Boris Johnson is on a rough patch and the two letters over the weekend may yet do him in. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has emerged as a bundle of contradictions. His letters to Brussels ‘may be in contempt of Parliament’, if the caveat of Labour’s shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, is any indication. Indeed, he faces possible legal action over his two letters to the European Union ~ one relaying a request to extend the Brexit process beyond October 31, and the other advising against it.
The second communication is scarcely aware of what the first has proposed. In the event, Mr Johnson has made confusion worse confounded. Indeed, he has come through on Sunday as a thoroughly indecisive head of government at a critical juncture. So confused and indecisive that the second letter runs counter to the first unsignedmessage from 10 Downing Street, insisting that he will not and relaying Parliament’s request for a Brexit extension. The reason why it was unsigned will perhaps remain a puzzle for some time yet. And then there is the signed letter, which spells out why he does not believe that delay would be in the interests of the EU or the United Kingdom.
Between the first and second letters, the fate of Brexit, if not the Prime Minister himself, is shrouded in uncertainty. In a quirky defence of the disconnect between the two letters, Downing Street believes the move fulfils the requirements of the Benn Act, which requires the Prime Minister to seek an extension if he was unable to secure parliamentary approval of his Brexit deal by Saturday. The Prime Minister is facing court action this week after his letters to the European Council president, Donald Tusk, were branded as “pathetic” by Joanna Cherry, the MP who led a successful legal challenge against his unlawful suspension of Parliament.
“Not signing the letter is behaving a bit like a spoilt brat. The second letter is clearly trying to undermine the first. This may well be in contempt of Parliament or of the courts themselves. Parliament made a decision and he should abide by it,” is now the refrain of the Labour leadership. Mr McDonnell, who addressed Saturday’s Final Say march in London, said Mr Johnson should not attempt to force a “meaningful vote” on his deal in the Commons, but should instead table his ratification legislation and allow MPs to “consider that bill properly”.
He indicated that Labour was unlikely to table a second referendum amendment during the passage of the bill, because tactically it was difficult for a motion from the leader of the opposition to gain cross-party support. The law is very clear. He should have signed one letter in accordance with the law. Small wonder his detractors have binned his approach as “childlike”. Palpably enough, Mr. Johnson seems to be floundering in search of his moorings. Europe is confused and the people who voted in the referendum are bamboozled.