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Time to call it a day
15 Jul, 2018

An Early End to Much Ado about Nothing

Our correspondent, who writes under the name Future of Our Children, calls on Parliament to withdraw the Article 50 notice with a people's vote to establish where public opinion now is.

Wouldn’t it would be rather nice if life could soon just return to normal?

For the past 24 months since the EU referendum, almost everyone in Britain has been hit in one way or another by the uncertainties sparked by a government that has been incapable of agreeing on what it means by Brexit. In hindsight, we can see that It was downright foolish to fire the starter’s pistol by invoking Article 50 before the government had a clue about its negotiating aims.

Last week, Theresa May bravely stood up to her Brexiteer bullies and arrived at a short-lasted cabinet consensus on a new set of goals that she described as being “good for us and for the EU”. Peace reigned for just a few hours and was followed by the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson, two of the most blatant bullies: it was plain to them that the “hard” Brexit that they had championed was no longer on the table. Though they and their fellow-travellers may continue to pester her from the side-lines, the fact that they “sacked themselves” must be the best news May has had in months.

The problem facing Mrs. May now, however, is that she has committed herself to a negotiating goal that, even if achieved, is bound to leave Britain worse off than it is now. The central plank of the “Chequers plan” is that it commits the government to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU that has all of the advantages of being in the single market and customs union without obliging the UK to accept full freedom of movement of EU citizens.

So, simply in order to be able to claim that “Brexit means Brexit”, we will slam the door on the best free trade deal in the world, and the next day start, as a “third country”, to negotiate a new free trade deal with the same parties. We are bound to be offered a less favourable “take it or leave it” trade relationship proposal by the other 27 countries that, if only because of our nuisance value, will make sure that we are worse off than we are now. If we don’t accept it, negotiations will be terminated and, to the cheers of Davis and Johnson, we will “crash out” of the European Union, with devastating effects.

Rather than pursue this non-starter and further humiliate our country, a parliament that gives priority to the interests and livelihoods of the people rather than to the political ambitions of its maverick politicians, should face up to reality and unilaterally revoke Article 50.

This move, involving cross-party collaboration, would be justified by a combination of at least 5 valid considerations:

First, the government’s own figures show that any Brexit deal, “hard” or “soft”, would be economically damaging and hugely reduce fiscal revenues at a time when all parties agree that there is an urgent need for heavy public spending on health, education, housing, care and infrastructure. The financial watchdogs also make it clear that there would be no “Brexit dividend” because the UK would continue to have to pay heavily for services provided by the European Commission.

Secondly, over the past 2 years, the “will of the people” appears to be shifting away from being in favour of leaving the EU as increasing numbers of voters have come to realize the widespread practical benefits of being EU citizens. The strong interest expressed by young people to stay in European institutions must command special weight, as they are the ones who will be affected most by the outcome. If there are doubts about the change in public opinion, the issue can be put to a People’s Vote.

Thirdly, the revoking of Article 50 would bring an immediate end to the huge uncertainties that we have faced for over two years and allow us to get on with our “normal” lives. The continued unity of the United Kingdom would no longer be under threat. It would immediately stop a fiendishly complicated extrication process and allow all the involved institutions to get on, undistracted, with their vital functions.

Fourthly, we can place little trust in our alliance with the US under its present leadership. The best way for the UK to play a decisive international role is by keeping its seat as an active and influential member of the EU.

Finally, as increasing evidence continues to emerge about electoral malpractice, it is most likely that, at some stage, the EU referendum result – and hence the conclusions of any negotiations - will be declared non-valid.