herald

Friday 20 September 2019

Ghost of Parnell as Boris suffers big Brexit blow

Boris suffered major defeat
Boris suffered major defeat

Ireland has been thrown a Brexit lifeline after MPs voted to seize control of the House of Commons from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The spectre of a no-deal Brexit has receded after the UK government was defeated in a historic vote last night.

It means opposition parties will today move legislation aimed at delaying Brexit until the end of January so that a deal can be agreed.

Mr Johnson has cast the challenge to his authority as an attempt to force Britain to surrender to the EU. He may now opt to try to force a general election rather than "running up the white flag".

Destroy

"It is a bill that, if passed, would force me to go to Brussels and beg for an extension. It would force me to accept the terms offered. It would destroy any chance of negotiation for a new deal," Mr Johnson said.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told parliament that Mr Johnson's was a government with "no mandate, no morals and, as of today, no majority".

More than a dozen Conservative MPs defied Mr Johnson to vote to help stall no-deal.

They will now be stripped of the party whip and taken off the Conservative Party election ticket.

The latest turn of events is being closely watched by the Irish Government and the EU.

Sources say they have always been sceptical about Mr Johnson's efforts to secure a new deal. The prime minister said he will accept nothing less than the dumping of the backstop from the Withdrawal Agreement.

The backstop is an assurance on regulatory alignment that will allow the Irish Border to remain open.

It came as the ghost of Charles Stewart Parnell haunted the House of Commons on a night of high drama.

MPs clashed over whether it was appropriate for rebels to take control of parliament in a bid to stop a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

It fell to the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, to argue the government's case and object to a vote on parliamentary procedure.

Adopting his characteristically pompous tone, Mr Rees-Mogg called on MPs to consider the chaos "this concatenation of circumstances could create".

He claimed attempts to stop Mr Johnson from taking the UK out of the EU on October 31 were "unconstitutional".

As the debate gathered pace, the Conservative MP added: "The approach taken today is the most unconstitutional use of this house since the days of Charles Stewart Parnell when he tried to bung up parliament."

This was a reference to Home Rule leader, who served as an MP from 1875 to 1891.

Parnell adopted a tactic of obstructionism and disrupted proceedings using technical procedures in an effort to force MPs to pay more attention to Irish issues.

Often this would involve lengthy speeches that were not relevant to the topic under debate.

The mention of Parnell during the heated debate led to him trending on social media.

Mr Rees-Mogg added: "If parliament tries to challenge the people this stretches the elastic of our constitution near to breaking point."

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