Boris Johnson’s Modified Withdrawal Bill – An Executive Power Grab

12th January 2020 / United Kingdom
Boris Johnson's Modified Withdrawal Bill - An Executive Power Grab

By Graham Vanbergen: The version of Boris Johnson’s EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill prior to the December election specifically included a clause that protected MPs’ involvement in Brexit. But then he was elected with a large majority. The consequence was that the WAB was quietly amended to achieve an executive power grab and in so doing deny parliamentarians their democratic rights. Democracy is mortally wounded – there is a smoking gun.

The PM’s bill is aimed at nothing less than achieving the hardest Brexit possible. The new Bill quite specifically shuts MPs out of the negotiations over the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The House of Commons will have no oversight over the government’s negotiating goals or objectives, and worse, will have no right to be kept updated on the progress of those negotiations. Finally, there will be no vote on the final deal with Brussels.

I have continually said since David Cameron was elected in 2010 to watch out for the signals of authoritarianism. Some people thought this was an over-reaction to some of the abuses to our civil liberties (such as extreme government surveillance, expansion of secret courts, restrictive legislation, etc) but I was convinced there was a trajectory and here is just another piece of evidence to confirm it.

Representative democracy in Britain with its antiquated electoral system has its flaws but if the result of that system is to then deny parliamentarians their democratic rights – then democracy has just perished by legislative asphyxiation. This week Boris Johnson will have the power to refuse the right of our elected representatives to scrutinise the government on what is arguably the most important issue facing our country in many decades.

The revitalised Tory party, a party that in recent times has abandoned Conservatism and the principles upon which it fulfilled its political obligations has since decided that they can now subvert democracy and do as they please. This latest version of the WAB sets a very dangerous precedent. It’s dangerous because it draws a new line in the sand and its a line we can’t see – that moves at will. From here, MPs will be kept in the dark over any post-Brexit trade deals, including one with the US.

Ultimately, the wet dream of the controlling right-wing free-market fundamentalists is a trade deal with the United States. That trade deal, if signed, won’t just be about low-quality food standards, it will threaten every standard we have come to know in Britain.


American pharmaceutical behemoths are well known to exploit the pain and misery of ill health and death in the USA. How do our elected representatives protect the public from rampant price hiking and gouging if they are kept in the dark about these very details?


Already, we have seen the sudden ‘Americanisation’ of British politics and the new norms of political discourse. The result is what they have in America – rising hate crimes and racism, spiteful and malicious politics funded by opaque monied interests and a highly divided society where cultural wars meet class wars on the same battlegrounds.

Despite overwhelming public opposition to a significant lowering of our food standards and selling off the National Health Service to the highest bidders, there will be other consequences. Britain will lose control over many areas in a trade deal with the US. For instance, Britain will not be able to legislate against American tech companies such as the blatant abuses of democratic legislation by social media platforms that we have witnessed in the last few years.

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American pharmaceutical behemoths are well known to exploit the pain and misery of ill health and death in the USA. How do our elected representatives protect the public from rampant opportunistic price hiking and gouging if they are kept in the dark about these very details? And what will they do when a trade deal is signed and the public finally finds out?

And what are public slowly finding out.

FACT: MPs have voted against New Clause by 344 votes to 254. This clause would have required the Government to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the EU’s Erasmus+ education and youth programme. This vote effectively slams of the door on young people’s cultural horizons.

FACT: MPs have voted against New Clause 29 by 345 votes to 250. This new clause would have required the Government to seek close alignment with the EU single market on key level playing-field provisions. This is a vote to deregulate and align with countries with lower standards such as the US.

FACT: MPs have voted against New Clause 2 being added to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, by 344 votes to 255. This new clause would have required the Government to negotiate a comprehensive agreement with the EU protecting workers’ rights, which they have chosen not to do.

And there’s more. The government said they can do Brexit by the end of this year. They can’t because even if that was the case, ratification and implementation of the new arrangements cannot happen overnight. If they did, it would be utter chaos.

Another illusion is that there will be no checks between Northern Ireland and Britain. There will. Does anyone think EU negotiators are going to give up their borders? Of course they won’t otherwise the EU project means nothing.

It was lies in the beginning, they campaigned on lies, got elected on lies and the deception is now slowly turning into harsh reality. That reality is coming into the light. Sunny uplands play no part. And every lie that proves to be so will have them pointing the blame at the EU or some other imaginary rival like they did in harnessing those lies over immigration or justice. The more people swallow these lies, the more the lies will keep coming. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Boris Johnson’s latest Withdrawal Bill is little more than a subversive device – effectively a Trojan Horse. It is a gift to the people after a three-year battle and when we are not looking, and they are basking in glory, what’s inside brings an actuality that was not expected.

It was funded by billionaires and by international corporations and most of it came from America. It is a piece of legislation that gives control of Britain to the emperors of corporatism, to the kings of cash.

You may not agree with this view but look at the trajectory. Look at how Brexit started back in 2016 and where it is right now. We’ve gone from promises of instant sunny uplands to 50 years before we can expect them. From easily signing trade deals across the world to signing none of significance. From guaranteeing rights to dismantling them. From taking back control to handing it over to those less concerned about our welfare. From democracy to a power grab.

Extrapolate that trajectory to the end of 2020 when Britain and the EU fail to do a deal – and BINGO – there’s your hard Brexit and a trade deal with America beckons. Then there’s no going back.


Graham Vanbergen is editor of TruePublica, a columnist for the European Financial Review and author of Brexit – A Corporate Coup D’Etat



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