Brexit, Boris and bedlam: British politics ‘hobbled’ by stalemate

JUDY WOODRUFF: The British Parliament was
as blur of activity today, as lawmakers rushed to get work done before they are forced to
disband until mid-October. They approved a bill that requires Prime Minister
Boris Johnson to delay Brexit, now just over six weeks away, if he doesn’t have a deal. They were also voting on his effort to force
a snap election next month. Johnson is dismissing Parliament until mid-October. His critics say it’s a ploy to prevent further
anti-Brexit machinations. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant has
this update. MALCOLM BRABANT: Boris Johnson began his day
in Dublin with his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar. He was addressing one of the key Brexit issues,
the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic
of Ireland in the south, which is part of the E.U. BORIS JOHNSON, British Prime Minister: I want
to get a deal. Like you, I have looked carefully at no deal. I have assessed its consequences both for
our country and yours. And, yes, of course, we could do it. The U.K. could certainly get through it, but
be in no doubt that outcome would be a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible. MALCOLM BRABANT: Johnson wants an alternative
to what’s known as the Irish backstop, a mechanism designed to prevent a hard border between
the republic and the north. The government in London opposes it because
it claims it could keep the U.K. tied indefinitely to the E.U. LEO VARADKAR, Irish Prime Minister: In the
absence of agreed alternative arrangements, no backstop is no deal. MALCOLM BRABANT: As he returned to Westminster,
Johnson’s hands were officially tied by the final approval of a law designed to stop the
government leaving the E.U. without a deal. Cabinet members have suggested the prime minister
may try to circumvent that new law. The bill’s author, Hilary Benn, has threatened
a legal challenge if that happens. HILARY BENN, British Parliament Member: If
the government tries not to do what the bill, which will become an act on Monday, says very
clearly they have to do, then it provides time to go into court. Lawmaker Tommy Sheppard’s Scottish National
Party is fighting to thwart Johnson. TOMMY SHEPPARD, British Parliament Member:
There really is a case of the lunatics having taken over the asylum here. I mean, the people that seem to be running
the strategy in No. 10 Downing Street are not playing by the normal rules. MALCOLM BRABANT: At the Institute for Government,
historian Catherine Haddon said the current state of British politics is the most chaotic
in centuries. CATHERINE HADDON, Institute for Government:
Parliament is the creator of law, so for them to even be talking about the idea of, you
know, not obeying the law or trying to find ways to disrupt the intention of that law
is an incredible situation that we are finding ourselves in. MALCOLM BRABANT: One of the loudest voices
of the Brexit campaign will soon be silent. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow promised
to step down on October the 31st, the date Britain is scheduled to leave the E.U. The reality is, he jumped before he was pushed. His departure follows that of Pensions Secretary
Amber Rudd over the weekend. She accused the prime minister of an assault
on decency and democracy. Meanwhile, more and more E.U. member states
are warning that a no-deal Brexit is looking more likely. HEIKO MAAS, German Foreign Minister (through
translator): The British Parliament has decided that it wants to prevent a no-deal Brexit. And we remain ready for discussion in principle. We must also make an orderly exit possible,
which is preferable, but for this to happen, we finally need a decision and proposals from
London. MALCOLM BRABANT: As Parliament began its last
debates before being closed down by the prime minister, rival factions outside tried to
make their voices heard. LISETTE STUX, London; I am very afraid. This smacks of 1930s Germany. Hitler closed down the Parliament. This is what Boris is doing. MAN: In God’s name, will the traitor M.P.s
go? WOMAN: This is it, do or die. We’re leaving on the 31st of October. MALCOLM BRABANT: With Parliament shuttered
for the next five weeks, Boris Johnson is not going to be distracted by bruising fights
in the chamber. Although he’s lost his majority, he’s still
in charge of the country. And now he can concentrate on trying to persuade
the E.U. to give him a Brexit deal. At the same time, his government is stepping
up preparations just in case the country does crash out of the E.U. without a deal. The uncertainty that’s hobbling Britain is
no closer to being resolved. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Malcolm Brabant
in London.

Maurice Vega

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