As we’ve all been repeatedly told “Brexit means Brexit” – which is of course utterly meaningless. Though if it is taken to simply mean that the current Government (Or at least Mrs May) is committed to triggering article 50 and taking the UK out of the EU then that’s all well and good as far as it goes. I don’t think there’s any need to have that bit subject to a parliamentary vote as the literature the Government sent out said quite clearly that the result of the vote would be implemented. If our MPs had wanted further conditions on the referendum like a certain threshold they should have put that in place before hand. Likewise the idea of having a second referendum or parliamentary vote at the end of negotiations is patent nonsense. The idea that parliament/the populace should get a chance to approve the final deal is all very nice but ignores the two awkward “fact” that once article 50 is triggered there’s a two year process and then we’re out, and that no negotiation starts until we trigger article 50 (honest guv, no word of a lie). So if there is to be a vote on the final terms of leaving then it would have to take place before the already unrealistically short two year deadline was reached with any further negotiation happening between the deal being rejected and the two years running out. I really can’t see how that would be viable, so the other option is we get to the end of the two years, at which point we’re automatically out and then we have another referendum/vote to see if we’re happy? Can you imagine it?
EU: Well the two years are up here’s what we’ve negotiated, auf wiedersehen
UK: Hold on we just need to have another vote to see if we’re happy with this, and actually we might have changed our minds
EU: Oh ok that’s fine, we’ve spent two years and vasts amount of time to do this negation before the legally binding deadline but no problems – you can stay a member whilst you have a think about it, maybe negotiate a bit more, and if you’ve changed your mind we’ll just pretend this never happened – not a problem.
UK: Thanks awfully, we’ll just go away and have another of those referendum thingies and we’ll get back to you in a few months to let you know – We’re sure it’ll all be fine but perhaps best not to pack away the negotiating rooms just yet and we’ll just keep hold of our membership card as well for the time being.
Nah not going to happen, at the end of two years there’ll be whatever deal there is, and of course negotiations may then start on a whole load of other deals which Parliament can vote on. But the final terms we exit the EU on, there’ll be whatever compromise the civil servants of the UK and the EU hash out between them and get the relevant politicians to rubber stamp after, no doubt, one final all nigh round of meetings to to try and salvage something at the last minute.
So Parliament has no place in deciding if we leave the EU or not, and has no chance to decide on the final terms of the exit. This would seem all a bit bleak for democracy and would from how many people are talking seem to give Mrs May a free hand to do whatever she likes. Except there really is a glimmer of hope for all of us, both those that wanted to remain and those that wanted to leave either on internationalist of isolationist terms. Parliament could and should be debating just what it is that “Brexit means”. Here I actually agree (somewhat) with Mr Tyrie that the Government should set out it’s negotiationg terms. All we actually know from the referendum is that the country as a whole wants to leave the EU ( not the ECHR, not Europe, just the EU ), we haven’t debated if we want more free trade, more free movement of people or anything else. It’s on these matters, the shape of the UK after it’s left the EU that our MPs should be listening to us and debating in parliament the goal towards which the Governments negotiators should be working. Lets have a proper debate as to where the country should be going next, and then make damn sure that Mrs May and her team deliver on that. Neither Parliament nor any of us should allow the Government to get away with claiming everything they negotiate is sanctified by the magic phrase that “Brexit means Brexit”.
So Remainers get over it the votes gone, Brexiteers stop resting on your laurels – now we need to talk about what we actually want. Time to discuss the shape of things to come and try to make sure that we get the best outcome we can – rather than wasting time and energy fighting the last battle whilst Mrs May and co forge on unsupervised.