The Corner


Brexit in Peril

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson inside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, September 3, 2019. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/Reuters)

From inception, the Boris Johnson premiership meant high risk and high reward — both for the country and for Brexit. The intensity and imminence of that risk have never been greater.

Due to the defection of Phillip Lee, the Tories no longer have a parliamentary majority. Lee summarized how other Tory rebels are feeling in his public statement:

This Conservative Government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways. It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom.

At nine p.m. GMT tonight (five p.m. ET), MPs will vote on whether or not Parliament can take back control of the Brexit process from the government, thus blocking a no-deal Brexit on October 31st. If that happens, Johnson has said that he will immediately push for a general election. His only real option.

This is high risk, clearly. As for the “high reward” — well, under the terms laid out in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, Johnson requires two-thirds of MPs to agree to a general election. Of course Parliamentarians, depending on which party they belong to and their particular pro-Brexit or anti-Brexit strategy, are divided over this prospect. But let’s assume they green light an election. What then? Would it be before or after the Brexit date on October 31? Knowing his audience, Johnson has assured MPs that it would be on October 14, the day of the Queen’s speech. But might this be an elaborate ruse?

Moreover, what if Labour MPs then find a way to pass a law blocking no-deal prior to the election? In such a scenario, Robert Peston, the ITV news political editor, has explained:

Johnson would [then] have to cancel the election – because if he were to lead his party into an immediate general election with Brexit delayed, the Tories would probably be smashed to pieces by the Brexit Party.

More and more, the situation resembles the story of the Three Little Pigs.

Little pigs, little pigs, let no-deal Brexit in! cry Johnson and co.

Not by the hairs on our chinny chin chins! replies Parliament.

Well then, we’ll huff, and we’ll puff, and we’ll blow this House in! 

Who, then, shall stand in the winds that blow?

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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