UK politics is now in the process of ratifying the Crown’s Withdrawal Agreement. This is the only deal on the table. There is no other. Therefore we have to keep total focus on this. Should it be supported or opposed? If we oppose it, how can it be defeated?
Everything else – general election, exit on World Trade Organisation rules, remaining in the EU, Norway option, Denmark-Greenland option or global socialism – is, if not pie in the sky, then certainly jam tomorrow. We have to start with the enemy in front of us. As football managers like to say the most important game is the next one.
The Withdrawal Agreement has already been roundly beaten by the House of Commons by 432 to 202 votes. That should have been the end of the road for May. But the Crown has the power to carry on. The deal is a dead duck and yet sprung to life again. It serves as her shield. It protects her. She cannot be ousted while her shield remains in place.
So a zombie Prime Minister staggers on. Kill the Bill and kill the zombie. How can it be done? One thing that can trump parliament’s ratification vote is a ratification referendum. Forty five million voters is far more powerful that 635 MPs. Nothing is certain but we should trust the people.
May has two options. The first is to bully, bribe and threaten MPs so that sufficient change their minds and get the deal through the Commons on the second or third attempt. If this happens, the world outside parliament will be angry. It will settle nothing. The country will end up with a deal that eighty percent of people oppose. The ‘Great Betrayal’ story will have a larger audience.
The second option is putting her deal to the electorate in a referendum. This is not a second referendum with a Remain and/or no deal question. May has ruled out a second referendum as a betrayal the 2016 majority. But she has avoided the issue of whether people should be able to vote for or against her deal. If she was a democrat rather than a racist politician she would have offered this already.
A ratification referendum on the Withdrawal Agreement is a democratic demand. If it is voted down then May, like Cameron, would have to resign. A new Tory leader is a big step towards a general election. On the other hand if the country decides to support May’s deal we move on. At least if a majority vote for it the betrayal story is detoxified. “Let the people decide on the May deal” and then “Kill the (withdrawal agreement) Bill” is the only democratic road to a general election. Article 50 has to be delayed.
Democracy is a gamble. You can never be sure how people will vote. Putting the Withdrawal Agreement to a peoples vote is a democratic way forward. This is not about reversing the 2016 referendum. It is about making the government accountable for what it is being done in our name.
Democratic accountability is the completion of the 2016 referendum. It is not about self indulgence where everybody’s favourite option – remain, no deal, communism, Singapore, Corbyn government etc – is on the ballot paper. It is about making the government accountable for the Withdrawal Agreement and then removing May’s road block.
The Remain camp is divided into democrats and liberals. The ‘democrats’ accept the 2016 result even though there are many violations of democratic good practice. A consistent democrat calls for a ratification referendum and opposes Northern Ireland and Scotland being forced out of the EU against their will. Corbyn has accepted the 2016 result and rejects a second-remain referendum.
The Liberal-Remain camp wants to overthrow or reverse the 2016 referendum. They demand a second referendum which must include the question do you want to remain in the EU? The intention is to overthrow or reverse the result of the last referendum before any deal is implemented. The liberals include Tories, Liberal Democrats, the Labour right the Greens and the SNP etc. Prominent advocates of this slogan include Blair, Major, Campbell, Soubry, Cable, Ummuna, Lucas and on the far left “Another Europe is Possible”.
May has called for ‘talks’ to breathe life into her ‘dead deal’. Corbyn refused to attend talks unless May took “No Deal” off the table. He was right to demand the impossible and not waste time talking about it.
His main target should have been the May deal not the No deal. He should have demanded the May deal is either abandoned or it is put to the people in a ratification referendum. That might have been worth a trip to Downing Street with a democratic message and a chance for Corbyn to view his future residence and see where this furniture would fit.
He should have made ‘Kill the Bill’ his main target. Once that is off the table then no deal is exposed for what it is – a bullies bluff. Parliament and the majority of business, trade unions, citizens and the EU would prevent it. If parliament could not act with sufficient urgency to extend article 50 then we would be facing a major constitutional and political crisis. A ratification referendum is the democratic means to progress.
Corbyn is edging his way to a ratification referendum. Labour has put forward an amendment to the Governments Brexit motion which is aimed at blocking a ‘No Deal option’ and includes the words “Legislating to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition that has commanded the support of the majority of the House of Commons”. This is still ambiguous. “A public vote on a deal” sounds like ratification. The words about a proposition commanding support in the House is either a truism or a door to a repeat remain referendum.
If Corbyn demanded a ratification referendum would the EU refuse to give an extension to article 50? Of course they have no interest in forcing the UK into an early exit on March 29 when there is a democratic process still to be concluded. They are well aware of the balance of parliament and the role of the DUP. They understand that a Corbyn government and the Labour Party is more favourable to the EU.
Another Europe is the left wing campaign which supports the liberals demand for a second referendum. It says “Any public vote on Brexit must, to be meaningful, include an option to remain. Labour should campaign for such a vote – and to remain”. Their resolution for the Labour Party calls for:
“1. That all Labour MPs must vote against any Tory Brexit deal
2. That Labour must demand, and to prepare for, an immediate general election
3. That Labour must campaign for a public vote on Brexit with an option to remain, and include such a vote in our manifesto”.
This resolution misses the mark. The number one issue is completely and fully defeating the “Withdrawal Agreement”. The resolution only calls on Labour MPs to vote against it. They have already done so. It made no difference. Then they call for a general election which is already Labour policy.
Nowhere do they call for the people to be allowed to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. They restrict it to MPs. They want a “public vote on Brexit” which ignores the fact that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain. They are demanding that a referendum is kicked down the road until after the next general election. Hence they call for a remain-referendum to be included in the Labour Manifesto.
It is a misconceived resolution. It does not do anything to “Kill the Bill”. It raises the liberal-slogan for a remain-referendum. This is a stick for May to beat Corbyn. The resolution says in effect wait until after the next general election.
Whether the Labour Party should include a Remain-Referendum in its election manifesto is something to be considered. But if the political situation hasn’t changed significantly then it would be divisive madness to include it. But a Remain-Referendum is pie in the sky unless May’s Agreement is finally killed off.
Calling for a democratic decision on May’s deal is no more than a democratic demand. It is a democratic right for all citizens both Leave, Remain and those who abstained last time. If the people vote to “Kill the Bill” then the search for a new answer can begin again. Then and only then does a general election become possible or highly likely.