Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was brought to the House of Commons to answer questions about the Supreme Court’s decision that his advice on the prorogation of Parliament was entirely wrong.
But he seems to have spent much of his time at the Dispatch Box ranting about Brexit and challenging the Opposition parties to support a general election – just to get him and his boss Boris Johnson off the hook.
Why would anybody want to do that?
He started by saying that the government accepts the judgement of the Supreme Court that Parliament should not have been prorogued without any reason – and certainly without any good reason. He claimed the government acted in good faith and in the belief that their approach was both lawful and constitutional.
He justified this claim by reminding MPs that “these are complex matters, on which senior and distinguished lawyers will disagree. The divisional court, led by the Lord Chief Justice, as well as Lord Doherty in the outer house of Scotland, agreed with the Government’s position, but we were disappointed that, in the end, the Supreme Court took a different view. Of course, we respect its judgement.”
But he did not rule out the possibility that the Boris Johnson administration would try to prorogue Parliament again.
It was when Rory Stewart asserted that the Supreme Court had made a “profoundly conservative” decision to support the sovereignty of Parliament, and that it was for the Commons – “the only directly elected representatives of the people” – to determine the form in which Brexit takes place that Mr Cox lost his rag.
“This Parliament has declined three times to pass a withdrawal Act to which the Opposition had absolutely no objection,” he said. “We now have a wide number in this House setting their face against leaving at all. When this Government draw the only logical inference from that position, which is that we must leave therefore without any deal at all, they still set their face, denying the electorate the chance of having their say in how this matter should be resolved.”
Of course this is not true, and as a lawyer Mr Cox must have seen the falsehood in his argument.
If MPs were against leaving the EU at all, then it is not logical to infer that the UK must leave without a withdrawal agreement – in other words, on the worst possible terms.
Still, we may welcome the admission that Boris Johnson’s government is working to achieve a “no deal” Brexit – and has been working towards it since before it tried to prorogue Parliament.
And Mr Cox must also know that Labour policy is to give the electorate a chance to decide whether to support a future withdrawal agreement or remain in the EU, in a future referendum that the Conservatives have consistently refused to let voters have.
Then he launched into the rant that has become so well-repeated on TV and in the social media:
“This Parliament is a dead Parliament. It has no moral right to sit on these green benches… This Parliament is a disgrace.”
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox says “cowardly” MPs for not having “the courage to face the electorate” in a general election. pic.twitter.com/2NcQcgMEed
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) September 25, 2019
The simple fact is that the current UK Parliament isn’t dead at all; it has another three years to sit until its time is up.
Boris Johnson – thanks to people like Mr Cox – is in a mire entirely of his own making. Thanks to their joint mistakes, they are faced with a simple choice: achieve a Brexit deal by October 31 or, failing, beg the EU for another extension so they (or someone else) can achieve one in the future.
If they are forced into the latter option, then Jeremy Corbyn may support a general election – because the Conservatives will have shown the electorate that they are entirely unworthy of support.
Parliament is, therefore, performing exactly the role it is intended to carry out – holding the government to account.
The simple fact is that Mr Johnson and his cronies are now in a position where they cannot force the UK into leaving the EU on terms that benefit only themselves and their business partners; those terms must be transparent and they must have the support of MPs who have the well-being of their constituents at heart, rather than the possibility of boosting their own bank balances by selling off vital services like the NHS to Donald Trump’s United States (for example).
Journalist Paul Mason drew the obvious conclusion:
What's important about Cox's disgraceful slur "dead parliament" is that the ostensible reason they prorogued was to introduce a whole new year's worth of laws into it via the Queen's Speech. It reveals the lie: Prorogation was always about shutting down Parliament.
— Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews) September 25, 2019
Exactly. From this we may also infer that the intention has always been to silence your elected representatives until the “no deal” Brexit – that Mr Cox has admitted the government wants – had been achieved. Then Mr Johnson wold have called an election in the belief that voters would support the prime minister who had actually managed to take the UK out of the EU, no matter what form that departure took.
An immediate election would also be advantageous to him in that it would deprive voters of the chance to experience the consequences of Mr Johnson’s “no deal” Brexit before making their choice.
Geoffrey Cox now blaming the Opposition for not passing the Conservatives withdrawal Bill and now saying the HoC has no longer a right to sit.
This from a party with no majority who has been found to have acted unlawfully.
— Sir Norman. 💚 (@Normanjam67) September 25, 2019
Now, stuck between a rock and a hard place, Mr Johnson and his ministers – including Mr Cox – can only rail at the other MPs who are forcing them to do what the nation requires, falsely accusing the Opposition parties of cowardice in refusing to approve a general election while a “no deal” Brexit is still achievable.
Despite the Attorney General's theatrics to distract from unlawful Tory actions, one thing is clear.
Labour will force a General Election once the extension preventing No Deal is nailed down.
That could be right after the EU summit. Or sooner if the extension is sorted before.
— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) September 25, 2019
All things considered, we have many reasons to be grateful to Mr Cox; he has given the game away and no member of the government can now deny that it has been caught, disgracefully trying to silence democracy.
But the manner in which the Attorney-General put his case was arrogant and provocative. No wonder Labour’s Barry Shearman was infuriated:
We should ALL be as angry as @BarrySheerman.
— James Foster (@JamesEFoster) September 25, 2019
Dr Jennifer Cassidy tweeted: “If you watch anything today, watch this. Barry Shearman, usually a calm figure speaks with the fury, frustration and anger that millions of us feel.”
Oh – and there’s one more pearl from Mr Cox’s appearance before Parliament: He said the 2016 EU referendum is not binding on the government; there is no need to go through with Brexit at all.
Here’s what he said: “The law in relation to the referendum is that it was not binding upon this Parliament. It was binding in every moral sense upon those who promised the British people that it would be implemented, but it was not binding as a matter of law.”
Wow has Cox just admitted that the Referendum isn’t binding in law?
— Dr Lindsay Maxwell (@ParisDaguerre) September 25, 2019
This is welcome as it will shut down, once and for all, the argument that has raged about it ever since the result became known.
So, ultimately, this arrogant blowhard has done us all a great service.
He has admitted that Boris Johnson has spent his entire period as prime minister trying to dodge democracy, in a bid to force a “no deal” Brexit with its unwanted consequences onto the public, based on the result of a plebiscite that has no legal binding whatsoever.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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