Time to Face up to Reality
A young cat has recently adopted me and follows me wherever I go. We have named her ‘Theresa’ because she never accepts “no” for an answer. But even she is now starting to see that this is self-defeating behaviour.
Surprisingly, May and Corbyn seem to have quite similar ideas about a soft Brexit that would respect the result of the 2016 referendum. But the chances that they could reach an agreement are low as each would lose the support of large chunks of their parties. Even if there might be a prospect for finding a ‘middle ground’ parliamentary majority in support of a soft Brexit, each knows how divisive this would be for both Conservatives and Labour. The talks seem bound to break down.
If Mrs May brings her plan back to parliament with few changes it seems that it is certain to be defeated yet again. If she fails to bring it back for fear of losing and respects parliament’s earlier decision to exclude a ‘no-deal’ situation, she is faced with just two options – either to lend her support for a people’s verdict on her plan versus staying in Europe (both of which, till now, she has stubbornly rejected) or to simply admit that, after exploring all options, she has concluded that the UK is unable to reach an understanding on how to leave Europe.
The best outcome that could come out of the current cross-party talks would be that both sides openly admit that there is no Brexit outcome that is good for Britain. We have learnt today that even remaining in a customs union, as advocated by Corbyn, without staying in the single market could lead to huge falls in fiscal income that would put a large part of his future spending plans beyond reach.
If both May and Corbyn at last abandon fudge and face up to stark reality, the best – and most honest – step that they can take is to jointly tell the British public that they are abandoning the cross-party talks, having both concluded that the failure of the talks is inevitable because the reality is that there is no Brexit deal that is good for Britain and neither wishes to pursue a self-harming outcome for the country.
This leaves them with two options, both of which almost certainly would lead to UK staying in Europe – to revoke Article 50 or to go for a People’s Vote.
May’s interpretation of the recent local elections is that voters simply want to bring the Brexit process to early closure. The best way of doing this is for her to seek parliamentary approval for the immediate revocation of Article 50. The chances that Labour would support her on this and that there would be a parliamentary majority in favour seem quite high, following the admission by a Shadow Minister and member of the Labour negotiating team, Rebecca Long-Bailey, that, to avoid a no-deal Brexit, Labour would “consider very, very strongly voting to revoke Article 50.”
There would be howls of betrayal from hard-line leave voters, but these would be drowned out by the huge sigh of relief rising from across the country that Parliament had at last taken back control and faced up to reality.