To my mind, the most remarkable finding of the Telegraph’s latest poll on Brexit outcomes is the support that leaving with no deal on Friday still enjoys. That 38 per cent of people still think of it as an acceptable outcome is astonishing given they do so in the face of the extreme prejudice of the UK and EU political and business establishment against no-deal. This has only been reinforced by the relentless bias of much of the broadcast media with its negative lexicon of “crashing out” and “cliff edge”.
This is broadly similar to the number of people who think cancelling Brexit (40 per cent) or various formations for a second referendum (38 to 39 per cent) would be acceptable outcomes. With levels of support for various options so tight, it would be wrong to argue that the British public is now so disaffected that MPs can grant themselves licence to turn their backs on the largest democratic exercise in this country’s history.
The EU referendum held in 2016 remains the only opinion poll that really matters, and regular people up and down the country knew what they were voting for. The ballot paper said “remain” or “leave”, it did not say anything about a deal. David Cameron made it clear that the only alternative to just leaving was to stick with the paltry concessions he was gifted by the EU before the referendum. There would be no other deal, he said, and accordingly the people voted just to leave.
It seems obvious to me that, provided MPs aren’t mendaciously trying to tear up the referendum result, they should take heart from the optimistic view of no-deal shared by so many members of the public and swing behind it.
As so often in the Brexit saga, the public are way ahead of the metropolitan/Westminster bubble and the latter will soon realise this at the ballot box if they don’t. Both major parties will undoubtedly reap the whirlwind of their duplicity, betrayal and incompetence when eventually we have a general election.
Any businessperson knows that one cannot negotiate from a position of strength unless prepared to walk away from the table. Clearly Yvette Cooper, with her efforts to take no-deal off the table, has never done business, or is a defective negotiator (or she just wants to collaborate with the EU to stop Brexit). The public recognise this.
Obviously we all hoped that once we had left, the EU and the UK would be able to sort out a trade arrangement, just as countries all around the world do. However, this was never in the mind of Theresa May and her coterie of Remainers. She always wanted a close and special relationship, by which she meant so close as to hardly be separate and by which the EU would be able to accept our rejoining after a decent interval.
The irony is that a “no-deal” exit is now fully prepared for by both the EU and the UK and is complimented by a host of side deals covering visa arrangements, aviation, customs and residency rights. These are underpinned by tried and tested ways of carrying out electronic customs “paperwork” to ensure very few border checks, a system which operates worldwide and under which the UK and the EU conduct most of their trade with countries such as the USA, China, Brazil and Australia.
Parliament appears to be ignorant of this or deliberately cloth-eared. Perhaps it is a function of the new breed of “policy wonk” politicians who have never done anything other than pontificate. These days, you could fire a thousand party poppers in the House of Commons and not hit anyone who has been in business, let alone trade. You could pop a thousand Champagne corks (and they do) in the European Parliament and get the same result.
We will, however, it appears, have an opportunity much sooner and in a safe environment, for the electorate to have their say via a European Parliamentary election. I say safe because it would be a chance to register our dissatisfaction at the ballot box and not out on the streets, it would not be posing as a second referendum which would doubtless inject even more bile into our body politic, and it would not carry the danger of a change in government as a general election would.
It does, however, allow a plebiscite on the question of the EU. Of course many are so disaffected, especially on the leave side, that they will not vote. No doubt this judgement on democracy will be reflected in the turn out. We can only hope our MPs wake up to the dangers, and recognise that they do not need to be so afraid of pursuing the no-deal exit that would genuinely meet their commitment to honouring the referendum.
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