Tony Blair hit the airwaves again: His headline was that the EU would be ready to do a deal on freedom of movement in return for UK remaining. (David Cameron thought so too when he began his negotiations, before we even had the referendum.) When I heard Mr Blair being questioned in detail however, his answers were much more nuanced, it was clear that there was no such deal in prospect.
During the referendum both sides agreed on only one thing: the importance of casting a vote in a once-in-a-generation opportunity to settle the EU question. We settled it and accordingly, Parliament voted to initiate the article 50 process: We are past the point of no return; We will automatically cease to me members of the EU on the second anniversary of our Article 50 letter. There currently is no means of stopping this process. To do so would require new treaty agreements with the EU.
Suppose we did get cold feet however, change our minds, and ask to stay. I have no doubt that we would be welcomed, but at a price. Remember that annual rebate Maggie negotiated, well forget that! Remember all the opt-outs we had from policy areas where we didn’t want to participate, forget them too.
We are leaving the EU, the only questions to be settled are the terms upon which we leave, now the subject of negotiation.
Do not underestimate however, the anger of our political establishment at what has happened and their desperation, even now, to stop it. They still believe that something might turn up. Whatever that ‘something’ might be, the vital ingredient of the strategy is the waiting for it: So, delay is essential.
The loss of the Government’s majority at the election is a gift to those who now seek to delay.
The Governments ‘repeal’ bill is an essentially straightforward measure to ease our exit from the EU. It repeals the 1972 European Communities Act which ensured that, wherever there was a conflict between our own law and EU law, then EU law would prevail. The bill now before Parliament seeks to incorporate exiting EU law into UK law so that on the day we leave the change will be seamless. But it’s a massive task, so the bill grants temporary powers to ministers to amend UK statutes by regulations which have a swifter passage through Parliament. There is nothing new here, it is a tried and tested way of making law.
You will by now have heard the great cry of anguish as politicians pronounce that, notwithstanding their respect for the referendum decision, these powers are too broad, the bill must be thoroughly scrutinised and amended, and so proceeding it will take a very long time to pass, if indeed it passes at all.
If it were not to do so, then our departure from the EU would be attended with confusion and uncertainty. That matters not to the bill’s opponents. They have only one object: endless delay; Delay for as long as it takes for something to turn up.