The Guardian view on the Brexit debate: no scrutiny, no choice | Editorial

A truncated parliamentary session, less than 48 hours before the end of the transition period, was too little, too late

In a damning assessment of Wednesday’s token debate on Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal, the Hansard Society’s senior researcher dismissed it as “a farce.” As one of the most depressing and shambolic periods in British political history reaches a denouement, perhaps that should have come as no surprise.

MPs were allotted five hours to discuss the 1,246-page treaty, agreed last week, which completes Britain’s departure from the European Union. Such a derisory level of scrutiny, said Hansard’s Brigid Fowler, was “an abdication of parliament’s constitutional responsibilities.” Exuding insouciance, the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, quickly revealed the government’s contempt for such notions. The risibly short session, he told MPs, was merely the “icing on the Christmas cake that the prime minister delivered for the nation”. So much, then, for the restoration of parliamentary sovereignty, the lodestar that supposedly guided the Brexit project. In the absence of any alternative, bar a disastrous no-deal exit on New Year’s Day, the European Union (future relationship) bill was rushed through by a majority of 448. Cognisant of its myriad flaws, Mr Johnson had good grounds for wanting it to be waved through on the fly.

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