The last seven days have proven that a week is a long time in politics focusing on our departure from the EU and possible trade arrangements with the USA. Last Tuesday a debate in the House of Commons focused on a motion calling for a cross party unity Government and the opportunity for British people to be consulted on how we depart from the EU, in the light of the resignations following the meeting at Chequers. The motion was opposed by most Conservatives including eleven of the twelve Sussex Tories, supported by the Lib Dems and Caroline Lucas and abstained by the Labour Party and SNP. The one Sussex Conservative who did not vote against the motion is Nicholas Soames who deserves credit for abstaining. A number of Conservatives who voted against the motion including Maria Caulfield are opposed to the departure proposal currently set out by their party which makes their position seem unsustainable. On Thursday the white paper which explains the departure proposal was published, in a way that left the House of Commons in chaos because the Government started speaking about the document before MPs were allowed to see it, even though journalists had been given copies three hours earlier. Finally we were visited by Trump, an event which took place after several American officials made it clear that the reason why they favour our departure from the EU is because we represent 25% of their EU trade arrangements and if we leave, it will be much easier for us and the EU to be forced to adopt their trading rules than if we remained in the EU and put up a combined response to their demands for us to eat their chlorinated chicken and hormone laden beef. A classic case of divide and conquer.
It is this collapse of support within the Tory Party for Theresa May and her proposal, along with the threat of our trading requirements being crushed by the USA that means that Tuesday’s debate deserves a revisit, even though it happened less than a week ago. People such as Maria Caulfield are opposed to the white paper proposals even though they resigned before it was published, yet the only alternative option currently being discussed by members of their party is a hard Brexit which is clearly a great deal worse than remaining in the EU as far as most businesses are concerned and indeed many people who see the need for all nations to work together. Those of us who already trade with the USA know that we are better served by being part of the EU with its combined strength than if we were forced individually to try to engage with such a dominant power.
The context for Tuesday’s debate was the March of around 100,000 people on the 2nd Anniversary of the referendum, calling for clarity from the Government and a chance to vote for the outcome of their deliberations. I suspect few people who marched would have expected the Conservative Party to end up in a public muddle quite so quickly. There is another event being planned for the 20th October and one can only hope that before that takes place, the Government chooses to go back to the people to help them settle between the Theresa May proposal and the Maria Caulfield hard Brexit along with the option of remaining in the EU but with a clear set of reforms being laid out. Two of the contributions to Tuesday’s debate helped me to have confidence in the idea of such a vote or some form of public response to these three options.
One came from a Conservative MP, called Alister Jack who stated “Whether we are talking about the European Union referendum or the independence referendum, we are not in the business of playing “best of three”?” The reason why this encouraged me is that Alister seems to have overlooked the fact that all of our laws are made by the House of Commons with three separate readings and votes taking place as part of the process. If this works well for Parliament, why not for the public too? After all we regularly vote for our MPs? The second came from Labour MP Jenny Chapman who is the shadow minister for exiting the EU. She stated “If I believed for one minute that another referendum would be a well-informed discussion among the people of this country about customs, trade, tariffs and the economy, I might take a different view. Unfortunately, that is not what I expect to happen” So it seems that a set of debates and discussions, free from the lies and false promises is needed before we vote again, and then Labour will be happy to support the idea!