Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Pressing the Button for Point of No Return

I am watching as my parliament seems to be taking the most stupid decision that I have seen them take in my lifetime. (498 Votes for – 114 Votes against – 38 abstentions)

No this is not a decision to leave the EU – let’s leave that aside for the moment.

The decision is for a process to hand over power to the Prime Minister, aided and abetted by Messrs Fox, Davis, and Johnson to trigger the irreversible process leading to an exit from the EU and get whatever deal they can get. Apparently, this is “what the people voted for and they must be respected”.

We know that they (the Prime Minister and three Brexiteers) believe in what is loosely called a Hard Brexit, and that the Prime Minister has said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. No deal does not mean staying in the EU, it means falling out of the EU with no arrangements made for ongoing relationships. In all likelihood we will almost certainly be able to join the World Trade Organisation and trade with the EU (our nearest neighbours almost no matter which way we face) on the same basis as … Mexico? Apparently, this is “what the people voted for and they must be respected”.

There is talk of any deal being put to parliament, but this will be a take it or leave it vote (“bad deal or no deal”) once Article 50 has been invoked. Once invoked there is no process for revoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. (There is an action in the Dublin Courts to try and get a revocation process defined and recognised – there is no indication that this action will be successful – or that any revocation process will be workable.) In that respect we are departing down a one-way street to an uncertain destination. Apparently, this is “what the people voted for and they must be respected”.

I can possibly understand Euroseptics voting to give such power to The Three Brexiteers and the Prime Minister; many of them are quite attracted to a “no deal” solution, fancying the country’s chances as a single nation trading freely in 19th Century style with other like-minded countries. Who such countries are is unclear, even Theresa May’s new buddy, Donald Trump is a protectionist saying he will “put America First” and believing in bi-lateral agreements rather than multi-lateral agreements, because it is easier to sever or suspend them if the other party does not play ball and respect the USA. Apparently, this is “what the people voted for and they must be respected”.

The Chancellor has indicated that if we get “no deal” a “new economic model” will be required, hinting, as a minimum, a cut in corporation tax to “bribe in” inward investment, and cuts in regulations to attract and retain business. Apparently, this is “what the people voted for and they must be respected”.

I find it hard to understand why so many Conservative Europhiles (all bar one) have abandoned the cause seeming to believe that a 48% minority has no right to representation. Further they seem happy for two right-wing conservatives, one opportunist and someone who appears to agree with whoever last spoke to her to determine the future shape of the country. If they showed the courage of their convictions (such as Kenneth Clarke indicated that he would do) they might have encouraged the Labour Party to show similar spine and at least argue for a process that was not irreversible until the deal was on the table and one that did not leave the fate of the country in the hands of a right-wing coterie. That would have been both “respecting” the result of the referendum and respecting Parliamentary Representative Democracy. But such thoughts are apparently unnecessary. Apparently, this is “what the people voted for and they must be respected”.

That Labour should fold so completely is unfortunately no surprise. (Only 47 Labour “rebels” may have chosen to vote with their conscience.) They gave up in the last parliament fighting back against Tory Austerity and seemed content to see migrants and the EU blamed for pressures on public services. That their supporters should then vote in the referendum against both the EU and migrants was no great surprise. But to then fold and vote for what could lead to a right-wing coup – and certainly leaves them powerless to avoid a Hard Brexit rather leaves the Labour party redundant. Apparently, this is “what the people voted for and they must be respected”.

But did the people really vote for an exit from the EU no matter what deal was achieved and that any deal should be defined by Theresa May, Liam Fox, David Davis and Boris Johnson? Are Labour voters – no matter how they voted in the referendum – willing to entrust their future (trade policy, industrial policy, tax policy, employment policy, and welfare policy) to this bunch. That is what most of their MPs seem to believe.

Never has the House of Commons appeared to so terribly represent the diversity of opinion in the country. I truly despair. We have passed the point of no return with barely a whimper and quite probably been sold down a river not of our choosing.

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One thought on “Pressing the Button for Point of No Return

  1. Details of how MPs voted appears on the BBC Website and on the Parliamentary Website.

    1 Conservative voted against
    6 Conservatives did not vote
    47 Labour votes against
    11 Labour votes uncast
    2 Liberal Democrats did not vote
    2 Scottish Nationalists did not vote
    1 Plaid Cymru member did not vote

    Others voted as expected by their parties:
    UKIP, Conservatives, Labour (plus Simon Danczuk) & Northern Irish Unionists – for empowering the Prime Minister and Brexiteers to try to get what ever deal they think is best.
    SNP (plus Natalie McGarry & Michelle Thomson), PC, Green, Liberal Democrats, Northern Ireland Nationalists & Lady Hermon (North Down; Independent) – against, presumably not wishing to see this gang of four given untrammelled power to redefine the country.

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