Campaigner GINA MILLER on a new initiative to find a way through the impasse by reforming the EU from within.
On November 10 2015, David Cameron sent a letter to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, setting out a series of proposals that addressed almost every one of the concerns which were to play such a decisive factor in the referendum just seven months later. Economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty and, yes, immigration – they were all there, in black and white, in that letter, and more besides.
Far from high-handedly rejecting the proposals, Tusk, conscious of a growing unease among member states about the future direction of the EU, engaged with them constructively and there was optimism among European and British negotiators that a deal could be achieved that could benefit both sides.
As with so much that took place during the Cameron premiership, however, this was mere window-dressing and the negotiations went nowhere. The referendum that Cameron called then forced the issue and the architects of Brexit found themselves unexpectedly in the driving seat with the dire consequences that we now see all too clearly today.
In the interests of Tory party unity we have now reached a point where Cameron’s successor Theresa May has left the UK with a choice of two stark realities. Either the UK gets a version of the deal she negotiated, which all sides accept is significantly worse than the deal we presently have; or we end up with no-deal, which May herself has tacitly accepted will precipitate a crisis so grave that she has begun making plans for martial law on our streets.
It is clear that neither option is what anyone in the UK knowingly voted for on June 23 2016. To put it plainly, none of us voted to be poorer, none of us voted to enfeeble the NHS or to put in jeopardy hard-won rights for workers, or our borders or security.
Since the Labour Party has failed in its responsibilities as the official opposition, we have, more than two and a half years after the vote, reached a point of political paralysis and constitutional chaos.
Responsible, decent and patriotic citizens on both sides of the debate about the EU share an understandable sense of despair that it now appears impossible to leave without a huge and unforeseen cost to ourselves and the generations that will follow.
MORE: Support The New European by subscribing to the newspaper for just £13MORE: Brexiteer: I never said you’d be better off from BrexitMORE: DUP tell people to ‘go to the chippy’ after issue of food shortages raisedThe EU Membership Bill that Lord Saatchi, the former chairman of the Conservative Party, introduced in the House of Lords – with the full backing of the international human rights lawyer and Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy and myself, as a campaigner for parliamentary sovereignty and transparency – was, we all fervently hope, the beginning of a healing process.
It is what we see as a third way: to re-open, with a renewed sense of purpose and urgency, the negotiations that Cameron began with Tusk. What we propose with the Lead not Leave initiative is a way forward that will honour the demand for change that the 2016 vote represented, and give us back control of issues such as immigration and strengthen the sovereignty of all the nations of the union.
It will allow us to finally move on from the current impasse, to put an end to the destructive and venomous political arguments and get our politicians back to addressing the pressing domestic issues of our society – widening inequalities, skills shortages, the care crisis, housing, poverty.
The moment you walk out of the Tube at Westminster and see the number of rough sleepers you see all too clearly a country that is losing its sense of what is important – and what is not. We have a political class more interested in power and protecting party interests and that seems to make them increasingly out of touch with the real challenges people are facing, including those posed by globalisation and the growing environmental crisis – that have now been neglected for too long.
Above all, our initiative will allow all the citizens of the UK to come out of this long period of soul-searching, self-doubt and acrimony with our heads held high; resolved as a union to be rule-makers, not rule-takers; to once again command respect around the world as a force for stability, rather than chaos; and above all, ours will once again be a leader of nations, not a leaver.
Quitting has never been our way. It is not what the peoples of any of the nations of the union are known for. Maurice Saatchi, Helena Kennedy and I are backing the Lead not Leave initiative because we see it as the best possible solution for all concerned – and, more importantly, the generations that will follow.
We expect of course criticism from those who are quick to dismiss any appeals to reason in this time when ideology takes precedence over logic and – as in Ancient Sparta – the one who shouts the loudest invariably prevails. To them we have but one simple question: what can you offer that is any better, that will get us all out of this mess together and that our children and our children’s children will not hold against us long after we, the members of this generation, have all gone?
• Find out more about Gina Miller’s campaign by visiting the Lead Not Leave website.