Following the Government defeat in the Lords on the customs union, we debated it in the Commons. The outcome was not conclusive (that has yet to come), but nevertheless the debate was instructive: the customs union’s advocates egged each other on; intervening in each other’s speeches to agree that they clearly saw the customs union and the single market as being one, and were opposed to leaving either, which begged the question ‘what then is the point of leaving the EU at all?’
At which point they cheered one another to the rafters.
So, at least they are transparent and hardly bother to cloak their intentions. We can all see where this is going…and yet these were the same members who lined up in the Article 50 debate to announce that, notwithstanding having campaigned to remain, they now accepted the will of the voters.
Meanwhile the Lords moved on to the issue of a “meaningful vote” to follow the conclusion of the negotiations with the EU.
By ‘meaningful vote’ they mean not just having the ability to accept or reject the agreement reached, so that that, were Parliament to reject the agreement, then we won’t just leave the EU next March without any agreement and revert to World Trade Organisation rules.
On the contrary, they mean to give Parliament the power to determine exactly what happens next. This will include delaying, deferring, or cancelling our departure. In effect, the meaningful vote is to be even more meaningful than the referendum of June 2016 –and that is really what this is all about.
Of course, I can entirely understand the desire of elected representatives wishing to determine, or at the very least to influence the outcome of the negotiation process in what is, after all, a parliamentary democracy. The problem is that the very presence of a parliamentary meaningful vote at the end of the process fundamentally undermines our negotiating stance: it invites the EU to offer such poor terms with the confidence that Parliament will be bound to reject them.
Already there have been a number of meetings in Brussels between parliamentary opponents of BREXIT and the EU with the object of co-ordinating just such an outcome.
A well-funded campaign has begun, and which will continue for the rest of the year, with the object of persuading us all that we made a terrible mistake and that either we, or our Parliament must undo it.
Given the arguments that we heard about the customs union and the internal market in Parliament last week, it is clear that no agreement reached with the EU will ever be good enough to persuade the hard core of remainers to accept it.
As I have warned before in this column, their strategy is one of ‘demoralise and delay, in order to defeat’.
The question is whether we, as voters, have the stamina and the will to continue to demand that our decision be honoured.