The People’s Vote risks becoming May’s lifeline


Now is the time to revoke Article 50

Theresa May has flogged a dead horse. She is now up against the rails. The EU won’t reopen negotiations on her Brexit plan and, even if they offered concessions on the “backstop” issue, it would not win parliamentary approval. The consensus in parliament also seems to be that a “no deal” exit from the EU would be disastrous. This leaves her with 3 options – to invite MPs to consider other exit routes, to endorse the call a new referendum or to revoke Article 50, leaving us to stay in the EU.

What is now abundantly clear is that Brexit in any form will be hugely damaging to Britain’s economy, prevent it being party to decisions which (if only for geographical reasons) impact on us, and distract government attention from addressing the valid grievances that led many people to vote to leave Europe. Thanks largely to the People’s Vote campaign and its effective lobbying of MPs, it is most unlikely that any alternative strategy to take Britain out of Europe through another door could secure majority backing in parliament.

This means that the real choice facing MPs when they are given a chance for a meaningful vote in the coming weeks must be between a referendum and revocation of Article 50. May, who habitually plays for time, seems bound to opt for a referendum in which she would stubbornly campaign for her plan. Any referendum risks re-opening divisions and prolonging the uncertainties that have put so many personal decisions and business initiatives on hold for two years.

The landmark decision of the European Court of Justice that Britain can unilaterally revoke Article 50 before 29th March 2019 and stay in the EU under current terms opens the door for MPs to opt for a dignified and very simple way out of the current impasse.

Paradoxically, if the People’s Vote campaign continues its present strategies, it could inadvertently throw a life-line to the PM and prolong the Brexit process indefinitely, with no certainty as to the outcome, especially if those seeking to leave the EU repeat their skilful use of illegal campaigning methods.

There is a window of opportunity in the continuation of the meaningful vote debate to get majority support for an amendment in favour of revoke. The chances of success seem good but would be all the surer if the People’s Vote campaign immediately changes tactics from calling on MPs to back a referendum to putting pressure on the leaders of both major parties to admit that, now they know they know that any Brexit is self-harming for Britain, they cannot in all honesty continue to lead us and their MPs down a dead-end Brexit path.

Theresa May has put up a good fight for her Chequers plan but the time has come for her to tell voters that, even if Norwegianised or Canadianised, all the evidence suggests that any Brexit would leave Britain weaker and more isolated. Jeremy Corbyn must also know that his call for a change of government so that he can reopen Brexit negotiations with the EU is a non-starter.

By calling on the government to revoke Artlcle 50, MPs would at one stroke bring an immediate end to uncertainties, solve the Irish border issue, ensure the continuation of frictionless trade with our biggest and nearest trading partners, restore business confidence, generate more resources for addressing our country’s worst woes, and enable Britain to continue to be an influential part of an institution that, for all its warts, has helped to assure the longest peace Europe has known for centuries and done much to foster productive collaboration on many issues of common concern from climate change to medicines and travel.

While there are bound to be shouts of betrayal from those who are determined to leave Europe – and even some French style protests – these would be drowned out by the huge sigh of relief from the general public when they find that their lives return to normal.

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