Euan McColm: Rage at rebels betrays panic of Brexiteers

The violent denunciation of fellow MPs who stand up for democracy is the surest sign yet that disaster awaits when we leave the EU, says Euan McColm
Dominic Grieve, who tabled the amendment, has contacted police about threats made to him concerning the vote. Picture: Justin Tallis/GettyDominic Grieve, who tabled the amendment, has contacted police about threats made to him concerning the vote. Picture: Justin Tallis/Getty
Dominic Grieve, who tabled the amendment, has contacted police about threats made to him concerning the vote. Picture: Justin Tallis/Getty

Surely Brexiteers should have been delighted. This was, after all, exactly the sort of thing most of them insist drives their desire for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

If the “sovereignty” of parliament truly matters to the people who loudly proclaim that it does, then the 11 Tory rebels who joined with opposition MPs to force the Government to agree that the House of Commons will have a final say on whatever Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May is able to cobble together should be their new heroes.

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Instead, assorted Tory MPs, Ukip monomaniacs, right-wing newspapers, and internet fury chimps collectively made it clear that they considered the 11 – including former secretaries of state Ken Clarke and Nicky Morgan – to be traitors. The Daily Mail demanded, on its front page, to know whether the rebels were proud of themselves (correct answer: yes). Nadine Dorries MP, a Chris Morrisian nightmare-made-flesh, demanded that the rebels be deselected and banned from ever again standing under the Conservative banner.

And then the death threats started. Former attorney general Dominic Grieve – whose amendment led to the government’s defeat – called in police over threats he received in the aftermath of the parliamentary vote, while his colleague, Anna Soubry, revealed that, she too, had become a victim.

In the twisted minds of angry Brexiteers the insistence by these 11 Tory MPs that parliamentary democracy must be sustained and respected represents nothing less than insurrection.

It would be disingenuous to claim that I find this dissonance at all baffling.

In the year and a half since a charabanc full of hucksters persuaded a narrow majority of UK voters to support Brexit, it has become increasingly clear that those who shouted loudest in support of the Leave campaign haven’t the faintest idea how to deliver on their promises. Brexit was sold by the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson as not only an instant fix to whatever irks you but as something that could be expedited briskly.

You will, I’ve no doubt, recall how Europe would be ready to offer a great deal to the UK and how nations around the world would be queuing up to sign remarkable trading agreements that would usher in a new era of success.

Well, it turns out that was all irredeemable bollocks. It is not currently the Christmas season only for Christians but also for those of us who enjoy saying, “I told you so.”

And it’s because their case was a concoction of lies, smears, and distortions that the Brexiteers are now so very angry about the prospect of parliamentary scrutiny.

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While the government spins wildly about the Prime Minister’s progress to the “next stage” of Brexit negotiations (which could collapse in an instant) it’s evident that the UK doesn’t have many cards to play.

Zealots like Tory MEP Daniel Hannan and former Labour MP Gisela Stuart who painted pictures of a post-Brexit Utopia are, every single day, being found out. With every announcement of cancelled investment, of jobs moving away from the UK, we see further evidence that the case for Brexit was based on the wishful thinking of people one would cross a motorway to avoid.

Brexiteers aren’t angry at the Tory rebels merely because they want the House of Commons to have a say, they are angry because they know their case doesn’t bear close examination. When Dorries shrieks about the deselection of colleagues, she distracts our attention from the fact that the very prospect of a “good” Brexit deal is laughable.

If one dares to point out that Brexit Secretary David Davis – like so many senior politicians, today, an idiot’s idea of a clever person – appears to be wildly out of his depth, one is blamed for the fact things aren’t going to plan. If only “Remoaners” would begin believing in Brexit then everything would be fine goes the line.

This is nonsense put about by stupid people. But nonsense is all the Brexiteers have.

Referendums (a reckless idea up there with cigarettes among the things I wish had never been invented) may – for a day – put power into the hands of the people but, after that, parliament must then take charge.

It is not treacherous to believe that the House of Commons should have a vote on the shape of the UK’s Brexit deal. In fact, if one believes the UK to be a democracy, it’s entirely patriotic.

Again, I lament the failure of the Labour Party to behave like a proper opposition when it comes to Brexit.

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Sure, Labour MPs played their part in the government’s defeat, but Jeremy Corbyn is a leader doing little more than going through the motions on matters related to the EU.

For this, we may blame his career-long Euroscepticism along with the fact that a great many traditional Labour voters in working class communities across England supported Brexit.

With their rebellion, those 11 Tory MPs showed ten times the stomach for the fight that Corbyn displays.

It is inconceivable that the EU will make major concessions to the UK without the UK making major concessions to the EU. If Britain is to get what might be considered a good deal, then we’d be looking at the softest of Brexits – an amiable separation rather then a bitter divorce. A conscious uncoupling, if you will.

But the Brexiteers don’t want that. They want all ties severed; if the cost of taking back full control over immigration is economic misery, so be it. If you want to examine that cost too closely, be prepared to be called an enemy of the people.

During last year’s referendum campaign, the Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by a man who shouted “Britain first” as he shot and stabbed her.

Those who are now trying to whip up the mob against the 11 Conservative MPs whose votes ensured our democracy is upheld should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. The rest of us should be grateful those rebels helped parliament take back control from the snake oil salesmen behind Brexit.