It’s been a difficult few weeks for the Brexit adventure. The meaningful vote has turned into a merry-go-round of re-runs which leaves us wondering exactly which definition of meaningful is being applied.
Amidst cries from the ERG that the People’s Vote lobby simply wants to have vote after vote until they get the decision they want, Theresa May wilfully misinterprets the word ‘No’ in favour of doing exactly the same thing.
In spite of denials about running down the Brexit clock, she’s kicked the can further towards the cliff and now plans to dangle us all over the edge by our toenails until we agree to let her have her way. As vote after vote is pushed back, it’s clear the word meaningful has essentially become meaningless, and Parliament along with it.
Calls from politicians who really should know better to “take no deal off the table” are equally as vacuous. Without an agreed deal, no deal becomes the inevitable conclusion. Much as I hate to deny us all a collective sigh of relief, the Cooper amendment doesn’t prevent no deal.
Even if the series of votes promised by the PM end up with an agreement to ask for a limited extension, that is by no means guaranteed. The EU27 do not have to agree to one, and have previously said that they won’t do so unless there’s a genuine justification. Just allowing parliament to squabble for another few months doesn’t really qualify.
Above all, the current scenario doesn’t prevent no deal. The only certain way to avoid that would be to cancel Brexit altogether which we could do in a unilateral heartbeat. But somehow I doubt a Parliament full of MPs apparently more interested in fighting amongst themselves than uniting to prevent us from inflicting a monumental dose of self harm will get around to that until it’s too late.
Most seem to be carrying on regardless in the hope that Brexit will just solve itself if they stick their fingers in their ears for long enough. In a delicious irony, MPs who are leaving their respective parties, principally over the lack of direction on Brexit, are being called upon to put their positions to another vote, even though their erstwhile leaders have up to now denied that to the rest of the country.
If we needed an example of how stir crazy government has become, we only have to look at the divisive rhetoric from people like Emily Thornberry and the ever more shrill calls for resigning party members to put their seats to the vote. Perhaps what they’re really looking for is another distraction from the paralysis evident on both sides of The House.
The fact that Labour would lose the tacit support of their former MPs on key Brexit votes while those seats fall vacant during by-elections seems immaterial to them. As they absent-mindedly draw targets on their shoes and take aim, the technicality that elections couldn’t possibly be won or lost before Brexit D-day is apparently a mere bagatelle. It’s personal animosity over parliamentary arithmetic, and no doubt this little side show will run and run.
Support for Labour’s position will also become more important as Corbyn inches, glacier-like towards allowing the merest possibility of the outside chance of maybe, at some point, agreeing to a second referendum vote. Again I hate to micturate on anyone’s pommes frites, but Labour’s position hasn’t ostensibly changed and they’ve said as much themselves. A People’s Vote was always the last thing on the to do list and that’s where it remains. Running out of excuses doesn’t equate to positive policy, or perhaps it does in the new wonky world of politics.
It’s apparent that there have been words poured into Corbyn’s shell-like, no doubt quite loud words after the defection of so many MPs and the likelihood of more to follow. Yet Jezzer’s subsequent announcement didn’t fill me with confidence that he’d really moved from his previous position. Despite a slightly more conciliatory tone, it was more fudge, if slightly sweeter and a little more chewy.
Labour insiders reported that, during the internal meeting where this apparent shift was announced, Corbyn looked like a kidnap victim reading out a ransom note. This would seem to be an echo of his speech at conference last year where he audibly choked on the words “all options on the table”.
Even if we do get a motion on second vote now it would seem unlikely that there will be any appetite for it with a majority of MPs. Perhaps if Labour had shifted a few months ago there would have been time to convince more of them. The People’s Vote campaign has been doing great work in persuading the public of the wisdom of a second chance, but it remains to be seen if our more timid parliamentary representatives will buy it.
Then of course we’d need to see what would be on the ballot paper. As with all the other manoeuvrings surrounding Brexit, that’s rife with opportunities for an ambush, even more so if part of the idea will be agreeing to May’s deal in the first place. Any vote that includes more than two options is also going to be open to electoral roulette and the odds would likely be stacked.
One thing is for sure though, with only a few weeks to go before the big day, someone has to make a decision, and that can’t continue to be deciding not to decide. Without a second vote, our fate is in the hands of a few hundred people, many of whom have a distinctly myopic approach to so-called democracy. People who would apparently press ahead with any half-arsed scheme, no matter how damaging, rather than stand up and be counted.
In those circumstances, perhaps a second vote isn’t a good idea. Perhaps the time has come when common sense and existentialism should trump a dog-eared, highly questionable vote from nearly 3 years ago made when none of knew what was in store for us. Perhaps it’s time for us to simply pull the plug on Brexit before it pulls the plug on us.