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Brexit stretches arcane British parliament to breaking point

ITN News Editor
By ITN News Editor March 6, 2019 17:01

Brexit stretches arcane British parliament to breaking point

Lawmakers in Britain’s 800-year-old parliament are poised to make their biggest strategic decision in half a century: to Brexit or not to Brexit.

The fate of the United Kingdom will be decided in a series of votes next week when lawmakers will shuffle through crowded wood-panelled corridors to cast ballots inside the crumbling neo-gothic Westminster palace that houses Britain’s parliament.

Each vote – known as a division – takes around 15 minutes to complete, and if it takes too long, a serjeant-at-arms, dressed in shiny black shoes, knee socks and a long woollen suit, will be sent to investigate bearing his ceremonial sword.

London’s ‘Westminster’ parliamentary format is rich in pageantry and theatre and has been adapted, modernised and exported to more than two dozen states across the globe.

But, as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, the largely unreformed template in London is creaking under the pressure of delivering a technically difficult and deeply divisive decision.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but, after almost two years of gruelling negotiation by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, parliament has so far rejected the exit deal she agreed with Brussels, and is trying to dictate the process.

The battle is playing out inside a parliament whose exterior – disintegrating 19th century limestone stonework clad in scaffolding for repairs – matches an interior where Brexit is breaking down the traditional political structure.

On March 12 the government is expected to try again to get its deal approved, having sought extra assurances from the EU.

If that fails, May will ask parliament on March 13 if it wants to leave without a deal – a disruptive divorce with damaging consequences for the world’s fifth largest economy.

ITN News Editor
By ITN News Editor March 6, 2019 17:01