Sadly, no-one seemed to read my previous thoughts on how to break the Brexit log-jam. I can understand the reluctance of MPs to countenance another referendum on the issue – yes, it is more delay and has the potential to turn tumultuous. However, given last night’s astonishing events where May’s deal was voted down by a historic margin of 230 votes, Parliament needs to seek a fresh mandate from the people to deal with this monumental issue.
In effect, MPs should “test the will” of the people and confirm if they really want to leave the EU on the only feasible terms – May’s painstakingly negotiated deal. Personally, I believe they will reject this Brexit but, even if they say vote to Leave again, at least we can all unite behind that and our MPs will have no excuse to vote it down. It’s surely the only way out of this deadlock.
This is not a second referendum per se because we would actually know exactly what we are voting for (or against!). Of course, maybe some sort of deal will emerge that commands a majority in the House of Commons but that seems highly unlikely. That means it’s either a General Election (which would be folly – would the result really be that much different?) or a fresh referendum on the EU. I also think that this could establish a positive precedent whereby major constitutional changes – such as Scottish independence – cannot be decided on the basis of one referendum. Such upheavals should be only allowed based on a confirmatory ballot once the full terms of the deal are known.
To be honest, if I was in Parliament, I would have voted for May’s deal as a way out of the log-jam. However, if as is frequently stated by May it is that or “no deal” or “no Brexit”, then she should have the courage to go to the country and put that choice to us, given the huge ramifications. Brexit has sucked so much energy from fixing our public services, leading to a host of problems piling-up in the governmental in-tray. Do we really want to be responsible for “lost generation” where all political energies are consumed by this incredibly complex issue?
We have seen that the EU is more concerned with protecting the unity of the 27 and making Britain pay a price for trying to Leave, which from their point of view makes sense. Is the UK really ready to endure that suffering – job losses, reduced prosperity, public services slashed further – for a poorly-understood point of principle about sovereignty? Given that Leavers promised us we could “have our cake and eat it” and that we would frolic in “sunlit uplands”, no MP can make that assumption. A referendum would establish exactly how committed the people who will be most impacted by Brexit really feel about this whole project.