MP's vote on Brexit is a 'con', Johnson's apology a sop, but Theresa May's condemnation of Russia was a triumph
It has been called a 'staggering climbdown' by some but the truth of the matter is, the Government's 11th hour decision to allow Parliament a vote on the Brexit deal is just another example of Tory trickery.
David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, announced yesterday (Monday) that the final Brexit Withdrawal Bill would be presented to the House of Commons as an Act of Parliament which could be voted on in good time before we leave the European Union.
This was initially seen as a major victory on the part of Labour MPs and Tory rebels who have been calling for several months for Parliament to have their say on the Brexit deal. Davis had previously said there would not be an opportunity for MPs to vote as they anticipated work on the deal would be going on until the last minute before exiting.
But alas the devil is always in the detail and it quickly emerged that whilst MPs will be able to vote on the deal, they will not be able to have any say in the case of a no deal Brexit – on the basis there will be no deal to vote on – they will not be able to reverse a decision and will not be able to reopen talks. So therefore what MPs have been given is a 'false' vote. As one angered Labour MP put it, it is a 'con'.
And this could backfire quite catastrophically on the government. The Brexit Withdrawal Bill comes back into open discussion in Parliament today (Tuesday) and the Brexiteers had hoped in giving Parliament a 'vote' on Brexit it would soften them up for the discussions, which will involve wading through over a hundred amendments put forward by Labour MPs and Tory rebels. No such luck I imagine.
Boris Johnson apologised yesterday and said he was looking into granting Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British mother wrongly jailed in Iran, diplomatic protection, but again restrain yourselves from any premature jubilations.
From the sounds of it, 'I apologise' only came after repeated wieldings of the cattle prod by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornbury. Other attempts included the classics “If I have caused anguish, I'm sorry” and “my remarks could have been clearer”.
Johnson showed he was grossly unprepared for a meeting about Nazanin at the end of last week when he said he believed she had been in Iran teaching journalism when she was arrested, which completely contradicts the argument of Nazanin and her family who say she was on holiday with her young daughter. This is a crucial fact as she faces charges of espionage in Iran. For Johnson to say she was working only adds fuel to their case against her and could see her jailed for another five years.
Johnson obviously now has to be seen doing something to address the situation and has offered to pursue diplomatic protection for Nazanin, which could see her freed from prison if successful as it is a signal the UK is no longer treating the case as a consular matter but as a formal legal dispute between Britain and Iran.
But the sorry fact is Nazanin's husband Richard Ratcliffe and human rights charity Redress had written to the Foreign Office two months ago to request Nazanin be granted diplomatic protection, only to receive no reply.
On the basis every day Nazanin is in prison is a day of mental, physical and emotional torture for her, Johnson's last minute desperate bids to save face hardly look like the workings of a competent compassionate leader of the Foreign Office – whose predominant role, lest we forget, is to help out British citizens when they find themselves in trouble abroad, not just playing Hooray Henry at lavish banquets around the globe.
But pray silence for Prime Minister Theresa May who may have actually shown grit and determination at the Lord Mayor's banquet last night when she launched an 'extraordinary attack' – according to the media – on Russia.
In a no holds barred speech she accused the country of 'weaponising information' by meddling in elections and planting fake stories in the media in a bid to 'sow discord in the west'.
She continued that it was 'threatening the international order on which we all depend.” She went on to list all Russia's attempts to undermine western institutions in recent years and continued: “I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies and the commitment of western nations to the alliances that bind us.”
There are accusations Russia meddled in America's general election causing Donald Trump's victory, whilst allegations that they also had a hand in the Brexit referendum result are being investigated.
Mrs May then went on to talk at the Lord Mayor's banquet about Brexit being a golden opportunity to create a 'global Britain' and I almost nearly believed her.