Mrs May has now presented to Cabinet the Brexit deal she has negotiated with the EU. As feared, it is a proposal that would leave the UK not only remaining bound to the EU but at a far greater disadvantage than under its current terms of membership. It is therefore totally unacceptable.
There were reported ructions in Cabinet. It is bound by collective responsibility, but that doesn’t mean individual Cabinet ministers have accepted the deal.
Since its faults are overwhelmingly obvious to Remainers as well as Brexiteers, it is extremely doubtful that it will get through Parliament.
Will Cabinet ministers now resign on a point of principle? Will Parliament vote for or against no-deal? Will Mrs May be forced to resign (way, way overdue)? Will there be a general election? Will the pressure for a second referendum become irresistible?
So here are a few points which need to be made.
- The British people voted to leave the EU. They expressed no view on the kind of deal they wanted or whether they would want to leave without any deal at all. They simply voted to leave.
- If Parliament votes against May’s deal, the UK must leave the EU with no deal if the result of the referendum vote is to be honoured.
- Most MPs reportedly believe no-deal would be a disaster of the first magnitude. This is absurd for reasons outlined elsewhere, such as here and here. It would be far from desirable; there would be problems and privations, some serious, some not. But disaster? No. It’s simply not in the EU’s interests for trade and other arrangements with the UK to go down the tubes.
- No-deal was always the only deal that would be in the UK’s national interest in the medium to long term. This case now needs to be made very strongly indeed.
- As a lightly disguised attempt to reverse the Brexit decision, it would be an anti-democratic kick in the teeth for the British people.
- Worse, May has now explicitly threatened to reverse the Brexit decision. In her statement, she said the choice was now between accepting this deal, leaving with no deal or “no Brexit at all”. So she is now threatening, in terms, that the government might decide to ignore the referendum decision and thus reverse the Brexit vote.
- If a second referendum were to be held, what would be the question? Since all prognoses are bitterly contested, on what superior information base would the public reach a fresh decision? There is none. It would be referendum groundhog-day all over again – but this time with far greater hatred on all sides and a catastrophic deepening of national divisions.
- The assumption that the status quo ante is still an option is false. If the UK were to decide to remain in the EU after all, does anyone seriously imagine that the EU would allow it to do so on the same terms as now? It would use the UK’s craven surrender and patent weakness to impose fresh conditions to bind it much more tightly into the EU – almost certainly with forced membership of the euro for starters.
The following arguments also need to be made against a second referendum.
The stakes could not be higher. Individual MPs must now choose whether they will enable Britain to become again an independent self-governing nation, or not.
If Conservative MPs don’t now ensure the UK leaves the EU, their party may simply implode and /or be destroyed by the fact that, after such a betrayal and such a demonstration of jaw-dropping ineptitude and incompetence, no-one will vote for it ever again.
And for all who care about democracy, if Parliament doesn’t now honour the referendum decision the alienation of the people from the whole democratic process will have untold political and social consequences for the foreseeable future.
The only legitimate deal now, in the UK’s national interest, is no-deal.