ANDREW ADONIS: Euro elections could help us halt Brexit

Theresa May was defeated for the second time in the House of Commons. Photograph: UK Parliament/Mark

Theresa May was defeated for the second time in the House of Commons. Photograph: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy. - Credit: PA

Extend Article 50 and use the European elections to stop Brexit, it is the only way to stop Brexit argues ANDREW ADONIS.

May now has no plan beyond proposing a short extension of Article 50, to avoid immediate no-deal Brexit, while seeking agreement on some other deal.

This whole way of thinking has got to stop. There is no form of Brexit that works because Brexit itself – the act of wrenching Britain out of its deep economic and political relations with its European neighbours – is impossible without massive self-harm. This is stark staring obvious after three years in search of the holy grail only to end up in Mordor.

Brexit is divorce, unemployment and homelessness, all in one. There is no way it can be done sensibly. Just don't do it.

For as long as the head of government refuses to stop Brexit outright, the field is open for new unicorns. The latest is the 'Malthouse compromise' Mark II.

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Sparing the intricate details, this is not a compromise with the EU but rather a capitulation to Rees-Mogg and the ERG extremists which 'buys' a transition only to prepare for no-deal – 'managed no-deal', in the latest Orwellian euphemism to make extremism sound palatable.

Malthouse is Lenin to May's Kerensky. It should be rejected by all sensible non-revolutionaries.

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This week's moment of truth came shortly before Tuesday's second meaningful vote when May told a meeting of backbench Tory MPs that she keeps being asked by other European leaders: 'why don't you call a referendum now the situation has got this bad?' Why not indeed? The clue is in the word 'leaders'.

These European leaders have a critical part to play in next week's European Council. Their understandable reaction to the carnage in London is to leave us to it, and many are saying so.

They need to get over it. 'Anger is a temporary form of madness,' Seneca the stoic so wisely said. Wisdom, not anger, is required, which means helping us to hold and win a referendum to stay in the EU.

The way to do this is to offer Britain a long – say 21-month – extension to Article 50, to remove the no-deal cliff edge and give time for a referendum and the preparations for it. This should be done in the form of a maximum not a set period, so it doesn't involve attempting to keep Britain in the EU against its will.

When I set out this plan last week, I proposed the EU should cancel this May's European elections in the UK. Jean-Claude Juncker has already rejected this idea. So be it. Let's hold them and make them a campaign to stop Brexit.

As for May's sad personal predicament, 'never flinch, never weary, never despair', were Churchill's last words in the House of Commons. Amen.

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