One thing we can all agree about Brexit is our wish for it to end. However, it is hard to identify much further common ground. Some believe the best way to end the uncertainty is to elect a Conservative Government on 12 December, and so get it over with. That is just plain wrong, says Vice-Chair of L4E Nick Hopkinson.
Leaving the EU will only prolong the uncertainty. Brexit is the root cause of the problems, and as such cannot be the solution to it.
If a Conservative Government is elected, Brexit will happen. But it will not be done. The uncertainty will only deepen after a temporary reprieve. The UK will almost certainly have concluded no trade deals of any importance by the end of June 2020. The UK will then have to make a request to the EU to extend the transitional period. This is something Boris Johnson has said he will not do. The prospect of a Conservative majority means we shall soon yet again be on another No Deal Brexit cliff edge.
Outside the EU, our leverage in trade negotiations will be weaker, and if we crash out, it will be even weaker. Furthermore, the new No Deal Brexit will exacerbate tensions in the Union. The Government will be less able to focus on pressing domestic needs because it will continue to be preoccupied on negotiating hundreds of trade and other international agreements and managing Brexit’s adverse domestic consequences, including keeping the Kingdom United.
Our economy will slow as uncertainty deters both domestic and foreign investment and the Government takes in less tax revenue. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) noted last week, a Conservative Government will have to raise taxes and/or borrow (much) more to afford the necessary increased expenditure on the NHS, housing, transport infrastructure, the police and other government services.
Much of the problem of the past three years has been reconciling the conflicting mandates of the 2016 plebiscitary referendum and the need for representative democracy to define which form of Brexit should be implemented. Leave never told us in the 2016 campaign which form of Brexit they advocated. They could never agree and did not want to be accountable. Norway, Switzerland and even Albania were all mentioned as models but a No Deal Brexit never was. All Leave could come up with was the meaningless ex post facto tautology “Leave means Leave”.
Revoking Article 50 is the goal of all Remainers. The difference of course lies in how we achieve that, whether through a confirmatory vote on the October Withdrawal Agreement or through a revocation of Article 50 by a majority government. The latter option has the attraction of eliding plebiscitary and parliamentary democracy, but few now believe a Liberal Democrat majority is likely. So if we are to secure a People’s Vote, the most likely route to one remains Labour emerging as the largest party on 12 December.
In a democracy, we know one vote is never forever. Any single vote only sets the direction of travel until the next vote either confirms or reverses it. As David Davis famously said, “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy”. When parties lose elections, they do not stop fighting for what they believe in. The losers of the 1975 referendum never stopped campaigning to leave the EU. Today Remainers respect the result of the 2016 referendum every bit as much as Leavers respected the 1975 referendum.
So there is still all to play for in this General Election and beyond. The People’s Vote campaign argues Brexit can be stopped if at least 30% of remain voters switch from their traditional party and tactically support the recommended candidate supporting a People’s Vote. If you are unsure who to vote for in your constituency on 12 December, see the following compilation of recommendations from five pro-European tactical voting websites.
You can also get more involved in the campaign against Brexit. If you haven’t already done so, please fill in our Volunteer Survey and our Volunteer Coordinator, Jo Pye, will be in touch with you.
The views expressed above represent the views of the signatory, and not necessarily those of London4Europe nor any other organisation.