As I have previously observed, the essential problem stems from the PM’s defeat at the election of 2017. Without a significant majority, which is what she sought when she called the election, there was little chance of getting the clean BREXIT that she set out in her Lancaster House and Florence speeches and in her election manifesto.
Yet the PM continued to raise our expectations by using the same rhetoric about leaving on 29th March and ‘no deal’ being better than a ‘bad deal’, despite the reality of the parliamentary arithmetic.
Encouraged by this perceived guarantee the majority of my correspondents continue to demand that we leave without a deal. Parliament demonstrated its unwillingness to allow a no-deal Brexit in three votes earlier this year and now it has changed the law to prevent it.
Accordingly, the only chance of a no-deal BREXIT now, is if one of the 27 EU member states refuses the application for a further extension of our membership which the law now requires the Government to make.
Weeks ago, when the Government still had freedom of action, I did urge the PM to consider proroguing this REMAIN Parliament to prevent it stopping her from leaving the EU. It is now too late to close that stable door.
To be honest I didn’t expect my advice to be taken. It is very difficult in a parliamentary democracy, to just prorogue parliament and govern without it, it is after all exactly what King Charles the First did, and it didn’t end well.
Unable to get a majority for her ‘high risk’ agreement (I voted for it despite that risk, because I thought the risk of not leaving the EU at all was even greater), the PM has now reached out to find common ground with the Leader of The Opposition, to my dismay and that of my colleagues.
Labour brings two demands to the table.
First they want a ‘confirmatory referendum’ which is just a euphemism for overturning the result of the last one. Anyone who believes that another referendum is a way of healing the division within our nation, was clearly on another planet during the last one.
The second demand is that we agree a permanent customs union (which is the essential core of the EU) and means that our trade policy will be governed by the EU. Mr Corbyn believes that new inclusive arrangements can be negotiated to give us a say, this is nonsense: the EU treaties specifically exclude any such possibility.
The problem with a customs union is that it is all give and no take. We would literally be traded: The EU would be at liberty to make trade agreements with third countries where access to our market was part of the deal, but with no reciprocal access for us to that of the third country. We would subsequently need to try and negotiate that access bilaterally with the third country, but what could we offer, and why would they negotiate? -already having free access to the UK market.
‘Vassal state’ hardly does justice to such a status. We would have forfeited the principal economic benefit of BREXIT.
Could I vote for such a shadow of BREXIT?
Only, if it is a question of that, or no BREXIT at all.
If we remain in the EU the ratchet of ever greater political and economic integration will continue relentlessly as it always has done since we first joined.
If we leave however, the ratchet will work in the opposite direction: Political independence and a measure of economic freedom will be intoxicatingly liberating, and will inexorably lead to demands for more.
Equally, without Mrs Thatcher’s rebate, with a requirement to join the Euro, to handover our waters once again, and re-join the Common Agricultural Policy, there would be no prospect of tempting us back.
I am deeply distressed that we haven’t left already and that we face another prolonged extension with tortuous and deeply unsatisfactory negotiations.
BREXIT will be a long haul, a process rather than an event, but the alternative is much, much worse.