THE BLOG

This Week's Brexit Car Crash Was As Absorbing As It Was Inevitable

This level of carelessness does not bode well for the remainder of the negotiations

07/12/2017 10:38 GMT | Updated 07/12/2017 10:38 GMT
Toby Melville / Reuters

This week’s Brexit car crash has been as absorbing as it was inevitable.

Given the Conservatives disastrous election, and subsequent patched-together deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, this could not have happened any other way.

To imagine that somehow the specific circumstances of the Irish border would not have been an enormous stumbling block was a function of the two modes of Brexit: the magical thinking of the likes of Daniel Hannan MEP, in which somehow everything stays the same, but somehow better, or the cackling nihilism of the Arron Banks and the Leave.EU crew, in which chaos is apparently the aim.

Decades of British indifference to Ireland north and south have of course been a factor. Iain Duncan Smith’s bizarre claim that Irish politicians were maneuvering for position due to an upcoming presidential election revealed an ignorance not just of the Irish political cycle, but the very nature of the Irish presidency, while Bernard Jenkin’s praise of the former Taoiseach of Ireland as the “Taoiseach of Northern Ireland Enda Kelly” was greeted with alarm by many south of the border who might have expected a prominent Tory MPs to know the proper name of the former leader of their nearest neighbour.

More worrying than that was what now looks like a Conservative assumption that the DUP, a party with stubborn refusal stitched into its very fabric, would easily fall into line.

Did Theresa May tell the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney that she was able to agree a deal on the border without first consulting the party whose votes she relies on to stay in government?

This level of carelessness does not bode well for the remainder of the negotiations. Brexit Secretary David Davis says the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom remains paramount, but all the while, on the back of decisions made in haste by the Prime Minister, Scotland and even London are discussing having separate customs and market arrangements to the rest of the UK.

As Keir Starmer pointed out in parliament during an urgent session yesterday, the idea that the Brexit negotiations can be wrapped up neatly by March 2019 is not just ludicrous, but dangerous. Moreover, the notion that whatever deal this government returns with should merely be accepted by the British people is now simply not credible.

As much as the hard Brexiters like to pretend that the process is unstoppable, and that the endpoint must be March 2019, it’s still possible to put brakes on the Brexit bus. Even the triggering of Article 50 is no barrier to us changing course, according to its author Lord Kerr.

On 13 December MPs will have a chance to vote on an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill that will embed a meaningful parliamentary vote on the final Brexit arrangement. The amendment to clause 9, if passed, will mean MPs will claim their constitutional right, and parliament will have the final say on the Brexit deal.

It means MPs could stop a “no deal” Brexit that would destroy British jobs, and reject any deal that doesn’t give us the “exact same benefits” promised by David Davis.

It means Parliament can force the government’s hand to make concessions to protect the British car industry, or to stop Brexit altogether if the final deal is not worth the paper it is written on.

The author of the “Lucky 7” amendment, Dominic Grieve, is undoubtedly a brave and principled politician, but it should not take an excess of bravery for MPs to support his amendment- it is practical politics. For Conservative politicians, the Brexit well has run dry - to win again, they will have to reach out to voters sceptical about Brexit. Meanwhile Labour MPs can consolidate their standing with the many voters who chose the party as their anti-Brexit protest tactical vote in the last election by continuing to ask hard questions and being seen to stand against the worst excesses of the anti-EU extremists.

Best for Britain is asking people who care about the future of the country to write to their MP via our petition. The Brexiters told us that Parliament should be sovereign. It is a bitter irony that the very people supposedly in favour of our Parliament making decisions don’t actually want to let MPs have a say in the biggest decision facing our country.

It’s time to show our representatives that far from being fearful of a backlash from angry Brexiters, there is much to gain electorally from resisting the headlong rush to chaos that a Brexit deal without proper parliamentary approval and scrutiny represents. December 13 must be the date on which Parliament finally takes back control.