Take back control now means Jacob Rees-Mogg telling the Queen to shut down parliament

Yesterday, Brexiteers were asking Poland to overrule the House of Commons. Today, it's only the Queen. That’s progress of sorts

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Wednesday 23 January 2019 18:08 GMT
Jacob Rees-Mogg's opposing statements on Theresa May just seven days apart

Britain has been enjoying another day bang on the Tory, a word which now only makes sense not as a political ideology but as a synthetic drug that may yet achieve class A status – but not before it’s ruined everyone’s lives.

The Lib Dems thought they could handle it, took one hit and never recovered. By 2015, the country itself hadn’t had a go on the pure stuff for almost two decades. Now we walk jagged and dazed about the world like a spice addict in a 24-hour bus garage.

And no one is pushing the stuff harder than Jacob Rees-Mogg, who on Wednesday afternoon addressed a large meeting of the Bruges Group, which describes itself as a “Eurosceptic think tank” but is in fact a care in the community project for people who last paid to use the bus in the pre-decimalisation era.

First a word on the warm-up men. Prize-winning economist and as yet non-prize-winning historian Roger Bootle was there, to explain how “the UK, Ireland, Malta and Sweden are the only four countries in the EU not to have experienced invasion or dictatorship”, which might come as much of a surprise to the Irish as the fact that, thanks to Brexit, they now get to dictate terms to Britain.

The nations of Europe, according to Bootle, don’t care about “sovereignty”, because “their institutions have failed. Ours have not.” Around four minutes later, he would be replaced on the stage by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who would go on to explain how, if he didn’t get his own way over Brexit, he would call the Queen down to Westminster to dissolve parliament. We’ll come on to that in a bit more detail shortly, but suffice to say, at least on the Bootle-ometer, we’re about three weeks away from the kind of institutional failure that he seems to think the EU is based upon, so it’ll be straight back in, no need even for a people’s vote.

It is also worth noting that Rees-Mogg was introduced to the stage as being a “beacon of hope” and a “modest man”, “too modest, almost, for his own good”, which is an interesting take on someone who’s been dressed up as a baronet for a freshers’ week party for the past 40 years.

As for the content and the purpose of the speech, it was to tell Theresa May that Rees-Mogg’s band of hard Brexiteers would not be reneging. The demand for the ditching of the backstop remains, and as Brussels will not be ditching it, the kamikaze mission continues. Mark Francois MP, his deputy in the so-called European Research Group, hovered by the door emitting little supportive barks, like a chihuahua doing an impression of a bulldog on Britain’s Got Talent. On his lapel he wore a bright red poppy. It is January.

The main talk in Westminster at the moment is whether an amendment, tabled by the Labour backbencher Yvette Cooper, might pass next week that would, in effect, take no deal off the table. Rees-Mogg and co are outraged about this. You may recall that before the referendum, David Davis, Boris Johnson and everybody else toured the country saying how the European Union couldn’t possibly fail to do a deal with the UK because “German cars, prosecco” etc. Now, two and a half years later, the idea of actually doing a deal is rebadged as a Brexit betrayal.

If the Cooper amendment should pass, he warned, well, the monarch had once been called upon to dissolve parliament before, and she could be again. “I hope Her Majesty’s stay at Sandringham won’t have to be interrupted,” he threatened.

It’s progress, in its own way. Once upon a time, Brexit was about the restoration of parliamentary sovereignty. On Tuesday, the pro-Brexit Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, who briefly achieved fame holding a lemon in a Shrewsbury supermarket, announced that if Brexit didn’t go his way, he would ask his friends in Poland to get the European Union to veto the extension of Article 50. Yes, you read that right. The will of the UK would be overruled, at Daniel Kawczynski’s request, by Poland and the European Union.

At least this time, 24 hours later, it would be the Queen, not Poland, shutting down democracy to make sure the Brexiteers get what they want.

There was, predictably, a standing ovation for this. Within just three or four minutes, the entire room was on its feet.

This, alas, is how things are now. We approach the weird endgame in which no lies are big enough to keep hold of the ultimate prize, which is to take the country back to its imagined past, and away from any chance at all of a brighter, younger, un-zombified, no longer half-crazed future.

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