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Brexit Diaries 9: About Henry VIII, the lion and the unicorn

In the latest edition, Barabara Wesel examines what a wife-murdering king has to do with Brexit legislation and about regret after the deed. And just how patriotic will new British passports be?

"The ayes have it."

In the end embattled Prime Minister Theresa May carried her majority quite easily. The debate in Parliament had gone on and on till late in the night. This law will prevent chaos when we exit the EU, the Brexiteers argued, ever optimistic. This law is a power grab by the government, said the opposition.

This great Repeal Bill, also known as Brexit Bill, is a legislative monstrosity. It is designed to incorporate into British law in one fell swoop around 12,000 EU regulations, 7,900 implementation laws and 186 acts connected to European rules. The mind boggles, the layman gasps. This is one of those unforeseen consequences of Brexit that nobody had informed people about on the side of a bus.

House of Commons debate

In the Brexit bill debate, former minister Sir Edward Leigh described Henry VIII as "a bastard, but my kind of bastard"

Why Theresa May is dreaming of Henry VIII

Theresa May must have looked with envy at British history's most monstrous king when formulating this law. It was in the year 1537 that Henry VIII announced that he could make law by proclamation. How marvelously simple. Combined with the power to lop off his wives' heads at will he could thereafter freely enjoy his reign.

Whose heads would the prime minister like to see roll? Is it the recent pretender to the throne, Jacob Rees-Mogg, or the perennially annoying Boris Johnson? Certainly the leader of the treacherous opposition presents a clear cut case. She can but dream. But with the Brexit Repeal Bill at least she gained the power to shape laws at will. How else to deal with this legislative nightmare and shut up those rebellious voices in Parliament? Her luck will last until the bill goes to the committees.

The Labour party has been howling with fury. The Brexit Repeal Bill "allows ministers to implement any withdrawal deal Britain negotiates with the EU with minimal scrutiny. It would mean (…) that ministers would have a legislative blank cheque to make sweeping changes to every facet of national life," writes the opposition's frontman for Brexit, Keir Starmer. Indeed, you let the prime minister play at being Henry VIII at your own peril.

Read more Brexit Diaries

- Tanks, tea bags and marmalade

- Clarity, a walking tour and crisis

- Briefcases, orchestras and Winnie the Pooh

Watch video 01:37

Leaked Brexit documents on migration spark ire

Regrets, I have a few

A sure sign that something is seriously remiss is when Tony Blair rears his head. At theheart of the Brexit vote is the concern about immigration, he wrote in the Sunday Times. Though it was the former prime minister himself who had in 2005 opened the doors to hundreds of thousands of workers from Poland preposterously early. Now he talks about regulating migration. He would of course never admit it was his initial mistake, that is not Tony's way. But times have changed and the government should now manage the flow of workers and use the means at hand.

No need for the Home Office to write incendiary papers about drastically curtailing immigration and introducing a class system, which will infuriate the European partners. The government could simply have done what is possible and sensible. 

Other countries have ID cards to know about their citizens. They give newcomers three months to find work. They find ways to regulate the use of benefits and the flow of workers all within the rules of the EU. Britain has brought much of the current anger upon itself. Who else added student numbers to the statistics in order to inflate them? Who else has no idea who really comes and goes? David Cameron could supply some of the answers. But he only makes the news these days when he is caught smoking or buying a garden shed. Tempora mutantur.

Sound and fury

Already they are calling this season in London the autumn of discontent. The government is weak, the opposition is not strong enough and nobody gets what they really want. Be it the hardest of Brexits, or none at all. Observers point out that nothing decisive will happen until the end of Tory party conference on October 4. All the negotiations in Brussels so far have been nothing but sound and fury. The EU commission need not bother with further press conferences on the issue. It can just sit tight and wait.

Anti-Brexit demo in London

Anti-Brexit demonstrators took to the streets of London last weekend

They need bigger crowds

Last weekend, London was awash with European blue and its stars took to the stage. Prominent "Remainers" came out to sway the government. And Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable did not mince his words when describing it as "incompetent, dysfunctional, disunited." He does have a point considering the state of Brexit talks in Brussels. However, dear friends: You need much bigger crowds. A lot of work surely went into those delightful costumes, but nothing less than half a million people is gong to impress Theresa May. Work at it, there is still a bit of time.

Read more Brexit diaries

- The political survival of Therea May

- Fish, civil rights and the city

- Ambition and patriotism

The lion and the unicorn

It is one of the most potent symbols for Brexiteers. The dark blue British passport embossed with a proud lion and unicorn crest that will replace the detested European document in banal red. In a delicious twist of irony however, it has emerged that the iconic document could be made in France. The Home Office put the offer for its future production out to tender and a French and German firm are in the running. What an insult. The chairman of the parliamentary flags and heraldry committee was incensed: "I want to see the new British passport manufactured in Britain in a British factory employing British people…" Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the passports!

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