British parliamentarians go back centuries to the battle Brexit –

British Prime Minister Theresa May at the House of Commons on January 9, 2019.
British Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons, 9 January 2019. HO / AFP

Another day, another defeat for Theresa May on Brexit. The series of bankruptcies in Parliament, from Monday 7 January, in the debates on the exit agreement of the United Kingdom of the United Kingdom, is a bad omen his approval by the deputies, Tuesday, January 15th. Whatever the outcome of the vote, one thing is certain: to weigh in the parliamentary battle, elected officials use every means to overthrow the balance in their favor, also to find almost forgotten institutional practices.

The stalemate on one of the amendments voted this week, against the opinion of the government, gives an idea of ​​this climate. According to this clause, if the Prime Minister loses the vote on his agreement on January 15, he will only have three days to present his plan B to Parliament. The majority of MEPs voted for this provision on Wednesday, 9 January, after a debate over one hour on its eligibility. According to tradition, the opponents of the amendment argued, only the government can change the type of movement that was being discussed.

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The pro-Brexit parliamentarians based themselves on a series of precedents dating back to parliamentary night. The pro-Brexit camp also accused John Bercow, President of the House of Commons, of being partial and ignoring Parliament's conventions. "If we rely only on precedents, things will never change"said Mr. Bercow. The Labor MP Jess Phillips (contrary to Brexit) was skeptical about the sincerity of outrage. "People are attached to the procedure only when they do not like what will happen", he said in front of the house.

It is not the first time that parliamentary practices, sometimes extremely technical or archaic, generate battles of procedures. In November 2018, the Labor party then resorted to "Humble address". It was about forcing the executive to make public the legal advice he had received on leaving the country of the EU, directly to the Queen. A very rare practice, especially since the mid-nineteenth centuryis century. Jeremy Corbyn & # 39; s Labor had already used it successfully in 2017 to force the government to publish the studies of a secret impact on Brexit."The procedure of humble speech to force the government to act has been removed from the history bookssays Louise Thompson, professor of political science at the University of Manchester. I had never seen it used this way until 2017. "

Taken aback, the observers had trouble remembering a precedent. They found in the "Erskine May", from the name of the author of this book, first published in 1844. This is the only text that describes in detail the conventions that govern the House of Common. Practices that are not codified, lack of Constitution.

Historical-legal battle

For example, the book recalls the use of sentences in French when it adopts a bill, a remnant of the Norman conquest of England in 1066. With its more than 1,000 pages, this floor has for some time known a renewed interest due to Brexit. To get a copy, you have to spend up to 439 pounds (486 euros). The Westminster Parliament Bookstore is out of stock.

Journalists and parliamentarians also use experts to understand the problems. "Most MPs do not know the procedures. They depend on officials and consultants to tell them what they can do " continues Louise Thompson. According to the researcher, the prevailing climate in Parliament is responsible for this renewed interest in ancient and even archaic uses.

"The government of minorities makes Theresa May's position very precarious and encourages parliamentarians to try to prevent the passage of its legislative proposals by any means possible", estimate Mmyself Thompson. For the latter, the debates are all the more ferocious as the conservatives in power and the Labor opposition are divided within them at the exit of the European Union.

The historical-legal battle could last: if Theresa May will lose on Tuesday 15th January, which is the most probable scenario, she might be tempted to submit the text to a second vote of Parliament, if possible before the fateful date of March 29th. But his opponents already warn that they will not accept such an approach, unprecedented, according to them, in parliamentary life. They also quote "Erskine May", which forbids to send a text to a second vote without in-depth changes to its content. The next edition of the book will be available free online, the litigation has just begun.

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Martin Greenacre

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