For all the excitement over last night’s votes in Parliament, which felt like a bad score draw on a wet Tuesday night – today we are dangerously no further forward in solving the deadlock in Parliament than we were before, and with the clock ticking towards 29 March the country faces a stalemate risking jobs, livelihoods and our national security.
And far from making a People’s Vote less likely, the Parliamentary impasse makes handing the final say back to the people more necessary than ever.
What legitimacy will any plan that the discredited PM put forward now even have? She can no longer say she has the will of the people behind her. And can barely cobble together her own party.
In truth there is no form of Brexit that fulfils the promises made in 2016, is as good a deal as the one we’ve got inside the EU – or will prevent this crisis carrying on forever as successive governments go back and forth to Brussels trying to make sense of something that makes no sense for the UK.
What last night’s votes did confirm is that there is no majority for either a ‘no-deal’ Brexit or for the Prime Minister’s original plan – which even Theresa May herself now does not support.
Instead, the Prime Minister is heading back to Brussels having received orders from Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Brexit extremists to negotiate a revised deal. Dozens of Conservative MPs who have stated reasons to oppose the original deal that go way beyond the Irish backstop have now declared they are ready to vote for a different plan that is designed only to protect their party’s interests – at the price of taking huge risks with peace in Ireland.
I understand entirely the fears and lack of relish some of my Labour colleagues too have for any second vote. There are no easy choices before us.
But many of them will also understandably be weighing up that concern versus the threat of no deal or another Tory Brexit deal that would put the jobs and security of their constituents at risk, let alone the peace of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and would cement austerity for decades.
A missed fact last night was that 241 Labour MPs voted for a motion acknowledging that as well as making clear they will not accept no deal – if a proposal cannot come forward which meets Labour’s requirements (in the absence of a General Election) – a public vote will be the only way forward.
If Theresa May fails once again to browbeat the EU into changing the Withdrawal Agreement, it will leave her back where she started with no majority for a deal in the Parliament, and even less political or moral authority.
If she succeeds in getting changes, it will merely clarify the real choice facing Parliament: does it agree to a Brexit plan that, never mind the backstop, is bad deal full stop – or does it let the people have the final say in the form of a new public vote?
For too long this crucial debate has been obscured by arcane disputes about Parliamentary procedure and amendments.
Now the time has come at last when MPs have to decide whether to accept a deal that makes the UK £100billion-a-year poorer and means we become a rule-taker of decisions over which we will no longer have a veto or a vote, while offering no closure in the bitter arguments about our future relationship with
MPs will soon need to decide whether to force through a deal that no one voted for, driven by an extreme fringe and a PM held haplessly hostage, that has no legitimacy, or to recognise, however reluctantly, that the only way forward is for the public to have the final say – and help end this Brexit nightmare decisively, once and for all.
Stephen Doughty is the Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth