Friday, 6 July 2018

How Leaving the EU Could be Like Peel and Ireland

Friday July 6th and the whole Cabinet arrives at Chequers at 10 am and expect to stay until 11 pm (stay overnight too, surely).

Thus the media should know about midnight what has been agreed, by official means at least, although presumably after 11 pm the Cabinet Ministers will receive back their mobile telephones.

This whole business has already reached a level of farce unseen in political decision making in modern times. It may not be the end of kicking the can down the road.

Theresa May's advisors came up with another plan. Michael Gove tore up the previous version. No one liked it, and this one has notable regulation alignment restrictions for goods if not services.

Now, last time there was a possibility of a push towards the 'soft' exit of the European Union, when reassurances to 'remainers' were followed by government betrayal, after which the House of Lords returned the Exiting the EU Bill. The remainers, instead of voting through the crucial meaningful vote amendment, voted against their own amendment on another promise. Never trust a Tory, was my reaction, although even then a few voted for this amendment.

I am unmoved, and still hold the view that this process should be stopped and Parliament has the right as representatives to do it. Armed with the facts and prospects, Parliament has the right to view the referendum as flawed (well, cheating also happened, says the Electoral Commission) and anyway advisory. New realities mean new decisions. It does not need a referendum on the deal; the proper process may involve a General Election - although it is unlikely to resolve matters given the low competence of the Labour leadership. This is a government that could not organise cups of tea with tea and boiling water available, and yet Labour is behind in the polls. No wonder when Corbyn leads all six questions on buses when critical questions face the future. Buses are important, but there is a timetable and bus stops for everything. Labour's policy on leaving the EU is its own fantasy island of 'a customs union' when there is one already.

The government's policy seems to be now wanting to leave the club while staying in, whereas Labour's policy is to stay in the club while leaving.

Jacob Rees Mogg says the government controls the House of Commons agenda, so therefore if there is no agreed government position we crash out anyway due to existing legislation and take on World Trade Organisation terms. Others say, no way, that the House of Commons will find the means, via the House of Lords too, to ram on the brakes. A House of Commons made up mainly of soft-leavers won't allow a minority to get its way on a procedural matter.

We need to ram on the brakes. Here is why.

If we leave, but are tied to EU institutions, the exiters will cry foul and won't give up pushing to leave altogether. At the same time, if we end up in crisis, or end up as this 'vassal State', the stayers will want our re-entry.

One hears some so-called remainers say, let us come out, but let us be in a position where we are the equivalent of those in the half-way house where we can apply to go back in.

One also hears some leavers say, let us at least come out, after which we can complete the job in years to come. So we come out with joint regulation and then break the treaty that would bind us.

In other words, if we come to a cabinet decision tomorrow, and it is a half-way house of some kind, the European issue will go on and on and on. Some will say that the referendum decision was ignored and there could be a crisis of legitimacy (due to misrepresenting the role of a referendum). Others will say it was Cameron's catastrophe and should never have happened.

Two possibilities to look out for tomorrow and Saturday. One is there is no agreement, and the can is kicked down the road again. The leavers (for reasons above) may be happy with this. The government can then go to the House of Commons and House of Lords and face defeat; a clever government leadership would make the House of Commons steer the ship, but it may have to become this secondary executive.

The second possibility is resignations of key exiting government ministers. Apparently, Liam Fox has been bought off already, although he has colleagues that may think otherwise. My view is let them go. The Tories might challenge the PM as leader then, but at the same time a reformed government can still introduce legislation, which may then be even softer based on a supposed House of Commons majority, although Labour leaders may not facilitate.

(This is why, if the House of Commons takes control, it is both front benches that will have to be circumvented, or forced to follow the lead of the MPS.)

Whatever happens, this is a might mess, and if the brakes are not applied, if we do not actually stay in the European Union and discuss now, this will become another Ireland, a rock on to which government after government will fall apart. The Robert Peel fashion split could well happen again, simply because everything stays unresolved.

The period of prosperity and stability that we had inside the European Union will be over, and Britain will become a very confused place. Expect then to see Scotland become independent, and the North in Ireland join a more comfortable-with-itself south, inside the EU.

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