In the mad maelstrom that British politics has now become, it is ever more important to understand certain fundamental, brutal realities.
The UK has two strategic alternatives before it, and only two: to leave the EU, or to remain.
That’s it. No half way house, no soft-Brexit, no out but still a little bit in, no Norway-plus, no Mrs May deal without the Irish backstop (really, Boris? What about the rest of her lousy rotten deal?). Just leave or remain.
There are four, and only four, tactical options: Mrs May’s deal, no deal, second referendum, general election. That’s it.
No renegotiation with a suddenly obliging EU (really, Boris, Michael? Why on earth would they renegotiate with a UK that’s been on its knees throughout these pathetic negotiations in a state of pre-emptive surrender and would now come crawling back for another contemptuous beating?)
No “non-binding indicative” MPs’ votes on all the possible different options to find out what the majority of MPs can agree on (really, Amber Rudd? There’s no overall majority for any of them. Or do you want to to list them in order of number of votes cast and take the top one? Are you really that shallow?)
Leave aside those MPs who have shown their cynical, anti-democratic colours by pushing for a second referendum on the principle that the people must be made to vote until they return the correct result. Mrs May has set her face firmly against this. She has also ruled out a general election. In both she is correct on pragmatic grounds alone. Neither option would end this crisis.
Her tactics, as Remainers and Jeremy Corbyn are howling in unison, are plain. By planning to hold the deferred “meaningful vote” on January 14 – which is one week before the date of the UK legal requirement that the government must reach an exit agreement with the EU – she plans to bounce MPs into having to choose between her deal and no-deal.
But here’s the thing. Mrs May seems to believe that, given this ultimatum and with their backs to the wall, MPs will reluctantly back her deal, especially if in the meantime she has managed to obtain from the EU some kind of legally binding guarantee or other reassurances about the Irish backstop (which in any event won’t be worth the paper they may or may not be written on).
If so, there may well be Tory MPs witless and spineless enough to vote for her deal. But they should be in do doubt: if they do so, they will be voting to negate Brexit. Because Mrs May’s deal is BRINO – Brexit In Name Only– and would leave the UK shackled to the EU possibly in perpetuity.
In other words, the choice between Mrs May’s deal and no deal is nothing less than the choice between Remain and Leave.
There is only one way to honour the referendum result and rescue what’s left of public trust in the entire democratic process, and that is to leave the EU with no deal.
Brexiteers should be honest and say that this will produce some problems. But their extent has been grossly exaggerated and no-deal is eminently doable, as has been said here, here and here. As the former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has said, no-deal would cause only short term disruption. And when did the British ever flinch from paying a price for liberty and democracy and the independence of their island nation?
If MPs do betray that essential free British spirit and the democratic process to which it gave rise, they will never be forgiven. Those of their constituents who want their nation back should all spend the next few weeks making sure their member of parliament fully understands that if they negate the Brexit vote and thwart the wishes of the people to whom parliament entrusted this decision, there will be a drastic political price to pay.