Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Brexit: where now?
At last the option of revoking Article 50 has surfaced in the mainstream (rather than just on this Blog.) Mrs May gave it as an option in her speech in the Commons last night night in which she acknowledged the second massive defeat of her deal. The presenter of the BBC 1 then mentioned it on the 10pm bulletin, and it has been cited again on the news this morning.
I'm surprised that this oblivious course has taken so long to emerge as a serious possibility.
For MPs to revoke Article 50 is the simplest way to get us out of the mess they have put us in. The other options, in which they try to further defer decisions, or thrust them on to someone else, all have complications which have received little atention.
Remember that the EU has indicated that the maximum postponement they have in mind is two months - maybe three at the most.
The option with the most steam behind it is a "People's Vote." That would take, at an uninformed guess, at least six months to set up, and there would be much acrimonious wrangling as to the actual question(s). they could be: May or No-deal: May or Remain; or a three way option, May, Leave, Remain ( and how would we count that?)
Labour's preferred option is a General Election. That could just about fit into a two month time frame. The problems here are threefold:
1) Labour probably wouldn't win - the most likely outcome is another balanced parliament with the Tories as the largest party.and so the same deadlock as now:
2) Even if Labour did win a working majority, their proposals of remaining in "a", rather than "the" customs union and single market sound like the original Brexiteer proposals of having all the benefits of membership of the EU with none of the obligations, or "having your cake and eating it, which the EU would reject.(even if they agreed to re-open negotiations with a different government
3) Voters have a habit of deciding General Elections on issues other than the one(s) for which they were called. Probably Labour would prefer this.
Both options sidetrack the issue of the EU Elections to be held in June. If we haven't yet left we presumably have to take part. Can we really cope with that, and a general Election or a "People's vote" at the same time? Voter fatigue would probably lead to very poor turnouts and open the results to accusations of lack of legitimacy.
The only viable option is for MPs to grasp the nettle and vote to revoke Article 50. They have 15 days to do it. Easy easy, if they have the guts.
If MPs take this bold step there will, of course, be outrage, some of it synthetic, whipped up by the frustrated chief Brexiteers, and much of it perfectly legitimate, from the (I suspect very small) minority who sincerely believe that Britain as a whole would be a happier and more successful country outside the EU, and the much larger number who feel, legitimately, that the political elite have ignored their predicament for too long and so used the Referendum vote to take a swipe a the system.
There will be grief, there may even be disturbances, but we shall survive.
The treacle tins of old used to bear the slogan "Out of the strong came forth sweetness." If MPs can find the strength to take this boldest step we may then, freed from the burden of Brexit, have the time, energy and willl to build, along with our neighbours and within the EU, a society that really does "work for everyone"