There’s a hidden truth behind the snap election – we must be suspicious | Liam O’Dell

After nearly three weeks since the triggering of Article 50, the Tories have finally spat out the Brexit pill which no party wants to swallow. A snap election on June 8 will continue to create more uncertainty that Theresa May promised to end.

Photo: Number 10 on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

“At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division.

“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” the Prime Minister said in a speech earlier today.

We must be suspicious. An arrogant Conservative Party determined to defy the rulings of judges and Lords to pass the Brexit Bill has once again resorted to Cameron’s levels of cowardice. Voters will remember that, but they must question the true reason for calling the election.

The immediate presumption would be that it is an attempt to decimate Labour, but that is questionable. It seems too great a risk for May to sacrifice the Tory majority (and a supposed lack of opposition on Brexit from Corbyn) to ‘kill’ the left-wing party. If the PM expects to win back a majority in June, then she is forgetting that a general election has become more than a Labour vs. Conservative battle.

A call for a snap election is – of course – a gamble, and it’s one May appears to have taken due to the disunity in other parties (according to her speech, at least).

With Labour’s in-fighting continuing to bubble every once in a while, the SNP tackling their own referendum and the Lib Dem’s membership slowly rising, it seems as though May is aiming for a wipeout whilst building upon her majority. But when has disunity within other parties ever hindered the Tories’ Brexit plans? If anything, it’s almost given May a ‘carte blanche’ to do her thing without any real scrutiny.

It’s even more confusing when the Conservatives have always been arrogant and stubborn when enforcing policies. To gamble their majority for the sake of silencing other parties, or getting them to support their plan, seems unfathomable.

So what is the explanation for the snap election? My friend Jarrad Johnson raises an interesting point, saying on Twitter that “someone or something has forced May’s hands behind the scenes.”

It’s an interesting comment when we look back at the past. The last time we had a vote between the typical five-year period was, of course, the 2016 EU referendum. On that occasion, it was believed that this was to end the internal conflict within the Tory party about whether we should leave the European Union. Now, as we face another surprise election before the end of the usual five-year term, we have to consider whether the same arguments are occurring once more.

The Tories must end the blackmail and secure the rights of EU nationals | The Friday Article

There’s a dangerous indignation sweeping the right. Donald Trump’s war against the media is an annoying distraction from his ‘Make America Great Again’ mantra, and in the UK, the judiciary and legislature continue to frustrate Theresa May’s Article 50 deadline.

The House of Lords voted to add a new amendment to the Brexit bill this week - protecting the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. Photo: Liam O'Dell.
The House of Lords voted to add a new amendment to the Brexit bill this week – protecting the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. Photo: Liam O’Dell.

This week, it was the House of Lords’ amendment to the Brexit bill to secure the rights of EU nationals living in Britain. It comes just over a month after the High Court ruled Parliament must have a say on the legislation, and the PM isn’t happy. The government has said that it will try to overturn the amendments.

“Our message to MPs is that we expect this bill to go through unamended,” a No. 10 spokesman said in an article on Sky News’ website. “MPs voted it through unamended and we expect that to be the case.”

Indeed they did, but the two arms of Parliament must agree in order for a bill to be passed. A constant ‘ping pong’ between the two houses until a deal is made would only highlight the pure indignation of the Tories. They must stop this childish attitude of refusing compromise on such an important issue. Their fight against the decision of the judiciary was alarming, and now their reluctance to protect the rights of EU nationals living in the UK is hypocritical.

“We will provide certainty wherever we can,” Theresa May said in a speech at Lancaster House in January. “There will have to be compromises. It will require imagination on both sides, and not everybody will be able to know everything at every stage.

“But I recognise how important it is to provide […] everybody with as much certainty as possible as we move through the process. So where we can offer that certainty, we will do so.”

If anything, the issue with the Lords continues to cast doubt over the whole Brexit dilemma. The above comments contradict what the Conservatives are planning to achieve at the moment. If the Tory government can’t even reach a compromise with the House of Lords, then how on earth can they compromise with the EU member states in Brussels? The worrying remark by the PM in the January speech that ‘no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain’ hardly provides certainty. It sounds like a game of blackmail with the EU – a sense of hostility which we do not need at a time when the UK is so delicate.

It’s no surprise that EU nationals living in Britain feel like bargaining chips. The government has explained that it wants the rights of Britons living in other EU countries guaranteed before it can promise that the rights of EU nationals living here will be protected. Aside from the ‘putting our own people first’ connotations that creates, what happens in the unlikely circumstance that the European Union cannot guarantee the rights of ex-pats? Will the ‘no deal’ rule still apply, and we would start deporting EU nationals living here?

