 summit, the EU is taking him more seriously as a dealmaker. Nevertheless the EU leaders are not sure of him bringing his party with him.

Significantly the diplomats are “not optimistic” of Boris delivering the desired result: “We haven’t seen anything from the UK yet and therefore there is nothing we can entertain.” There is a general feeling that even if Johnson comes up with proposals that have eluded the May government for the last three years, he has already run out of time to pass them through parliament.

The situation for Johnson has been made difficult by Jeremy Corbyn. Through his calm and sensible political move he has made the opposition and even Tory leaders to come together to foil Boris’s move. Interestingly at a meeting with opposition parties convened by the Labour leader, Corbyn assured MPs that Labour would not seek a premature vote of no confidence that might stymie legislative efforts to stop no deal. He held that holding a general election after an extension is achieved, is the simplest and most democratic way to prevent no deal and to let the people of this country decide our future.

Opponents of Boris are also planning to publish the damaging no-deal preparation documents to win public support. But in a sudden development majority of the Lib Dems, rebel Conservatives and former Tories including Nick Boles have opposed the idea of Corbyn taking over as temporary premier.

The political developments taking around Brexit make it absolutely explicit that the UK politics will change for ever. The process has already started. One thing is also evident that party loyalty is a thing of the past. Conservatives had faced some challenging situations earlier but this time it is faced with the worst crisis. Some Conservative leaders nurse the fear that party would face extinction if they delay Brexit. More or less Labour is faced with the same nature of political crisis. Other Labour members feel that Corbyn has not been able to handle the issue in a more prudent manner and for that the party has lost some ground in recent months. Even old friends of Corbyn have turned critics.

As the situation stands out, all the Labour MPs will not vote for Corbyn’s strategy. In such a backdrop he needs a large number of Tory rebels. And this undoubtedly is not going to happen unless they get something they want. One political implication ought to be analysed seriously is the forces that would join hands with Corbyn. He would form the temporary government on the terms of its most centrist supporters in the House. Corbyn cannot be expected to follow and practice his left politics and that is a big dilemma for the left leader.

--By Arun Srivastava (The writer is a freelance journalist. Views are personal. )

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