The Divided Kingdom

From BBC News:

Tory rebels and opposition MPs have defeated the government in the first stage of their attempt to pass a law designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

mr. wong detective boris johnson

Original DVD cover

The Commons voted 328 to 301 to take control of the agenda, meaning they can bring forward a bill seeking to delay the UK’s exit date.

In response, Boris Johnson said he would bring forward a motion for an early general election.

Jeremy Corbyn said the bill should be passed before an election was held.

In total, 21 Tory MPs, including a number of ex-cabinet ministers, joined opposition parties to defeat the government.

After the vote, Downing Street said those Tory MPs who rebelled would have the whip removed, effectively expelling them from the parliamentary party.


The longest-serving of the Tory rebels, ex-chancellor Ken Clarke, told BBC Newsnight he was still “a mainstream Conservative” but he didn’t recognise his party any more.

Boy, does that sound familiar!!


The United Kingdom’s House of Commons has usurped government control of Parliament.

It’s an unprecedented step — achieved with a dramatic vote Tuesday night — that could have far-reaching ramifications for the country’s future.

The immediate goal is to stop British Prime Minister Boris Johnson from taking the country out of the European Union at the end of October without a formal deal to manage that departure — something he has repeatedly threatened to do. But the effects of the thunderous vote could be heard for years to come.


The vote means the embattled British prime minister could become the shortest-serving tenant of No. 10 Downing Street since the office was created in 1721.

His term might be measured in Scaramuccis.

Traditionally, when a British prime ministers lose their ability to win votes in Parliament, they are ejected via a vote of no confidence — or they call for an early election to decide their fate.

Johnson’s preference is for an election on Oct. 14, hoping that his Conservative Party will gain seats in the House of Commons and give him more backing for his preferred approach to Brexit.

Calling an election would be a big risk, though. It would essentially amount to a second referendum on Brexit in all but name and serve as a first referendum on Johnson. The previous prime minister, Theresa May, called an early election in 2017, only to have it misfire, leaving her with a wafer-thin majority.

I read that Theresa May couldn’t wipe the smile off her face as she left the House of Commons today.

Parliament could also attempt to remove Johnson without turning to the voters — via a vote of no confidence. But because Johnson succeeded in getting the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks starting on Sept. 9, there’s likely no time for Johnson’s Parliamentary opponents to pull off that maneuver.


Will Brexit be delayed? That depends on whether there’s an election and how far Johnson is willing to push constitutional norms. With no written constitution, Britain is on shaky ground here.

Johnson has said Britain is leaving the EU on Oct. 31, regardless of what Parliament says. If he sticks to that line of defying Parliament and avoids an October election, the Queen is likely the only person who could stop Johnson.


In an October election, the three choices for voters would be: back Johnson’s Brexit-by-any-means policy, elect a Labour-led government that would pursue a managed Brexit, and enter the uncharted territory of a minority government led by a pro-EU party such as the third-placed Liberal Democrats.

Can Brexit be stopped? Probably not.

Opinion polls show the country to be as divided as it was in 2016 on Brexit.


The long-term effects of this week’s debate could be significant. It’s now clear Johnson will be unable to unite his country, even if he can hang on and find a way to deliver Brexit.

Johnson’s government now has a choice between fomenting a constitutional crisis — if the government ignores Parliament — or managing a policy crisis — given Parliament is on track to overturn the government’s key policy in a second critical vote Wednesday.


While protesters have reached for extreme daily slogans like “Stop the coup,” there are plenty of other sharp realities at hand that require no exaggeration.

The Scottish government, which has similar powers to the state government in the United States, is pushing for a referendum on leaving the U.K. London, a bastion of pro-EU support, is splintering further from the rest of the country. And the inability to avoid recreating a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is threatening to destabilize a peace agreement reached more than 20 years ago.

In other words, the longest-term effect of Brexit could be the breakup of the United Kingdom.


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9 responses to “The Divided Kingdom

  1. I think there is still a chance that a no-deal Brexit can be stopped. Johnson just booted a significant number of anti-no-deal rebels out of his own party, and a shaky alliance to stop a no deal has formed. I expect they’ll get a bill through the Commons. The trick will be pushing it through the House of Lords in time.

