The best way to stop courting disaster: revoke Article 50

After two years of dithering, Theresa May has at last sought to define the main elements of what she hopes will be the UK’s future relationship with the European Union. However, the Chequers Plan, though endorsed by her cabinet, quickly came under attack from both wings of her own party as well as from opposition parties. To signal their objections, several Brexit-supporting ministers, most notably Johnson and Davis, resigned and opinion polls detected very little public support for her proposed strategy. Although her statement of intent was received politely by the other 27 EU members, many doubts were expressed by them about its compatibility with the EU’s policies.

We seem to be stuck in a state of limbo. If negotiations do go ahead, however, they will become increasingly acrimonious and end up either with a deal that is unfavourable for Britain or in no deal. Raab, the new Brexit minister, has already done his best to create a hostile environment for further discussions by threatening that Britain would not pay the amount it has already agreed that it would owe the EU upon withdrawal – a move that can only damage the possibilities of securing a benign agreement on future relationships. As the government makes additional concessions in order to reach an agreement, the pressures from Brexiteers will grow and eventually force the prime minister to withdraw from the negotiating process, blaming EU intransigence for the breakdown. There is broad agreement on both sides that the resultant “crash-out” would be hugely damaging to Britain as well as to several other EU members.

The plain truth is that, contrary to the claims of the “leave” campaign, any move to exit the European Union is bound to leave us worse off than we are now. David Davis promised us that we would enjoy “exactly the same economic benefits outside the EU as inside.” But it seems obvious that there is simply no way in which Europe will agree to a former member country continuing to attain the full benefits of single market and customs union membership unless it also subscribes to the related “freedoms”, especially to the principle of “freedom of movement” for EU citizens. It is natural that the EU would not wish to set a generous precedent that could encourage other member nations to follow the UK’s example.

From what we have seen over the past few weeks, neither the Conservative nor Labour party – if it came to power through an early election – would be able to reach a “good” Brexit deal and have it eventually endorsed by the majority of its members. In both major parties, the negotiating process would deepen existing within-party splits, with extreme Brexiteers determined to scuttle any deal that they consider too “pro-European”.

Perhaps the only honest way out of this dilemma would be for the leaders of the two main parties to be brave enough to consult with each other and jointly admit to us that, even with the best will in the world, neither of them – nor their possible successors – will be able to negotiate a long-term agreement on our country’s future relationship with the EU that offers the benefits promised by “leave” campaigners. The government’s own forecasts show that all Brexit scenarios, “hard” or “soft”, will have severe negative economic consequences for the UK and so limit any government’s capacity to fund badly needed investments in health and care, education, transport and housing. The two leaders would have to make it clear that neither wishes to lead our country forward into what they now know is clearly a self-harming future and therefore would call on their MPs to quickly revoke Article 50 rather than continue to pursue unattainable goals with a high probability of an eventual “crash out”.

This may, at first, seem an improbable scenario, but, as a friend has pointed out “I always think the politicians who are capable of breaking the routines in times of crisis and have the courage to rise above the partisan fray become the biggest heroes when history is written.” The opportunity exists for May and Corbyn to emerge as statesmen and be assigned their due place in British history.

Parliament approved the invocation of Article 50 and so is presumably entitled to approve government action to revoke it. However, if MP’s consider that it is necessary to test the nation’s pulse, they could approve arrangements for a “People’s Vote” on whether to back a predictably “bad” Brexit or to stay put in the EU.

While both May and Corbyn would naturally be hesitant to come together to break the truth to voters that the leave campaign’s promises amount to “pie in the sky”, it is becoming increasingly likely that, as more evidence of electoral malpractice and Russian meddling comes to light, the EU referendum will be declared null and void by the UK judiciary. Such a verdict would provide them both with the ideal opportunity to turn their backs on the divisive Brexit saga and to concentrate their efforts on making Britain truly great again.

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An Early End to Much Ado about Nothing

 

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”, if confirmed in the promised White Paper, 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.

May I ask you whether this makes sense or is it merely wishful thinking?

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The People’s Vote March Cocked a Snook at the Brexit Bullies

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It has taken me several days to work out why last Saturday’s march in support of a People’s Vote was so important. At the time, I had an intuitive feeling that it marked a real turning point in the tortured Brexit saga, but it was not immediately clear to me why this should be.

It has now dawned on me that the true significance of the march was that, after lying low in the face of non-stop bullying for two years since the EU referendum, tens of thousands of people had at last had the courage to say that enough is enough, and to say it boldly in a spirit of joy and optimism. The message was that we are no longer prepared to stand by silently and let a small herd of ego-centric bullies push our beloved country into a deeply self-harming future.

Bullying is nicely summed up by Psychology Today as “a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully. Bullying is not garden-variety aggression; it is a deliberate and repeated attempt to cause harm to others of lesser power. It’s a very durable behavioural style, largely because bullies get what they want—at least at first.”

The most conspicuous victim of systematic bullying has been Theresa May, but the Brexit bullies in the Cabinet, her party and the popular press have repeatedly sought to belittle, or even obliterate, anyone who dares to challenge their claim that, in calling for a “hard” Brexit, they are responding to “the will of the people”.

Over the past months, there has been a torrent of information that supports the claim that any Brexit – “hard” or “soft” – will reduce Britain’s standing in the world and will deeply damage our economy, thus making it impossible for the country to finance badly needed improvements in health, education, housing, care for the elderly and transport. Brexit has already done economic harm, but the bullies dismiss such claims as “project fear” and immediately try to silence anyone who dares to interpret the meaning of emerging statistics and forecasts that highlight the deep weaknesses of the Brexit dream. However, the march showed that there are many people from all parties and walks of life who have lost patience with endless thuggery and are determined to “take back control”.

With the passing of time, we are also learning more about the valuable services provided by the EU that impact positively on our daily lives, whether through simplifying cross-border travel, providing isotypes for medical use, assuring the safety of food or enabling criminals to be tracked and arrested in other EU member countries.

Yes, the march cocked a snook at the bullies, denting their credibility. Hopefully this and signals of growing public understanding of the good aspects of EU cooperation will nudge a shift in the “will of the people” and will embolden Mrs May to at last stand up to the thugs and to pursue negotiations with Europe in a constructive manner. She must set her mind on reaching an agreement with our neighbours that is good for Britain and good for them too, rather than risk crashing out to placate the self-styled “bad boys of Brexit” and so undermine the chances of any benign future coexistence with Europe.

It is time for all who believe that Britain will be strongest, most prosperous and safest by continuing to have a seat at the European Union to tell the bullies, in Bojo’s own words, to “f**k off” and to “go whistle”, so as to make space for negotiations to go ahead smoothly. Hopefully, once the tortured May has thrown the bullies off her back, she might see that it is in her own interest to accept the concept of a People’s Vote to approve her deal or to maintain the status quo. There are many MPs from different parties who, once freed from bullying, might now support her if she took such a brave stance!
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