My enthusiasm for a second referendum or ‘people’s vote’ on the country’s decision to set itself on fire had waned in recent weeks. Yes, I think the Leave campaign lied. We now know it also broke the law. And literally none of the promises that were made three years ago, from Millions more for the NHS through to 99 new trade deals being done and dusted by the 29th March 2019 have come to fruition.
Nonetheless, the sheer paralysis that Brexit has inflicted on us led me to the unfortunate conclusion that a reasonable deal that delivered what 52% of those who voted Leave wanted, whilst offering some comfort and certainty about our future with the EU to the 48% who voted the other way would, on balance, be preferable.
The prime ministers Withdrawal Agreement wasn’t the answer. But it was on the right track. It was her own party’s Brextreemists that killed it dead. Belatedly, Theresa May has reached out to the official opposition to try and explore a compromise through talks with Jeremy Corbyn. After two years of talks and negotiation with the EU and her own party, she has changed her approach and changed her mind about Brexit.
Similarly, a good number of those on the extreme fringes of her party did not so much a U-Turn on her deal, but a somersault. Having described May’s Withdrawal Agreement as an ‘awful deal’ a ‘betrayal’ and a ‘dogs breakfast’ leading members of the loveable ERG, Rees Mogg, Iain Duncan Smith and Boris Johnson among them voted for it.
Of course, it was all a bit too little too late, and the government was left to the mercy of parliament. The commons failed to get agreement on any of the options put to it through a series of indicative votes – not once, but twice. And last night one of the Brexit resolutions was tied at 310 votes to 310 votes.
The one thing it did approve, by just one vote, was to rule out a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
Taking all of this recent madness into account, I am back on the ‘people’s vote’ bus, and for several reasons.
Firstly, if the will of the people is to leave the EU without a deal, then parliament should not be allowed to stop that. We need to find out.
Second, if the great and the good from the Bullingdon Club can change their minds, if the prime minister can change hers, why can’t you?
Third, parliamentary democracy is clearly and dangerously at breaking point. It is time to trust the country to resolve an issue that our modern- day leaders have simply been unable to resolve. You can only do that through another vote.
The vote should be legally binding (the referendum wasn’t). The question should be ‘No deal’ Brexit or Remain. Once our politicians are given clarity, perhaps they can crack on and do what they have been charged to and deliver the ‘will of the people’. The problem is nobody knows what the ‘will of the people is’. If they ever did, they certainly don’t now. Its time to find out.
An end to the special relationship?
There are no superlatives left to describe the mess our once wonderfully admired country has got itself into over Brexit. Shambles seems far too kind a word. The lack of strategic thought, negotiating acumen and leadership skills from our politicians has resulted in the UK becoming the laughing stock of the world.
Once seen as reliable, pragmatic and sane, the headline in a leading American publication this week was “Has the UK Gone Mad?”
Another US commentator asked, “In an ever more connected world, why would Britain want to disconnect itself?”
As for the promised trade deal with the Trump administration, every leading opinion former in the States says that it will take years to achieve – and given the size of our economy to America’s, any agreement will be heavily weighted in favour of our friends across the pond.
Those who celebrate Trump’s deal with Canada and Mexico can think again too. That deal has yet to be ratified by Congress. And it may never be. So even a bad deal would take years, rather than months to sort.
It has also become apparent in recent months that leading American politicians see our departure from Europe as a huge blow to our global influence. Put simply, the UK was once seen as the European country that best understood the States and was therefore seen as a key ally that had direct access to and the ear of the EU, with power to shape its policy and thinking. The ‘special relationship’ with the USA may not be that special in the future.