The “national unity” government idea continues to hog breathing space in Westminster gossip columns. Funny, I was the one talking about it years ago as a possibility when no one thought it could ever be a thing; now I really don’t see it happening. It’s too big a leap for too many MPs to take simultaneously. One can just about imagine 30 or even 40 Tory MPs willing to jump ship, at least temporarily, to stop no deal from happening; for this to happen at the same time as the vast majority of the PLP decide to do the same thing is just too wacky.
The alternative being discussed is MPs, via the speaker’s aid, seizing control of the business of the House to force Johnson to request an extension of the Article 50 period. The problem with this, like so many things Brexit flavoured, is that it is incredibly convoluted. Think about it: the House of Commons forces an unwilling PM to extend Article 50, something he actually has to negotiate with the EU to achieve? The EU will want some idea of what an extension will achieve, other than staving off the inevitable once more. Johnson just has to say that nothing will change and that he in fact doesn’t really want an extension at all. It is a poor way to try and put off no deal Brexit.
And that’s the crux of where we are: you either need to create a new government out of the existing House of Commons in order to seek an extension of Article 50 or you try and force Johnson to do something he doesn’t wish to, and that he still has the power to wriggle out of. There is one other possibility, however, and it is disarming in its simplicity.
The MPs can take control of the business of the House of Commons in order to make revocation of Article 50 take place. It could be something like, a law that says the UK must revoke Article 50 prior to 11 PM on October 30th if no Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been passed by the House of Commons prior to that moment. Revocation is easy since it does not require the EU to agree on anything – the ability to revoke is solely within the UK’s power.
Despite what many MPs will say in public at this exact moment, this is way more likely to happen than any pundits are saying. This is because it may well come down to revocation as the only way to stop a no deal Brexit from taking place and if this were so, there may just about be the numbers for it. I can’t say that for sure, but when it’s the only game left in town I can imagine a lot of EEA types suddenly jumping on it.
The aftermath of such an event would probably be incredibly messy. But then again, it might be less horrid than many expect, at least if you aren’t a member of the Conservative party. As Boris Johnson rightly said, a lot of people are sick of this topic. I think if Article 50 was revoked, a lot of people would be happy to get on with their lives and stopping having to read about things like medicine shortages.
I’m not saying revocation of Article 50 will happen – just that the logic of it happening might make it unavoidable.