At last the Brexit revolution is stymied. More and more one can envisage that the “soft” Brexit option will occur and also the previously unthinkable “no Brexit” option has just got stronger. Yesterday evening, the UK Parliament voted through an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill compelling the government to obtain its consent before Brexit, thus preventing a “no deal” departure as demanded by the diehard Brexiteers. As argued before in this blog, there is a Remain majority in Parliament, constrained by its fear of being seen as undemocratic, and now it will be emboldened by its victory. They will be emboldened too by the growing signs that May can’t in practical terms carry Brexit through without causing unacceptably great damage to the UK’s economy.
May has already agreed to a divorce deal that will cost well in excess of £40bn without any sign of the trade agreement that the Brexiteers said would be so easy to obtain. All that is likely is a “Heads of Proposals” and an interim “transition phase”, the latter involving Britain being in the single market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, and the “Four Freedoms” of the free movement of goods, services, capital, and people. There is a promise of some form of alignment of trade in Ireland and so far no solution to the “hard” border question has emerged other than that of the single market and customs union. And there is agreement on citizens rights.
The EU now call the shots
Mostly, it is the EU that has got its way, despite some cosmetic diplomatic evasions, reflecting the realities of power politics that would govern relations in the future outside the EU. There will be a colossus on the UK’s metaphorical doorstep over which it will hold no influence.
The ephemeral trade deal is more likely to resemble that of Canada’s, which excludes the services sector that makes up 80% of UK trade today, and is likely to take long to negotiate, say 6-8 years, all the time whilst being outside the EU but, to preserve the precious trade, very likely still subject to the constraints above. All this time too, other countries can’t agree trade deals. with the UK. So Fox will be out of a job.
To cap it all, the UK will be subject to the EU legislation over which, unlike today, it will have no say. This is less, not more, control.
Why therefore are we leaving?
The question must be asked. And politicians worth their salt also need to ask it, as some are now doing.
It is not undemocratic. Rather, it is a functioning of a perfectly effective democracy to debate the great issues of the day in the light of new knowledge (except that most of those “experts” that Mr Gove was tired of had already predicted that these problems would arise), and think again. Reports from yet more experts continue to confirm that major economic damage will follow from Brexit. This has already been driving May to compromise and is driving the opposition to Brexit.
Politicians worth their salt also need to stand firm against neo-fascist bullying of the Tory rebels and others that has been rearing its head. This is taking the form of threats of violence against Mr Grieve and others. The poisoning of democratic life is already rampant in the US and it could spread here.