London: On Tuesday at noon, this reporter met Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe and Chairman of the influential European Research Group, whose current mission it is to ensure Brexit. The meeting was intended to result in a profile of him and where he thought the Conservative Party was heading, but 90 minutes beforehand Baroness Hale, President of the Justices at Supreme Court (SC), had ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had unlawfully prorogued Parliament. Despite Baker’s phone receiving innumerable texts and phone calls, he took 25 minutes to talk to The Sunday Guardian.
Primarily, an MP should act in the national interest and secondly, has a responsibility to his constituents, before moving on to the Supreme Court decision’s implications. Baker opened the conversation with some remarks about Kashmir. He said Kashmir is a matter of profound importance to his 19,000 British Asian constituents, 17% of his electors, many of whom identify as Kashmiri are concerned about the human rights situation in the Valley. Baker said the “typical Foreign Office stance of detached interest does not survive contact with British Asians in UK”; he stressed, it is a matter of utmost delicacy and he is bound to repeatedly represent his voters’ concerns.
Following the decision in the SC, Baker explained that the UK is trying to be an independent self-governing democracy, that Guy Verhofstadt’s vision of competing empires and mercantilism does not appeal to him; he said he is an old English classical liberal: he believes in moral, legal and political equality, freedom, responsibility and the rule of law. After the SC’s decision, all of UK’s institutions are being terribly tested; this was not his intent when he asked for a referendum. In 2016, the Remainer political class asked if Baker would accept a Remain result, to which he replied of course; now he wishes he had asked them if they would have accepted a Leave result. Baker said had the outcome been Remain, he would have stood down as an MP. He said the governing class of the UK has refused to accept a legitimate democratic result, they tried to de-legitimatise the result, but overwhelmingly all those arguments have collapsed; the lawfare against the Leave campaign is collapsing, but the Remain breach of law is categorical. He referred to The National Crime Agency exonerating two Leave campaigns of financial impropriety and to the separate Remain campaigns breaking The Electoral Commission rules about coordination, working together and spending limits. Baker suggested that the media, politicians, officials and now the judges lean towards remaining in the EU and the result is a constitutional crisis between the voters and those who govern. This brought him to where he first entered politics, the handling of “The Lisbon Treaty” (LT), originally called The Constitution for Europe (CfE) was intended as a consolidated constitution for a “new country called Europe”. Baker called the CfE a bureaucratic, social democratic mess, and this was rejected by the French and Dutch administrations.
Instead the European powers produced the LT with materially the same arrangements. Baker studied Open Europe’s document that allowed a side by side comparison between the CfE and the LT; he said that the LT avoided securing public consent through referenda, and extraordinarily the constitution of France was changed to make it compatible with the LT. Baker believes it is fundamental to the dignity of the individual that their vote counts, through the LT, he believes the European governing elite paraded their contempt for democracy, this is why he entered politics in the first place.
Baker appreciated that some people still believe in the European Union and others are worried about change and fall for the scaremongering, but he said that the danger today is the governing elite is overthrowing the principle of “you get the government you vote for”, they want the EU. The message to the British public is their counts for nothing.
Boris Johnson is clear UK should exit EU by 31 October. Baker said the Surrender Bill which ties Johnson’s hands by forcing him to ask for an extension, is an unconstitutional Bill reached by unconstitutional means. The Bill was legislated for by arbitrarily overthrowing the House of Commons (HoC). He said that the Speaker broke the rules by allowing the debate for the HoC to take over the procedure to legislate. He said the government controls the business in the HoC, not the Speaker. The rebels took away from the government the power to govern the country through control of the business of the Commons; they handed it to the Opposition with a rag-tag bunch of rebels. Baker said that now UK has a minority government that has lost control of Parliament. He said really that government ought to fall and there ought to be a general election. Johnson was absolutely right to table a motion for an early general election; this motion is expected again on Tuesday when Parliament resumes, but is also expected to fail as some Conservative MPs will lose their seats and the Labour Party is more split than the Conservatives; the LibDems and SNP will find an excuse not to have a GE. If Johnson had resigned, the alternative idea of a Government of so-called National Unity is presumed by many not to last very long, but it is an uncharted threat. Baker said the ERG have been informed by former Labour MPs that Corbyn and John McDonnell are “extremists”; indeed, McDonnell has told Baker in a 2011 interaction that he is a not completely reformed Trotskyite. Baker said should the Labour form a government, the difficulties of leaving the EU would pale into insignificance.
Regarding a deal for leaving the EU, Baker said that the Chequers Agreement of rule following is intolerable; although there are many things wrong with the Withdrawal Agreement, the political context has changed, but with the Brady Ammendment, that replaces the Backstop with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border, there is a just a possibility this might pass. Baker said that if the Backstop is completely removed, the Political Declaration for the Future Relationship (PDFR) will need to be thoroughly rewritten, to match the offer the EU made to UK in March 2018. Also, it is unacceptable that the ECJ has jurisdiction over the negotiation of the PDFR. The implementation period leaves UK exposed to EU having power to pass laws to disadvantage UK, thus the UK would need a national veto; and equal citizens’ rights for British Asians and European Citizens is something Baker would aim for.
Baker explained that the purpose of an extension and the Surrender Act is obscured, because the Kinnock amendment requires the Prime Minister to state the reason for requesting an extension is to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, but Baker has previously said that there is no chance Johnson will represent a deal that contains the Backstop that is harder to get out of than Europe. Regarding a No Deal exit on 31 October, Baker hazarded a guess that the SC would support an extension; thus, it is difficult to say what the government ought to do.
At this point, a television broadcasting team arrived and The Sunday Guardian chat was over. One day, this reporter hopes to resume the intended profile under less harassed circumstances.