Sunday, 9 December 2018

The Movement Towards the Logic of Remaining

Saturday 8th December and Amber Rudd speaks out in a way that suggests she might emerge in the manner of my last blog entry to take the reins of government for the purpose of sorting out the exiting the European Union mess.

I need to adjust my crystal ball gazing, however, and in a manner away from what Amber Rudd was suggesting. The thought the Norway plus solution has potential in the House of Commons and Parliament as a whole. I rather agree with Anna Soubrey, however, that it seems to be receding.

The reason is twofold. First, it is not a shoe-in. It needs the agreement of thirty countries, those in the European Economic Area (all of the EU plus others) and in the European Free Trade Area. Secondly it needs the UK also to join the Customs Union in order to avoid the hard border in the island of Ireland. Thus we would be subject to all the EU decisions but have none of the say. This is half the problem with the Theresa May deal. In Norway plus the ECJ could fine the UK for breaches of its rules and yet the UK would contribute no one to the Council, the Commission, the Parliament or the Court. It was always so, it's just that Theresa May's deal also doesn't let us get out.

It undermines a sovereign state's ability to remove from a treaty. The Geoffrey Cox spin, before the government caved in to censure, was that the backstop could be subject to legal attack that would likely succeed. I watched him live on TV, and calling him as like Rumpole of the Bailey crystalised the bizarre nature of that attempt to circumvent the instruction of a Humble Address. His legal advice was rather different in tone, and no wonder the 'summary' was many times the length of the original. (Gosh, if academics did summaries like him, they'd make a whole book rather than a page for just one article summarised.)

Furthermore, it does look now that the matter of being in a treaty means, according to the European Court of Justice, that Article 50 can be withdrawn unilaterally, so long as this is a serious matter. In other words, it can't become an in-out dance. It means, in effect, one chance to remove it (and then perhaps restart it). The judgment comes very soon.

Also we now have the Dominic Grieve amendment. This means that the Standing Orders are put aside on this matter so that the House of Commons is able to give a roadmap to government on the way forward after a defeat on the Theresa May deal. Until now - as I stated - the executive was really the only force to give shape to a plan B. This is why I thought a rump Cabinet would arise to take a grip under a leader who had consulted MPs across the parties.

However, it still needs an executive to hear the Mind of the House. The media has begun to refer to a caretaker Prime Minister.

I remain opposed to a second referendum. This is suggested because it gives it back to the people. But no matter how this goes, people will feel cheated.

The House of Commons will circumvent the hard Tory right, and the Cabinet rump will shun them. This is why a select group of Labour, Liberal Democrat and even SNP people could replace the Tory right walking out of the Cabinet. So what would the choice be, disallowing the damage that a no deal exit would cause?

A) Theresa May's deal.
B) Remain as we are.

There will be many many spoilt ballot papers on that one, because the 'hard exit' would be excluded, the May deal seen as too close, too binding. Indeed, what would be the logic of this if May's deal is heavily defeated in Parliament?

A) Norway plus.
B) Remain as we are.

So one is like the other, except in A is closer and B is the same but with representation. Once again, expect many spoilt ballot papers.

A) Hard exit - no deal but basic arrangements as absolutely necessary.
B) Theresa May deal.
C) Remain as we are.

Well, there will be immediate cries of foul, as we see the exit vote divided between two options; plus, a three-way referendum means deciding something on a minority position.

Parliament will never countenance a second gamble of staying in or coming out without a deal, and three options with Norway plus does make Norway plus a bit superfluous as well as dividing up the main two (it could be seen as a half-remain option).

Plus, a referendum takes on a mind of its own. No matter how well constructed, how well the campaign is formed, it comes to stand for something else. In 2016 it represented the resentment against austerity and the Cameron-Osborne contempt for how too many ordinary people were being forced to live their lives.

So it is up to Parliament - people paid to take responsibility - to take these decisions. The most sensible seems increasingly obvious. Stop Article 50 and stop the process altogether.

There is still political damage, but this is unavoidable. The explanation needs to be that the referendum was offered under false political motives to do with the Conservative Party. Secondly, when it happened, it was hijacked into a misleading campaign and inept campaigning on both sides. In stress testing our membership of the EU over two and a half years, we realise that we cannot do such surgery without killing the patient.

Now, many will not like this, including Tory MPs of a certain kind. They will have to do politics, won't they? They can split off. Farage and company could form a new political party. It's not good, this, but it is better than a bad decision regarding representation on the European continent. The rump Cabinet may well have this job to do, before the inevitable General Election. The final explanation for the political failure of the last two and a half years is that we really have more pressing problems and needs, and these must be addressed, and frankly we have to do it from inside the EU. If you don't like it, then do the politics to come to power and so do otherwise.

Blame David Cameron and his gamble. He 'won' the Scottish Independence Referendum and thought he could do the double. Blame the Liberal Democrats for propping up the Tories: done in a previous crisis, but went on for too long and at too high a cost. Let's hope that the Conservative Party as it is reaps the destruction to them and benefit to us for their appalling mismanagement of this country and threatening its very well-being.

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