We, the public, voted ourselves into the Brexit mess and we should be the ones to vote the country out of the deadlock, Christopher Oram writes.
Her Majesty the Queen has always spoken carefully and wisely. In a speech at the Sandringham Women’s Institute (WI), the Queen spoke of finding “common ground” and “never losing sight of the bigger picture”.
For me, the statement “speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view” was the most powerful considering our current Brexit predicament. Though, I can’t help but think that she was barking up the wrong tree and that her statements are too little, too late.
With the end game in sight, Brexiters and Remainers are suffering a common feeling. Both sides are feeling cheated. The Brexiters feel cheated because neither of the Prime Ministers’ deals, 1.0 or 2.0, reflect the promises that were sold to them in the 2016 referendum.
The Remainers are feeling cheated because the Leave campaign was overfunded, underestimated and full of undeliverable promises. Not to mention problems with the Irish border and the pending reality that there isn’t a deal available that trumps the one we currently have: Membership of the EU.
This creates a strange paradox in the sense that the country is united. Both sides reject the Government’s deal. Unfortunately, the Queen’s hopes of “common ground” are further than ever before while both sides pull harder in opposite directions. The Brexiters pull towards a no-deal and Remainers pull towards revoking article 50 which, thanks to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the UK has the thumbs-up to unilaterally revoke it with unchanged status. It is like two magnets pushing away from each other because one side will not change from negative to positive.
I, for my sins, am a totally different beast. I am a member of the #RemainerNow community, a Twitter-based movement which gives a voice to people who voted Leave, or abstained, but would now vote Remain after seeing how Brexit has unfolded.
After Theresa May’s defeat on January 15, it is clear that parliament cannot function correctly. The only thing that has a majority in the house is to avoid a No-Deal at all costs. It is clear that without the PM moving on her ‘red lines’, there cannot be any further progress. It is also clear that a General Election cannot be achieved without Conservative rebels voting against themselves in a Labour driven vote of no confidence.
You might argue that a ‘second vote’ undermines democracy and will break faith with the electorate, but I put it to you that because the first referendum was overfunded, underestimated and full of undeliverable promises, to continue down this road without considering a second vote will mean breaking faith with the 49 million people who did not ask for this.
Furthermore, the referendum in 2016 was capricious in its content. Leaving the EU has an unhealthy variety of versions that make a majority impossible to claim. Remaining means remaining. Brexit means anything from one day to the next.
With that said, it is not my agenda to try and persuade Brexiters to change their minds. I would only ask all political parties and the public to consider that without a second vote to finalise and confirm that the current course of action is what we want, the country will never be united where membership of the EU is concerned. Both sides will continue to feel cheated.
This is why I prefer to give the so-called “Peoples Vote” the alternative name “Informed consent Vote.”
The amendments on 29 of January confirmed our unsavoury position. Yvette Cooper’s amendment to facilitate an extension of Article 50 was, in my eyes, the most important one but was defeated with 321 votes to 298. Yvette Cooper’s amendment would have given us anything up to nine months to try and build common ground and/or hunger for an informed consent vote.
The Commons did back two amendments which made clear that a No-Deal was an unacceptable outcome and gave Theresa May a mandate to go back to the EU to seek ‘alternative arrangements’ to the Northern Ireland backstop.
The backstop is there as an insurance policy that different custom arrangements will be available by the end of the transitional period. This means avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and ensuring the UK cannot abuse the rules of the Customs Union when the transitional period comes to anend.
Simply put, the backstop must be in the Withdrawal Agreement if we hope to leave the EU on March 29. The only reason many people are very upset with the backstop is that if it is triggered, we will be trapped into a custom arrangement with no control of getting back out.
This wouldn’t be a problem if there were technology to replace a hard border. Here lies the issue. Technology doesn’t exist.
So, my friends, this is why the EU has said on multiple occasions that the negotiations are finished and the deal we have been offered is the best we could hope for.
This is our situation as I see it:
- Theresa May will not change her red lines, meaning there are no further negotiations to have.
- The EU will not budge on the backstop, meaning the Commons won’t back it.
- Brexiters are being told that No-Deal is better than a bad deal, which the Commons opposed.
- Remainers want to revoke Article 50 and get out this madness, which the PM sees as a betrayal.
This is a circle of fire we are stuck in. A so-called ‘Peoples Vote’ or ‘informed consent vote’ is the only way to break the deadlock in the political discourse. We, the public, voted ourselves into this mess and we should be the ones to vote the country out of the deadlock.
The vote should be straightforward with just two options. Theresa May’s deal 2.0 with the backstop policy in place or Remain in the EU.
It is widely accepted that a No-Deal scenario will be a disaster for our country, so politicians should be responsible for not even entertaining it as a genuine option.
Let me be absolutely clear. A second vote, second referendum, people’s vote, informed consent vote, whatever you want to call it, is not about remainers getting a second crack at the whip. It’s not just about people like me who have changed their minds, whichever way. It’s not just for the young people of our country who didn’t have their say or the people who weren’t comfortable casting their vote on the information they had. This is for the Brexiters too. It gives you the chance to tell your government that you support her version of leaving the EU, or to reject it if you believe that what we currently have is better.
It is time to inject reasonable discourse into politics again. We watch in dismay as the debate shatters our political system and turns good people against each other.
What other option do we have? Without someone breaking the deadlock in the Commons, we will continue going around in circles and with less than eight weeks to go, that is a more frightening prospect then you might realise.🔷
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com. | The author writes in a personal capacity.)