We are in something of a phony war situation at the moment. MPs have been on holiday for a while now, but soon they will have their conferences and then they will be back to work. Between now and next March something momentous is going to happen one way or the other, but it hasn’t happened yet and no-one can predict with any accuracy what will happen.
Just when you think that the Labour Party can’t sink any lower it does. I have always opposed Labour. I disagree with collectivism and I think it is disastrous both economically and morally to seek equality of outcome. Eventually it will inevitably lead to us all being less prosperous and less free. But I can recognise in history that Labour has been led by decent people that Labour supporters, while honestly disagreeing with people like me, were sincere and wanted what was best for Britain. We could in the past trust Labour to run the country for a few years without completely wrecking or shaming it. We no longer can.
What will it take for moderate Labour MPs to leave and for moderate Labour supporters to stop supporting? I honestly don’t know. If you really are content to remain in the same party as a Marxist, Anti-Semite who supports terrorism, then by all means see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, but what does that make you?
We desperately need an opposition worthy of the name, because at some point fairly soon the Conservative Party are going to be kicked out by the voters. There has to be a viable alternative. If a new moderate centre left party is to be created, better to do it soon. It could be called for instance “New Labour” and all the moderate Labour MPs could join with the Lib Dems. They would then be the opposition. Their leader would stand at the dispatch box every week. It just might be that the Corbynistas would be deserted and could go back to selling their Socialist Worker newspapers on street corners. We would then at least be safe from the threat of left-wing extremism.
If the Conservatives fail in their mission to deliver Brexit, I’m not at all sure there will be a Conservative Party. Chequers has been overwhelmingly rejected by Conservative supporters. We want a clean Brexit. We don’t want to be half in and half out. Now is the moment to decide if we can get a clean break. There is no point whatsoever parking Britain in the EEA even if that were possible. All this does is postpone the decision for a few years and perhaps forever. The benefits of Brexit require that we leave completely. Either we grasp them now, or we don’t.
The problem of course is that the Conservatives have a leader whose only obvious quality is stubbornness, a cabinet that is divided and with a significant rump of MPs who are willing to vote against the Conservative manifesto. Parliament as a whole does not reflect the electorate as a considerable majority of MPs voted to Remain.
The possible outcomes are:
- No deal.
- Chequers (perhaps with more concessions to the EU).
- A deal similar to Norway’s.
- A deal similar to Canada’s.
- A second referendum.
- Extending the Article 50 time limit perhaps to infinity.
There are supporters for all of these options, but which of them can get through Parliament? Not only this, which of them would be acceptable to the EU?
Chequers would destroy the Conservative Party even as it is. If still further concessions were made to the EU it would destroy the Conservative Party even more. It is pointless anyway as it wouldn’t last. Either a future Pro EU Government would turn it into full EU membership or a future Pro Leave Government would turn it into leaving completely. So once more it is just putting off the evil day.
Furthermore it is not in the EU’s interest to forever have a Britain half in and half out. They are not going to be able to reach their goal of ever closer union if Britain continually tries to thwart that goal. Pro EU people in the UK are going to have to accept that Remaining entails accepting European integration. That means joining the Euro and Schengen. If you want to Remain, then help the EU achieve a united Europe. If you don’t want to help, then don’t hinder them and the best way not to hinder them is to leave. The Norway option and EEA are for countries preparing to join the EU, not for countries leaving. We are going to have to weather a storm no matter what we do. There is no point staying in port when the task is to cross an ocean to the rest of the world.
A trade deal like Canada’s would be fine except for the fact that according to the EU it would require Northern Ireland to remain in the Custom’s Union while the UK the other parts of the UK were out. This is a purely manufactured problem. It is obvious that the EU just doesn’t want us to have this option. They don’t want it, because it would work well and wouldn’t sufficiently punish Britain and thereby discourage others from leaving the EU. No-one seriously thinks that anyone is going to erect fences in Ireland no matter what happens. Even If there is “no deal”, there won’t be a manned border, simply because no-one wants or will man it. We are then in the absurd situation of this border preventing us reaching a mutually beneficial deal, even though if we fail to make a deal it won’t be a problem. If the EU changes on this issue then a Canada style deal is still possible, if it doesn’t it isn’t.
We are pretty much left with “no deal” a second referendum or extending Article 50, which amounts to remaining in the EU without having to win a second referendum.
At the moment there isn’t a majority for “no deal”, but does there need to be? Only time will tell. If Parliament is deadlocked do we just leave the EU with no deal anyway in March 2019?
Is there a majority to pass a bill authorising a second referendum? But which party has a mandate for such a referendum? Both the Government and Opposition promised in their last manifestos to deliver Brexit. How would a bill for such a referendum get through Parliament if the Government refuses to initiate it? Anyway there just isn’t time to have a second referendum between now and March.
If I were a Scottish nationalist I would be very careful about voting a for a second referendum on the EU. The precedent would be clear that if ever there were a close vote for independence, then Pro UK people would be allowed to complain that we didn’t like the vote and that we wanted a “people’s vote” either to reject independence or to reject the terms of the divorce agreement with the UK. This would mean that Scottish nationalists would have to win two referendums before they could claim to have won at all.
So what is going to happen? My guess is that we are going to get a last minute Canada style deal or else we are going to get no deal at all. The Remainers will continue their bitter rearguard, but there are very few ideologically Pro EU people in Britain. The majority of Remain support is pragmatic. The number of British people who favour a United States of Europe where the UK used the Euro and was part of Schengen, must be tiny. Eventually we are all going to have to accept that this is the choice. Either be Eurofederalist or else leave the EU. That finally is the choice that the EU will offer Britain. For this reason the EU wants to punish us, but they also want us to leave or else remain on Eurofederalist terms.
There isn’t a natural majority for Eurofederalism in the UK. Even if Remainers succeeded in delaying Article 50 and even if they won a second referendum on remaining, it would simply delay the point at which the British people realised that remaining in a EU intent on becoming a single united nation state was untenable. For this reason Britain’s only long term option is to leave the EU. Better to do it now completely or else we will just have to go through the same process a few years from now.