    If there’s a new election, the crucial question will be whether Labour and the Lib Dems can avoid competing with each other for votes, opening the way for the Tories, and whether the Brexit Party goes up against the Conservatives, opening the way for Labour and the Lib Dems.

    If we don’t hold a new referendum, we’re all crazy.

    We’re all crazy anyway.

    Forgive me if I link to my own blog, but I just posted an update on the same subject:

  2. singe

    I read this somewhere else but I stole it because when one finds something about the universe that is so true that there are multiple examples of it from two different sides of a really big ocean….”never elect a guy with really weird hair”…one has discovered a veritable Rosetta Stone.

  3. The enemies of democracy and independence will stop at nothing to thwart the will of the people by stopping Brexit or at least delaying it again. It’s over three years now since the people voted to leave the monstrously corrupt and anti-democratic European Union, and the government has been screwing around for all that time, accomplishing nothing, and the country is no closer to independence, because the Conservative party establishment deep down is just as pro-EU is the rest of the elite.

    (Note that the leave side won the referendum by a margin of 4%, twice as large relatively as Hillary’s victory in the popular vote here. It was and remains a clear mandate.)

    The vindictive and arrogant oligarchy that rules the EU has never been willing to negotiate in good faith. There is no reason to think that further delay will accomplish anything. Holding another referendum would just mean going along with another old EU scam — “any referendum result we don’t like doesn’t count — keep voting until you give is the result we want.” The people have spoken.

    That being said, according to most current surveys, a new election now would result in a substantially increased Conservative majority, so that might be the best option for getting the job done. I don’t trust the Conservative party as a whole, but at least they would understand that their win was a mandate for independence. At this point the only priority should be to get out of the EU, details be damned. Yes, there would be some economic disruption for a while, but regaining independence is worth paying some price for. If we were talking about a former colony breaking away from a European empire, or Estonia or Lithuania breaking away from the USSR in 1989, everyone would understand this. It’s the same principle.

  4. PS: I’ve posted about this issue here and here, since there seems to be so little knowledge about it on the American left that people are left making silly analogies on the basis of things like a superficial physical resemblance between Johnson and Trump (Johnson’s record as Mayor of London shows him to be a fairly typical mainstream conservative).

    If the US was subject to an organization like the EU, I assure you Americans would have voted ourselves out of it years ago.

    • Thanks for the comments, Infidel. I remember there were a lot of people who regretted their Brexit votes, and I believe the polls go up and down on the subject. I’ve been trying to educate myself, and I’ve read about some of the pros and cons. Anecdotally, I became “friends” with a lady on Facebook who lives in the UK and spends much of the year in Turkey. When she talks about Brexit and her support for it, it is always accompanied by a stream of anti-Muslim and xenophobic rhetoric. I would have unfriended her, but I find the comments that follow her posts interesting (and she does tell some pretty funny stories about her husband). Some of her friends pile on with the xenophobia and the lamenting of all the jobs they think have been taken away from them, while other comments disagree with her vehemently and are against Brexit. Here’s one of the sites I visited to try to figure out what is going on:
      Just like everything in politics and in life in general, the solution has to be a balance. I tend to think that Brexit is a bad idea. I also think that Boris Johnson is a buffoonish character, and he doesn’t instill confidence. If you go to Ellen’s link in her comment above, she points out he’s done some underhanded shit. Yes, all politicians do underhanded shit, but he’s got a rather heavy hand. I think a leader has to have more finesse than Boris if they want to persuade people that his position is the correct one and that he can lead and unify them.

  5. After two world wars and the invention of weapons of mass destruction, the wisest heads in the world decided that a global economy was preferable to bloody destruction, hence the creation of broad trade agreements and the United Nations. However, nationalism, bigotry and xenophobia are not so easily overcome. Those who died in the conflicts are no longer present to argue the case for messy bargaining as opposed to balkanization and bloodshed. Those who will not learn from history, or in our case, those who never really understood it, are repeating it.