The last week in Westminster has been an embarrassment

Brian Monteith
Politicians in Westminster demonstrate just how out of touch and distant they are from what really concerns the public (Source: Getty)

Theresa May is putting a brave face on it, but she appears to have given promises to two opposing Brexit groups in her party that cannot be reconciled.

All will become clear next week when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill goes back to the Lords, but until then there is certain to be far more behind-the-scenes bartering to try and save the government from defeat at the hands of Labour and Tory Remainer rebels.

The usual offer of ministerial elevation or gongs cannot save May in this instance – all she has left is the threat that the rebels are opening the door to Jeremy Corbyn and that another snap election will cost some of them their seats.

Read more: Davis tells Tory rebels Brexit vote is irreversible

On the one hand, the die-hard Remainers say that they have been given assurances of new amendments to be tabled by the government in the Lords that will provide for a “meaningful vote” of some sort once negotiations with the EU have been concluded.

If that vote were to go against the government because a majority decided a better deal could be obtained, then parliament would be in chaos.

For the Leavers, there is a distinct sense of feeling used; that while they have repeatedly cut the Prime Minister slack as she has compromised and drifted away from her Lancaster House speech strategy of “no deal is better than a bad deal”, they are left supporting a leader who is willing to sell them short by accepting membership of the customs union.

Next it will be ECJ jurisdiction over financial liabilities, then it will be the Single Market, and then freedom of movement. Brexit will not even mean Brino — for it will not even be Brexit in name.

There is a real problem with all of this – notwithstanding that the whole process is a slap in the face to the British public that voted in the largest numbers ever to leave the EU. If the Remainers do swing May their way and a “meaningful vote” is agreed, it completely emasculates the government’s negotiating position.

The EU has already been treading water of late, refusing to treat the negotiations seriously.

If it can see that it has a majority sympathetic to its position in the Commons, it has no incentive to offer anything like the deal the British people expect.

The UK will be offered the worst possible deal of paying for access to the EU market when countries of less economic importance such as Canada do not.

I tend to think that Jacob Rees-Mogg is right, that the Remainers’ insistence that MPs take control of negotiations is likely to make “crashing out” far more likely, when parliament’s innate inflexibility means it cannot agree a deal before deadlines are reached.

Meanwhile, the City and the rest of Britain have been getting on with life.

There is lots of good news out there: cloud giant Salesforce is committing £2.5bn investment to the UK, worth 1600 jobs; UK services exports have risen 8.5 per cent over April last year; and Deliveroo is announcing dramatic expansion plans.

At the same time, politicians in Westminster demonstrate just how out of touch and distant they are from what really concerns the public: jobs, housing, pubic services, and the future of their immediate families.

Not to be outdone by MPs, the mayor of London tweets about female gender inequality in Wikipedia editing, rather than showing concern about the growing number of deaths on London’s streets – where he will find genuine gender and racial inequality.

And as if they are in competition for a “pointless” Oscar, the SNP then throw a hissy fit and walk out of the House of Commons in a parliamentary stunt to try and look hard done by – only few have sympathy when they were given every opportunity by the speaker to be heard.

As if to sum up the tragic state of our politics, this week we also had a minister, Dr Philip Lee, resign just when May needed his support most. Lee claimed he could no longer continue given the direction of the Prime Minister’s negotiations, yet he was able to take a ministerial salary and be elected on her manifesto of leaving the EU institutions in their entirety.

There’s ne’er been such a parcel of rogues in our nation. Westminster is an embarrassment.

Read more: Chaos: SNP MPs walk out of PMQs after Speaker bans Blackford

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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