Trust – the real loser

It would be all too easy to start panicking over last night’s defeat for the Government. By a very narrow majority, MPs voted to support an amendment which will give them a more realistic vote over the final deal. “Can Brexit be derailed?” some are asking and particular wrath has been directed against the 11 Tory MPs who voted against the government.

As Richard North has pointed out, what took place last night was little more than grandstanding:-

Since 1972, Parliament has been sitting on its hands, allowing successive EU treaties to be signed. It has then been content to ratify these treaties, holding unto itself only the power to make the decisions as to whether more and more of its powers should be outsourced to Brussels.  Then, when it finally came to whether we should leave the EU, the people made the decision, in the face of a parliament that, on balance, supported continued membership. And now that the people have decided and the government is in the process of implementing their decision, some MPs have rediscovered “democracy” and have demanded a vote on the withdrawal settlement negotiated under Article 50.”

Absolutely. There has been much hypocrisy among the supporters of the amendment. Thankfully, however, if MPs reject the final deal with the EU, it would not actually stop Brexit. The vote will still be essentially “Take it or leave it.” No one is talking about halting the Article 50 process. What would happen in the event of a rejection of the deal is that we would crash out of the EU with no trading agreement, which is the last thing the “rebels” would want. After all, if it is the unreconciled remainiac headbangers who end up bearing the blame for a catastrophic Brexit by blocking a deal, it will do little to their credibility if they then start clamouring for us to rejoin the EU.

Dr North’s comments raise a wider issue – trust. Does anyone trust anyone when it comes to Brexit? I receive more than a few e-mails from Brexit supporters who are yet to be convinced that a predominantly remain-voting Parliament led by a remain-voting Prime Minister has any intention of actually taking us out of the EU at all. Our sources, however, have been consistent in telling us that after getting over the shock of the result last year, the great majority of MPs, whichever way they voted, have accepted it and are prepared to do their best to ensure we achieve a successful departure from the EU.

Such an attitude does not necessarily imply any great confidence that the Government team at the sharp end of negotiations can be trusted to deliver a good deal. This year has seen frustratingly little progress in terms of the Government coming up with a Brexit strategy, let alone being able to discuss it with the EU. One can understand the frustration felt among some MPs on all sides and it is vital for us to distinguish between hard core remoaners and those MPs with genuine concerns about the lack of progress thus far.  Does the government actually know what it is doing? This is not an unreasonable question to ask.

Of course, there is also a distinct lack of trust between our team and the EU. In a speech earlier this week, Michel Barnier stated that “We will not accept any backtracking from the UK on commitments in the Joint Report.” These words carry the implication that  he is worried that we might indeed backtrack. On the other hand, can we trust the EU? Dr Anthony Coughlan believes that senior figures in Brussels are encouraging the Europhile Irish government  to be as obstructive as possible. Given the reputation of Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission president, for dishonesty, such concerns cannot lightly be dismissed.

What will keep Brexit on track in this febrile atmosphere is – in spite of its flaws – our democracy. The scale of the backlash in the event of Parliament halting or derailing the Brexit process would be quite unprecedented. When Mrs May threw her hat into the ring to succeed David Cameron with a promise that “Brexit means Brexit”, she probably hadn’t grasped the scale of the task she was taking on, but she knew that failure was not an option. As a loyal Conservative Party member of many years standing, it must surely be even more obvious to her now than when she became Prime Minister that failure to deliver on her promise would result in her party facing meltdown at the next General Election and most likely, its greatest crisis since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.

For the Tories, a successful Brexit offers more than just the chance of survival. It will enable them to bury the EU issue once and for all. Disunited parties do not win elections  and David Cameron was quite right in identifying the EU as one of the most divisive issues for the Conservatives. “Banging on about Europe”, he famously said, had alienated voters. As it happened, he ended up “banging on about Europe” more than he could ever have expected, but even though it finally cost him his premiership, he may have inadvertently given his successor the chance finally to lance the boil of the EU issue which has plagued not only the Conservative Party but British politics as a whole for far too long.

This is not to deny the challenges she faces – and last night’s vote has not made her task any easier. Nonetheless, a successful Brexit opens the doors to a complete overhaul of our political system including the chance to rebuild the trust in our institutions which EU membership has done so much to erode.  We would still be a long way from Switzerland where “only a few lunatics” wish their country to join the EU,  but if we get out without a major economic crash, it will be a step in the right direction.


