The events of the last few days have been quite remarkable, even by the new standards being set by this Parliament, and this issue:- Brexit.
In my last update I set out why I considered the Governments efforts to prorogue for weeks on end to be unwise. However I should say I did not think they were unlawful. Until Monday I thought that they were a political error, and that the Government should face criticism or praise based on that political calculation. I genuinely did not anticipate the court verdict.
The judgement, the ramifications of which will be far reaching, does not affect Brexit, in my view. Parliament is back to do its job of holding the Government to account, not to stop Brexit, and I think the Government should accept this, and work on securing the deal to leave the EU on October 31st, which is best for the U.K. and the EU. I have not yet wavered from this view, and see no reason to do so. Despite what the Government thought about the Bill brought forward by Hillary Benn and myself, it appears up until now not to have stopped the EU from negotiations, as claimed by HMG - quite the contrary, judging by all the conversations since. I hope we have moved the chance of a deal forward.
Turning to that Bill, and the labelling of it as ‘Surrender’ or ‘capitulation' - I cannot express any more forcibly than before, my deep distress and concern at the language. None of us are shrinking violets, and politics can be rough, but these words and phrases build on years of confrontation over Europe, largely, though not exclusively from those who want to leave the EU and for whom it has been politically convenient to label, effectively, as the enemy. They have contributed to the most toxic atmosphere in Parliament of my career, all totally unnecessary. The case for or against leaving the EU stands on grown up arguments about the purpose of the EU, what we gain and give up from pooled sovereignty, whether easier trade is worth the loss of certain powers over regulations, and many other things. It is not about who won the war, a German conspiracy, whether we are in ‘manacles’, whether Mrs May's Agreement was a suicide belt, nor, frankly, is it ‘Bollox to Brexit’ either.
My constituents in the main avoid such terms, but express quite rightly their views for or against leaving, all of which I respect, in better terms. But we can see the damage elsewhere; social media for one, where pathetic anonymity barely hides stupidity.
The bottom was surely reached with the rancour on all sides of the PM Statement on Wednesday. I’ve read about it in New York, where the rest of the world is, frankly dumbfounded. I’m here because I was not anticipating the Commons returning, and I have a role to play as the UK's Commissioner for an organisation which seeks to identify victims of crime committed in war or conflict, where families may have been left for many years with no knowledge of their loved ones, from Bosnia, to Iraq to Syria. The ICMP seeks to aid justice for those victims, men, women and children, so that their war damaged societies can in time heal and move on.
You are entitled to make a judgement as to whether my time has been more appropriately spent at the UN or Westminster this week. I have no doubts.
I look forward to returning to the Commons very shortly.