This week Parliament once again voted on a number of motions tabled in response to the question “what the fuck do we do about Brexit now?”. These so-called Indicative Votes allow MPs to vote on what they think should be the way forward, in the hope that Parliament will come to a workable consensus.
Among the motions voted on this week were:
Motion C (from Ken Clarke) calls for a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU” as part of any Brexit deal. This motion failed by a margin of just 8 votes.
Motion D (from Nick Boles) calls for the UK to join the European Free Trade Association and the European Economic Area and would see us maintain our single market access and right to free movement. This motion failed by 21 votes.
Motions E, G and A call for a confirmatory public vote on any deal, parliamentary supremacy (to avoid No Deal) and a unilateral exit from the Backstop, which is nonsense. All failed.
It’s the first two that are interesting here. Both motions C and D can be seen as options for a so-called Soft Brexit. IF we leave, it means we get to retain some of the most important aspects of our current EU membership. Lib Dems and Change UK MPs voted against these options, as did some notable Labour MPs because they claim they want only to stop Brexit in its entirety. I’m with them! If I was given a magic wand and could stop Brexit altogether by waving it, I would wave it. But that’s not where we are.
The Conservative party appear to be unmoving in their determination to see the result of the referendum through. Theresa May today said that she would leave with No Deal rather than revoke Article 50 if it came down to it. Given that there isn’t a parliamentary majority for any option, including a second referendum – so getting one of those is a long shot (despite what the most vocal Remainers seem to think) – Remain MPs are acting with unforgivable complacency by voting down the softer options should we finally leave the EU.
I believe we probably will leave the EU and, when we do so, we should leave with as many of our current membership benefits intact as possible. ANY MP voting against motions C and D – which would see us leave the EU while keeping our right to free movement, single market access, or at least leaving with some form of a customs union in place – should be ashamed. ESPECIALLY if they claim to be strong Remainers.
What these MPs – including my MP Owen Smith, the MP I took three weeks’ annual leave in 2017 to help get elected in Cardiff North, Anna McMorrin and fellow Cardiff MP Jo Stevens (all very vocal Labour Remainers) – are essentially saying is that if/when we leave the EU they want us to leave without holding on to the benefits called for in motions C and D. By voting their motions down, they are saying that if/when we leave the EU we should be doing so with No Deal. Sure, they’d argue that they don’t want to leave at all! Neither do I. But that may not be an option.
Even if we do somehow get offered a confirmatory vote on whatever Brexit deal is decided upon, there’s no guarantee that Remain will win that referendum. Indeed, polling suggests that it is far from a given. When you weigh up those who say they would vote to Remain against those who would vote for the Brexit deal, you find Remain ahead by just a couple of percentage points, rarely more than 5 points ahead of Leave. There’s a huge chunk of the electorate who say they “don’t know” how they’d vote.
I posit that Remainers KNOW they want to remain. They won’t be answering “don’t know” in any polls. Meanwhile, Leave voters – offered a choice between May’s Deal or Remain – may say they don’t know because they don’t think the deal is good enough, or because they want to leave on WTO terms, or because they have another deal in mind. Should it come down to it you can bet your bottom dollar that those “don’t knows” would vote to Leave. To a Leave voter, any Brexit is better than No Brexit. That would be enough to double-tick Leave, cementing our fate and ushering in the hardest Brexit there can be. Emboldened by a second referendum win, the ERG would seize control of the Tory Party and that would be it for the UK for at least five more years.
If your MP voted against these motions and they claim to be a Remainer, call them out. Tell them they are paving the way for the hardest Tory No Deal Brexit possible. History will judge them and their apparent lack of any kind of political intelligence or willingness to compromise a safety net.