Photo by San Sharma

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  1. Adam HileyReply

    these MP’s are a disgrace there must be moves now to get them de-selected from standing again at the next election in 2021 if Grieve and Soubry don’t like it they should find alternative employment

  2. Andrew PittReply

    “Can Brexit be derailed?” It depends on what you want Brexit to be. Though its purpose is to blame the Remainers, this article suggests that if we were to ‘crash out of the EU with no trading agreement’, the result might be ‘a catastrophic Brexit’. My guess as to the motives of those who defeated the Government is that they want a vote on the final deal so that they can indeed reject the deal. Despite the Government’s professed view that it is prepared for no deal, I think it would be terrified and would seek an extension to the two year period as contemplated by Article 50. I can’t see why the EU 27 wouldn’t agree to the proposal since having the UK leave without a trading deal would be very bad for them. The EU is hardly going to offer a better deal but what would be on offer is to stay within the EEA. There would be a majority in Parliament for such an outcome. According to Remainers and some Leavers, staying within the EEA is consistent with leaving the EU, or at least is the transition they want. None of this is what I want, but I think that’s where we are.

    • StevenReply

      Personally-speaking, I don’t wish to stay in the European Economic Area (EEA) since I believe that if you do so you have to abide by ‘freedom of movement’ and can’t put-on meaningful restrictions on mass migration from the EU. Also, I am not a supporter of complete freedom of movement of capital by big businesses and I have little doubt we wouldn’t be able to restrict that either. Why can’t we just be a fully sovereign country once again and able to have any policies we like regarding these subjects? Long-term membership of the EEA would be, in my view, nearly akin to full EU membership!

  3. Jason BReply

    Statistics : It can not be but noticed, that all the 11 Conservative rebels and the one abstained were remainers.

    Some would claim it is a good day for democracy as Parliament can not just go over MP’s heads, but need their approval on the final withdrawal bill with the EU.

    If as we learn that the withdrawal bill will reach the report stage mid-January, further amendments are being proposed to what the final bill will be. Will this hiccup turn out to be a good day for democracy?

  4. Adam HileyReply

    there must be a mass movement to take on the corrupt 3 main parties and especially remove the 11 disgraceful MP’s Theresa May should remove the whip from these cretins effectively removing them from parliament no Clarke soubry etc and immediate exit from the EU & ECHR NOW

  5. Jason BReply

    The heading ‘Trust the real Loser’ is exactly that. May’s defeat on the EU withdrawal bill can now keep being repeated to stymie her efforts and to increase the chances of a leave without a deal. This would certainly suit a newly launched petition to walk away from the talks, a petition that has quickly gathered over the 100,000 mark for the government to give it consideration.

    With Jacob Rees Mogg clearly pointing out in the having of a further two year EU transitional exit period after March 2019, we will still be tied as things are under EU rulings and this is not on. Further still we will not be able to start trade talks until March 2018 either, then the government must stop and take stock..

    Echo’s from the Ukip camp to May’s former words, ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’ are getting louder.

    We are at a critical junction, time is not on our side. The alarm bells must be ringing in the Conservative camp. Is a leadership challenge and change of EU exit route direction on the cards?.

  6. Phil JonesReply

    I agree with Steven (above). Although I dislike Grieve and Soubry and the others trying to scuttle the Good Ship Brexit, I thought their amendment helped ensure just that. They think that defeat of a final deal will somehow send the whole process back to the negotiation drawing board. The EU itself has recently said that will not be the case. The UK will LEAVE the EU with or without an agreement. Nothing wrong with the latter course. The UK simply returns to being a self-governing independent country and trades under WTO rules. Some bumps on the road back to full stability — but, hey, those like myself who voted for Brexit expected that. We heard all the threats and blackmail, and still voted to leave. Now all we endlessly hear is about a ‘smooth transition for business’ at any cost, even involving the UK for all intents and purposes remaining in the EU under the EFTA/EEA umbrella or something similar.. Any kind of half-in/half-out scheme as long as we don’t have to go through a meaningful transition to be again a separate self-governing country! Well, I for one am not in the least ‘scared’ of the UK simply walking away from the EU. And I think many others feel the same. There are many with EU business ties who want some walk-across transition with no effect on business whatsoever — even if it means the UK for all intents and purposes remaining in some form a part of the EU, such as being in the EFTA/EEA. Well, not me. I knew full well what a ‘full leave’ would entail after all the threats and blackmail that we endured, and marked the box on the ballot paper that corresponded to it..

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