Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Yvette Cooper’

Whitehall Farce

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 4th April, 2019

Dry RotThe chamber of the House of Commons was evacuated today as water started pouring in from the ceiling. The Palace of Westminster is literally falling apart, which is a brutally apt metaphor for the current political chaos. Meanwhile, in the House of Lords, arch-Brexiteers repeatedly tried to filibuster the bill put forward in the Commons by Yvette Cooper, aimed at avoiding a No Deal crash-our from the European Union. One noteworthy contribution in the Lords debate came from Viscount Ridley — one of the remaining hereditary peers — who referred to MPs as a “despotic majority”. You couldn’t make it up. Or on the other hand, maybe someone could. I am inevitably put in mind of the Whitehall Farces staged by Brian Rix at the Whitehall Theatre in London’s West End in the 1950s and 1960s — five in all, including Dry Rot and One for the Pot. Well, now there is a sixth, called Brexit, and it is taking place not only on the parliamentary stage of Westminster but also on TV and right across the whole gamut of media, old and new. I hear the cries of those who plead, “Oh, please just make it stop!” But whatever the outcome of the next few days, or the antics of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, this is a show that is likely to run and run. If some sort of Brexit deal is passed, there will then be years of haggling with the EU about the future relationship. And if by some miracle Brexit is cancelled, perhaps by revoking Article50, the increasingly tetchy public discourse will probably only intensify. Perhaps the only way to bring the curtain down is to have another referendum, the so-called People”s Vote, with everyone agreeing to abide by the outcome. Then the doors can be shut and everyone told to go home.

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Brexit Briefing

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 24th January, 2019

sarah ludford and william wallaceLast night I was at the Liberal Democrats’ national headquarters for a briefing on Brexit organised by Southwark LibDems and addressed by three of the key party spokespeople in the House of Lords, Dick Newby, William Wallace and Sarah Ludford. Though only the House of Commons has the necessary clout to stop Brexit or significantly alter Theresa May’s “deal”, the Lords have been keeping the whole sorry Brexit saga under intense scrutiny and have been able to draw on the expertise of members with considerable knowledge on the subject, from the architect of Article50, John Kerr, to the former European Commissioner, Chris Patten. Sarah said there had been a noticeable shift in the attitude of many Conservative peers as the full complexity of disentangling the UK from 45 years of economic integration with Europe has become clearer.

dick newbyThe LibDem Lords team work closely with the Party’s MPs, especially Tom Brake, who is the national Brexit spokesperson. Next Tuesday is going to be a very important moment as the Commons will vote on amendments and motions including one from Yvette Cooper and Nick Boles which would, if passed, recommend extending Article 50 till the end of the year. That would in principle give time for any new approach to the Brexit impasse — for example, backing for a Norway-style deal (in which the UK would remain in the single market but have no say in formulating EU rules) or organising a fresh referendum, with an option to Remain. The three peers felt that at the moment there is probably not a clear majority in the House of Commons for what has been dubbed a People’s Vote, but more MPs and even Cabinet Ministers are warming to the idea. If Article 50 were to be extended beyond 2 July — the opening of the new European Parliament — then of course Britain would probably have to organise European elections in May, which would be both a challenge and an opportunity. Dick Newby told me that he thought no real contingency plans for that are in place within government institutions, but watch this space.

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