The Prime Minister’s speech has set Britain on course for an ultra-Hard Brexit.
Three things, and only these three, were made crystal clear in Theresa May’s plan for Brexit.
One is that she and the Brexit claque are determined on an ultra-Hard Brexit.
The second is that she is determined to deprive Parliament of an opportunity for a full debate on whether to act on the outcome of the advisory referendum. She now adds that although there will be a debate in Parliament in several years’ time, on the deal she makes with the EU, it will not matter what the outcome is because even if Parliament rejects the deal, Brexit will still happen.
That is amazing – it is unconscionable, dictatorial, completely contrary to our Parliamentary democracy, and is politically and constitutionally illegitimate.
She and the Brexiteers are trying to persuade everyone that the referendum’s outcome is a done deal, as if it were binding and was won by a supermajority. It was neither of these things – by a very long way. And her sidelining of MPs and Parliament invites a constitutional crisis which is now unavoidable: if MPs themselves will not stand up and act, the public must.
The third is that in addition to sidelining Parliament completely, she is determined to take no notice whatever of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, all those opposed to Brexit outright, all those opposed to a hard Brexit, all informed opinion in business, finance, diplomacy and history – indeed, that she is determined to ignore everyone other than those in the Brexit bubble.
The stance she has adopted is intransigent and doctrinaire. It is a fighting, oppositional stance, which invites a fighting response.
Even without these wholly unacceptable aspects, her statement is full of contradictions. She wants a ‘clean’ (meaning: ultra hard) break from the EU, yet wishes to have all sorts of access arrangements with the EU.
She says she hopes the EU will flourish, and then threatens the EU with a trade war by making the UK a low-tax off-shore haven if the UK does not get what it wants.
She says she wishes to stop paying the UK’s ‘massive’ subvention to the EU budget (it is a mere 1% of UK GDP) and then says that she will pay into the EU for those cherry-picked bits of access of a not-so-clean break. And so on and on. If it were not a crisis of historic proportions that the Brexit debacle is precipitating, the speech would just be silly bluster.
The iterated promises by UKIP, Boris Johnson, and almost all Leavers during the referendum campaign that there is no intention of leaving the single market have all been broken.
And broken promises must be challenged. If the promises were lies in the first place, they should be challenged. The quality of the UK’s political fabric has been stained and polluted by everything to do with the referendum: the referendum itself, the Leave campaign, the marginalisation of Parliament and MPs entailing a gross subversion of our Parliamentary democracy – a subversion of our constitution by what every day looks more and more like a coup enacted by the Brexiteers, who are now carrying out the UKIP agenda to the very letter.
May’s calls for unity and an end to the huge split in British society occasioned by the referendum is mendacious: it is merely a call for all opposition to Brexit to shut up and fall in line.
On the contrary, the absurdity and intransigence of her speech deepen those divisions, will precipitate another independence move in Scotland, and has already permanently alienated more than half the country opposed to Brexit.
In short the speech has made opposition to Brexit and the Brexiteers all the more urgent – and has raised the stakes sky high.
Never forget that the referendum was unnecessary. It was an internal party political affair of the Conservative Party. Leave won with 37% of the electorate (a restricted electorate which excluded millions) that had been defined for the poll.
Despite the referendum being advisory only, the Brexiteers treat it as binding and mandating, as if it had been announced as binding and as if it had supermajority support. Neither, to repeat, is true. It is known not to be true by May and the Brexiteers, and when something is claimed when it is known not to be true, it is a lie. Brexit is a lie, and therefore May and the Brexiteers are enacting a lie.
Why did May not make her speech in Parliament? Why are MPs being completely sidelined? In the seven months since the referendum Parliament has not been given a chance of a full debate on the outcome of the referendum; a full debate in both Houses has been deliberately prevented.
Parliament, which is sovereign, is being sidelined on purpose with the intention of getting Brexit hustled past the point of no return. MPs are being marginalised, because they pose a threat to the ultra-Hard Brexit desired by the Brexiteers.
The intransigence of the May government and the dishonest, hustling minority-led hijacking of the process, have moved what was a debacle into a crisis, the biggest crisis since the Second World War.
Opposition to Brexit is no longer just about remaining in the EU and the future well-being of our country, it is about our constitution, the nature of our society, the fabric of our polity.
Among the steps that opponents of Brexit can take are as follows – this is not a sequence, but can and should all be done in parallel.
The best way to stop Brexit is for our MPs to vote it down in Parliament.
Write to your MP and all MPs, and keep writing. MPs will tell you that they only take note of correspondence from their own constituents. Write back and tell them that they vote on legislation that affects the whole country, that the well-being of the whole country affects the well-being of their constituents, and therefore they have a duty to engage in political debate relating to the whole country. This is their full-time job and we pay their salaries from our taxes to do it. Moreover this is a time of emergency, and they cannot hide behind excuses of this kind not to listen to our voices of protest.
MPs will also tell you that their staff simply bin letters and emails when there are too many of them on the same subject. Do not let that deter you. Keep writing and emailing until those bins are so repeatedly full every day, and those email inboxes are so overflowing every day, day after day without cease, that they have to sit up and take notice of the very real, very deep, very persistent and passionate opposition to Brexit around the country.
The most effective means of getting your MPs to act is to visit them in their constituency surgeries and to keep on visiting them every week. Crowd their surgeries every week. Demonstrate outside their surgeries every week. Fill their waiting rooms every week. Insist. Do not stop. Keep it up. Do not give up. Do not stop until it is all over.
Support the various legal actions by donating to the crowd-funded resources for them. Stay informed. Argue with Leavers; change their minds. Discuss with those Remainers who have given up the fight: get them back into the fight.
Choose a day, a time and a place, and meet there every week regularly with posters and EU flags. Gather more and more people there every time. Keep it up, rain or shine. In 1989 in the German Democratic Republic what began as a small nucleus of protesters grew until there were millions all over the country, and the government fell.
The EU has its flaws because it is a work in progress. But it is a great work in progress, with immense achievements already to its name in bringing peace, progress and increased prosperity to Europe, along with admirable labour laws, environmental protection, scientific advance, human rights and civil liberty protections, and so much besides.
How proud one is to be part of a European culture whose best features have transformed and informed the world since the beginning of modern times. Fight for it, and for our continued membership of one of the greatest international projects for peace and progress in history.