The prime minister wants to break the Brexit treaty with the EU – a fall from man, because so far you could rely on the word of the British. Parliament must stop the head of government.
Johnson’s maneuver is a threat to democracy
There is no written constitution in the land of Magna Carta, but one principle is firmly anchored in British law: the government must obey the law. Just two years ago, the Court of Appeal confirmed that this obligation includes international law. Normally there is no need to remind, but what happened in London that week is just not normal. With his plan to break the Brexit treaty with the EU, Boris Johnson shook the foundations of British democracy.
The Prime Minister is attacking a principle that is one of the pillars of the UK: the rule of law. Johnson’s plan to break international law is a cultural breach. Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major has rightly pointed out that Britain is in the process of “losing something irrevocably priceless”. The word of the British, their signing of treaties or agreements, was always sacrosanct. But Johnson, who otherwise likes to uphold tradition and history in his speeches, is unimpressed.
Once again it is evident that this prime minister is bending the law for his own purposes. He puts his Brexit ideology above the law, just as he did a year ago when he sent parliament on compulsory leave. Only the Supreme Court stopped Johnson. The court found: the prime minister acted illegally. Now it’s up to Parliament to stop Johnson. The lower house and upper house must show the government who the sovereign is. It is incumbent on the women and men gathered there to reject the draft law intended to undermine the Brexit treaty.
Many Tories are afraid of being considered traitors
It is uncertain whether this will succeed in the House of Commons. Johnson’s Conservative Party has a majority of 80 votes. A good 30 MPs are currently rehearsing the uprising. This is too little. One reason for the despondency of many Tories is the fear of being labeled a “Remainer” by Johnson – as traitors who do not accept the people’s will to Brexit. And so they hesitate to speak out against the prime minister. It’s shameful, but that’s the state of a party that pretends to stand for law and order.
The situation in the House of Lords is different. There are those who don’t have much to lose politically. You can allow yourself not only to express your conviction in a powerful way, but also to act on it. Lord Lamont may be right in his assessment that this bill will not get through the House of Lords like this. The former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer is a Brexiteer, but he has what many of his party friends have lost: a political compass that shows what is right and wrong.
It looks like Labor leader Keir Starmer is still in the process of finding his own. Both Prime Minister’s Questions he did not ask Johnson a single question about the planned violation of the law. For domestic political reasons, he preferred to castigate the government’s corona policy. That too is important, but in doing so he played down Johnson’s attack on the rule of law. He should have branded the prime minister’s maneuver for what it is: a threat to democracy.