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7:51am on Thursday, 4th April, 2019:

Shake it All About


Yesterday, the House of Commons managed in a single day to pass a law which will prevent the UK from leaving the EU without a departure deal. It still has to be approved by the House of Lords, but its passage there is likely to be just as speedy. The Queen could in theory refuse to give Royal Assent, but if she was going to interfere in this process at all she would surely have done so earlier.

This action means that future governments will be able to call on precedent to pass whatever laws they want in a single day, with completely inadequate debate. If the House of Lords causes a fuss, then the House of Commons can overrule it also in a day. I am aghast at what's just happened.

The trouble with passing laws quickly is that they're never thought through. We saw this with the Dangerous Dogs Act, which was rushed through Parliament as a knee-jerk reaction and was riddled with problems. Populist laws named after people ("so-and-so's law") tend to have this feature too. Yesterday's law is an example of the problems of haste, writ large.

In this particular case, the EU has effectively been told that the UK has to accept whatever deal the EU puts on the table; either that, or it doesn't leave the EU at all. This means that when Theresa May goes to the EU next week, the EU can say: we grant the EU an indefinite extension, but at a cost of a billion euros a week. This is doing damage to our economies and we want ongoing compensation. You have to pay because you've just made it law that any deal is better than no deal. Come back when you've decided either to accept May's deal or not to leave at all.

This scenario would have been obvious had there been more debate, but there wasn't. To wriggle out of it, the UK would have to repeal yesterday's law, which would mean the House of Lords would have to agree. As the House of Lords is even more Remain than is the House of Commons, it wouldn't agree and would have to be overruled. All this would take time and cost money — if indeed Parliament could agree to repeal the new law in the first place. The EU would merely have to sit back and wait until the cost of faffing around became so great that either their deal was accepted or the UK rescinded Article 50.

This is what happens when you don't have game designers as MPs. Let's hope the EU doesn't have any game designers advising any of its leaders.

Purely from the point of view of a spectator, though, I do wish that the vote yesterday had been a tie. I'd have liked to have seen how the Speaker would have used his casting vote.

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Copyright © 2019 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).