At last Parliament has decided to leave the EU—but not how or when
It appears that Boris Johnson has done the ‘impossible’ by getting the EU to improve Theresa May’s dreadful effort. Perhaps he would have preferred no agreement to what he got Brussels to approve. We are inclined to feel the same because the next stage will be equally tortuous as every clause is fought over. Uncertainty will therefore rule until the Transition Period ends (December 2020 at the earliest) or a trade deal is agreed with the EU (by July 2020 if optimist Johnson is right or after another three years at the very best according to Barnier). Meanwhile the draining damage to the British economy will continue. It is likely that withdrawal on WTO terms would give a greater initial hit but solutions and recovery could start much sooner – we cannot be sure but that option looks to have been closed by this remainer-Parliament.
Still, there will probably be an election before the end of the Transition and perhaps Boris will have a majority to help him resist the EU’s determination to prevent us from being a competitor. Now the deal has been approved in principle by Parliament he can appeal to the country as the hero who got Brexit done (sort of). However, voters might say ‘thanks for that, now we can get on with other things but we’d rather someone else took charge of that’. This after all is what happened to his hero Winston Churchill.
Then again the EU is facing a severe crisis with few tools left to defend itself. Ultimately fiscal union seems the only solution to the fundamental problem with the eurozone and that implies bailouts by richer countries for poorer ones. German voters in particular are unlikely to stand for that so the zone may break up. Then perhaps from the remnants there might be something we could work with, even some form of union we’d be willing to re-join.
Use your discretion
“You are not delegates, you are representatives” Speaker Bercow has told MPs, by which he meant their constituents elected them to decide things on their behalf. Most Honourable Members were happy to adopt this position rather than seek their voters’ approval when they changed their minds about an explicit commitment—until now. Now it seems that MPs can’t decide this complex question after all; as Labour’s Shadow Chancellor said, “Our policy is clear: Let the people decide.” Apparently they want to be delegates after all.
A Pleasure Postponed is a Pleasure Increased
Labour and its collaborators in Parliament have managed to delay Brexit again, which is draining the economy and the patience of ‘the people’. Their stated purpose is to get voters’ approval for whatever deal is conjured up between the EU and UK.
Keir Starmer says, “A growing number of people believe the only way to settle Brexit is to ask the people: ‘Do you want to leave on these terms or would you rather remain?’”
Here’s another, equally valid way to settle Brexit, ask the people: ‘Do you want to leave on these terms or would you rather just leave?’
These questions do not differ in form, they simply skew the people’s choice in opposite ways. It may be valid to ask how the terms of the deal—any deal, Johnson’s or Labour’s (if there were one ‘on the table’)—might improve on remaining or just leaving the Union. Both are debatable propositions but separately they limit the people’s options. Starmer is intelligent enough to know this but wishes to eliminate the clean break option so that his Party’s supposed preference for a deal that leaves us in the Customs Union will be chosen if voters still insist on leaving. The UK is subject to rules decided and administered by other extra-sovereign bodies (WTO, UN, EHCR, NATO, etc.) but is not, at present, bound by any in which it has no voice or representation, which would give the UK the status of a colony; Starmer must know this even if he won’t acknowledge it.
In Parliament Corbyn denounced the latest Tory Brexit as “a race to the bottom” on worker’s rights and wants to outsource even more regulation. If the people don’t trust Tory promises they don’t have to vote Tory, they won’t have a vote in Brussels after a Labour Brexit. Maybe Labour is playing a longer game, to put us in a position where the people will beg to rejoin the EU rather than be its disenfranchised subjects. Maybe what Starmer really believes is that the best way to settle Brexit is to ask the people and then ignore them—again. Maybe.