View from Westminster

Last weekend’s celebrations in Windsor provided a fabulous showcase for modern Britain. Long gone are the meringue style royal weddings of the 80s, to be replaced by a celebration of diversity and achievement of the 21st century. Having a British gospel choir singing an American hymn; the Chicago preacher Michael Curry giving what was described as 50 mph sermon in a 30 mph chapel; and an American girl of mixed race, humble background and interesting family marrying a British prince and becoming a duchess is, to me, everything that is great about this country. It was a day of simple joy. Her husband, with his brother, champions mental health issues, and Harry draws on his military experience to create the Invictus games for disabled service personnel. Even the sun shone all weekend.

So it was with this backdrop that we got back to Westminster to continue to dismal process of Brexit. Don’t get me wrong: it is not the outcome that is dismal, merely the process of doing it. The House of Lords has given the government 15 bloody noses with a series of amendments. The Lords are doing their job properly. If they collectively feel there needs to be a rethink, then they are right to say so. But it is up to us in the Commons to look at their proposals and either agree or disagree. The Commons will always be able to over-rule the Lords through, ultimately, the Parliament Act. But if the government loses votes in the Commons to throw back Lords amendments, that is the problem of the government, not the Lords.

Both major parties are bitterly divided on the type of Brexit desired. Labour continues with its constructive ambiguity over the Brexit outcome (a “jobs first” Brexit is meaningless), whilst Conservatives are split between hard Brexit and a soft Brexit. As a Remainer, my view is that you either have a Brexit that allows trade deals or you don’t leave at all. However, this view requires a successful trade deal with the EU, and this outcome is all but impossible if we are to deliver the proper border crossing on the island of Ireland. It is a circular argument that has no obvious solution and at some point, one side of this argument is going to have to give up and go along with the other. But time is fast running out.