It’s now a year since Theresa May notified the EU of the UK’s intention to leave and, as things stand, this time next year we will be cast out into the uncertain reality of life outside the world’s most successful trading bloc and peace project. By then many important issues will still need to be negotiated. We won’t know what Brexit really means but it will be too late to change our minds.
Over recent months, in particular whilst we have been campaigning ahead of the upcoming local elections, many people have been telling us they would love to see Brexit cancelled. At the same time they ask us if leaving is now inevitable. The short answer: no. So how in practice can Brexit be averted?
Stopping Brexit starts with MPs
Only MPs can begin the process of putting a halt to the rapidly impending disaster that will damage our economy and diminish our international standing. Parliament is, and always has been, sovereign. Parliamentary sovereignty is not overruled by the orders of the Government nor – as was recently suggested by Brexit Minister Lord Callanan – is it overruled by the referendum result.
In the autumn Parliament will vote on whatever deal has been agreed with the EU. Contrary to what the Brexiteers may say, this vote should not be a choice between the deal offered and crashing out of the EU with no deal. Parliament will determine the terms of the vote. A meaningful vote must include an option to rethink Brexit entirely.
Whatever deal is put before Parliament, it won’t deliver any of the promises made by the Leave campaign. There won’t be £350m a week for the NHS; we will not have in place a raft of fabulous international trade deals; immigration will not be reduced. Far from ‘taking back control’, during the transition period we will have to abide by EU rules but have no say in how they are made. No one can truly argue that they are obliged to vote for the deal in order to honour the intentions of those who voted leave. The Brexit that we will get will not be the Brexit we were promised.
A year ago Keir Starmer, local MP and Shadow Brexit Secretary, set out six tests that would need to be met in order for Labour to back the final deal in Parliament. One of those tests was whether the deal would ‘deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union’. We already know that this test cannot be met. So it is clear that the deal will fail Labour’s six tests and therefore should not be supported by Labour MPs.
What happens after the deal is rejected?
What follows the rejection of the deal remains to be determined, but whatever happens it will be necessary for the Government to pause and reflect. They would most likely need to seek an extension of the Article 50 period – something that the EU would almost inevitably allow. However unappealing the prospect may seem, we might need another General Election. We might have to go back to the EU for a further round of negotiations. The endpoint should be for the people to have their say on the final deal, with an option to remain if we decide that the reality of Brexit is not so appealing.
What can you do?
Between now and that crucial autumn vote by MPs there are two vitally important things that we can do:
1. Vote for the pro-EU Lib Dems on 3rd May. Last weekend Jeremy Corbyn sacked a member of the Shadow Cabinet for supporting a referendum on the final deal. This further confirmed that the current Labour leadership supports a Tory hard Brexit. The Liberal Democrats have consistently supported our EU membership. We will continue to fight for an Exit from Brexit and to stand up for the rights of EU citizens who have been so badly let down by the other parties. A vote for us in May will send a strong message to Labour and the Conservatives that we do not support their handling of Brexit.
2. Tell your MP to vote against the final deal. There are few things that make an MP sit up listen more than to be told that they are losing the support of many of their constituents. If you don’t want Brexit to happen, tell your MP. Write to, email or visit them and make absolutely clear that you require them to vote against the deal put before Parliament in the autumn.
Stopping Brexit is currently a possibility, but not yet a probability. As public opinion shifts, ending Brexit will become more and more likely. But that will only happen if we make our voices and opinions heard. There is still much work to be done but if everyone does their small part in sending a strong message to the Government and the opposition, we can make an Exit from Brexit a probability.