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The options that MPs face
27 Aug, 2019

Chair's message to members - 27 August 2019

Dear Member or Supporter

Under Johnson's government No-Deal is a real issue not just an inept negotiating tool. Nonetheless we should not let ourselves be mesmerised by it. Neither Deal nor No-Deal is the problem. The Problem is Brexit, no matter what form it takes nor who is putting it forward. There is no point in accepting one form of Brexit in order to avoid another.

If I revert to my previous role as schoolteacher and award the class marks, then Swinson, Lucas and a collection of brave backbenchers receive 100 for wishing to Remain in the EU. Johnson and his ERG gang nul points for a hostile No-Deal (and lack of any research in their essays).

Boles would receive 50 for Norway. With freedom of movement it would retain the key benefit for individuals and a real method of promoting ever-closer union between individuals and peoples, though we would miss out on inter-governmental co-operation. He would receive 60 for Norway + Customs Union because that would in addition largely solve the practical - but not emotional - problems of the Irish border. However, as the pass mark is 99 he would still fail.

Corbyn and May would receive only 15 points for their Deals which are virtually identical (indefinite customs union v permanent customs union). Sure, they are polite and try to limit the economic damage. But both began with an anti-immigration focus and they would distance us from Europe at the personal as well as the political level. 

However, Corbyn stands to receive a goodly chunk of bonus marks for his commitment to a "public vote" - though only if he can clarify that he means the R-word, expand on the circumstances in which he would have one, and then stick convincingly to his commitment without back-pedalling. There would be even more bonus points if he broadened the at present rather narrow set of circumstances where he would campaign for Remain


The political options for MPs 

There are three groups of options which overlap and interplay.

Group A are actions where Boris Johnson co-operates to hold a general election before Brexit Day or to obtain an extension to allow a general election or referendum to go ahead.

Group B is where Parliament legislates to insist that the present Prime Minister obtains an extension and uses that time for a general election or referendum.

Group C is where Parliament replaces the Prime Minister by a new or caretaker Prime Minister who obtains an extension and uses it for a general election or referendum.

As throughout the Brexit process Parliament's problem has been that it knows what it does not like but has not been willing to agree on what it would like.


There are only three ways to resolve Brexit

No-Deal; agree a Deal; revoke the Article 50 notice.

An extension just defers the point at which we have to decide between these three outcomes. It may be necessary, but is not an outcome in its own right.

Much the same goes for a general election; it would just waste more time. A general election cannot resolve Brexit. People vote for a government, not on a single issue. First-past-the-post means that different votes have different values. Tactical voting clouds the meaning of the result. It is not certain that voters would be offered honest, clear and coherent choices on Brexit by the two main parties or that their leaders would even seek to make Brexit the main issue.

What we need is a referendum: given that we began this process with a referendum a further referendum is the only act with the democratic legitimacy to change - or confirm - course.

So MPs should focus on obtaining the referendum, addressing necessary prior steps such as an extension solely with that aim in mind.


What can you do?

I would urge you to write to your MP and to the various party leaders setting out your views on what needs to happen now: the essential point is to avoid unnecessary distractions and move to a referendum as quickly as we can.




This e-mail sets out the personal views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of London4Europe.

Twitter: @London4Europe