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The three numbers that measure Britain’s constitutional crisis

All the safety valves are failing

September 10, 2019

1:20 PM

10 September 2019

1:20 PM

Here in a few numbers is the measure of the catastrophic mess the United Kingdom is in; caused by failing to resolve how, when and whether we are leaving the European Union some 1,174 days after British people voted for Brexit.

Members of Parliament are being locked out of the Commons chamber for 34 days and nights, because the prime minister does not trust them not to thwart his plans to extract the UK from the EU ‘do or die’ on October 31.

That is an insult to our parliamentary democracy, some would say.

Former prime minister Theresa May has rewarded 31 of her officials, fellow ministers and MPs. Gongs rank from MBEs to peerages.

Almost all have been given to those implicated in various ways in May’s failure to achieve the one task she had – to execute the referendum result.

That is an insult to the British honors system, some would say.

And the prime minister is 22 MPs short of a working majority, and 32 short of a conventional majority, such that he is powerless to govern.

But he is being barred by opposition MPs from doing the one thing possible to end the paralysis, namely hold a general election – because they don’t believe his Brexit plan is consistent with what was debated in the referendum campaign.

Which may not be an insult to the unwritten constitution, but shows it unfit for purpose, many would say.

If you add those numbers together, the sum is monstrous – that a combination of a referendum and the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act have created a seemingly unreconcilable conflict between citizens and our representative system of government.

The pressure in the British constitutional cooker is intensifying beyond endurance, and all the safety valves are failing.

Robert Peston is ITV’s Political Editor. This article originally appeared on his ITV News blog.

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