As Lady Molly Meacher said to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I believe it [the amendment] can be won in the Commons on the basis of morality and principle” – to fail to guarantee the rights of EU nationals would be a dismissive action at a time when the definition of ‘Britishness’ is under scrutiny.

The Tories must of course keep some cards close to their chest, but the dangerous levels of blackmail which the Conservatives plan to adopt in Brussels – with EU nationals as a ‘bargaining chip’ – is an arrogant way to approach negotiations. It also contrasts the sweet-talking of Trump and the state visit invitation – why must we treat a divisive President with respect yet approach the EU with hostility?

To ‘cherrypick’ and blackmail our way to a deal will only decrease our chances of getting what we want, and could effect the strong relationships with other European countries that a post-Brexit Britain desperately needs.

The High Court’s ruling on Brexit: When democracy and constitution collide | The Friday Article

Brexit is a political enigma. Whilst Theresa May continues to scratch her head at what it could possibly mean – apart from the very helpful ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – the British public’s vote to leave the European Union has caused an economic crisis (until a recent decision saw it increase dramatically) and now, a constitutional one as well.

The High Court said the government must consult Parliament on the triggering of Article 50. Photo: James Cridland on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode.
The High Court said the government must consult Parliament on the triggering of Article 50. Photo: James Cridland on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode.

What is democracy? It’s a question with a sense of political existentialism which can only come around after such an important vote. The winning ‘leave’ vote was democracy in action, but now a ruling by the High Court has thrown up this question once again. Is it a decision which undermines the voice of the people, or is it a constitutional necessity? Now is a time when constitution and democracy collides.

The EU Referendum was nothing more than an advisory vote. Constitutionally, legally binding decisions come from Parliament and not the British people. MPs do that job for us and on this occasion, a little blip in the writing of the European Union Referendum Act 2015 means that the view of the public may be ignored in order to make a decision which is encased in law. Whilst making the ‘leave’ vote legal would do a good job of ending some aspects of the debate and add another big string to the government’s bow, the big concern lies with MPs: will they represent the view of their constituency, stick to the party line or vote based on their own opinions?

Keen to get to work on leaving the European Union and ‘make a success out of Brexit’, Theresa May and the rest of her cabinet seem to have shut themselves off from Parliament when it comes to triggering Article 50 and the negotiations that follow. Although the Prime Minister’s point about not having ‘a running commentary’ about the government’s plans is valid, having a political party make such a big national decision without criticism, commentary or accountability through Parliament sounds awfully familiar. In particular, it’s arguments you heard from the ‘leave’ side about the European Union. Oh, the irony.

If MPs do get to vote on triggering Article 50, then they should reproduce a result identical to June’s vote – to do the opposite would undermine the democratic element of Parliament. A decision as big as Brexit needs cross-party involvement. An early general election may not be at the forefront of the debate for now, but it is still on the horizon (worryingly for Labour). Although this would be great for allowing the public to choose their preferred avenue out of the EU – be it hard Brexit or soft Brexit – the Conservatives seem so keen to do the job all by themselves. Therefore, the involvement from other parties must come from criticising the government’s decisions on a regular basis.

Will politicians honour the result of the referendum if an Article 50 vote goes to Parliament? Of course, that’s uncertain, but it’s likely the Conservatives will vote to formally leave the EU to respect the view of British people (a stance they’ll promote like crazy under Theresa May’s ‘working for the majority, not the privileged few’ slogan). Meanwhile, the SNP – a thorn in the Tories’ side ever since the vote, after Scotland voted remain – are likely to oppose the triggering of Article 50. The Liberal Democrats, with leader Tim Farron keen to encourage more scrutiny of May’s Brexit decisions, will probably vote against it as well (the party opposed Brexit). As for Labour, it’s a question of whether the party is able to group together under Corbyn’s leadership to vote ‘no’ to the vote. In the most dramatic and undemocratic of u-turns, MPs could vote against Article 50, we’ll rejoin the EU and the months of crises will just serve as a haunting reminder of the right mess that the UK can get itself into. It’s a long shot, but let’s be honest, Brexit has taught us that anything could happen.

After the High Court’s ruling, what you have are numerous battles. People versus bureaucracy, government versus Parliament, democracy versus constitution. Members of Parliament are there to represent us, but if we’ve already had our say on a particular issue, are they required to do it again on this occasion?

A key element of democracy is accepting the result of a vote, but with the government announcing that they will appeal to the Supreme Court, the question of what decision is being made remains unknown, six months later.