May confirmed we need to ditch Brexit
- After the prime minister’s U-turns, the push is on for a soft Brexit. But the best deal of all is staying in the EU
Sep 27, 2017-
Theresa May’s Florence speech rams home why we shouldn’t be quitting the European Union at all. As reality bites, the prime minister is being forced to give up on Brexiters’ fantasies. She put Brexit on ice for two years, dangled tens of billions of pounds in front of the EU and abandoned her threat to turn the UK into a Singapore-style tax haven. These weren’t the flip-flop queen’s first U-turns, and they won’t be her last.
The government is making a dog’s dinner of Brexit. May triggered article 50, setting a two-year time bomb ticking, without a plan. Six months later, she still doesn’t have a plan. The prime minister asked for creative solutions. But she didn’t provide any herself. She doesn’t have a creative bone in her body.
But we’re not going to end up with a bad Brexit just because May is hapless, though she certainly is. The more fundamental problem is there’s no good Brexit. That’s why rival factions in cabinet are still fighting like ferrets in a sack.
The only good Brexit was the one promised by the leave campaign that voters increasingly realise was based on lies: the promise of £350m a week for the NHS; the claim that the divorce would be a cinch because Germany is desperate to sell us BMWs; the scare story that Turkey was about to join the EU.
The biggest lie of all was that voting leave would mean taking control. As May makes more and more concessions in the Brexit talks, it is becoming clear we will actually lose control. We will follow the EU’s rules and regulations without a say on what those are.
How can that be the patriotic choice? Contrary to the black propaganda pumped out by the leave campaign, we are currently one of the most influential EU members, winning 98% of votes in the Council of the European Union.
David Cameron was rightly criticised last year for staking the whole referendum on Project Fear. We needed then to make the positive case for staying in the EU, and we need even more to make it now.
The geopolitical changes since the referendum—five terrorist attacks on British soil so far this year, and the threat of nuclear war—underline the folly of cutting our ties with Europe and sucking up to Donald Trump. EU membership helps us manage the challenges of our time such as climate change, mass migration from Africa, tax evasion by multinationals, and globalisation.
But we shouldn’t shrink from pointing out the damage Brexit is already causing, so long as we don’t exaggerate. The pound has sunk, inflation has risen and people’s incomes have been squeezed. Talented EU citizens are quitting in droves, making it harder for the NHS in particular to find enough nurses and doctors.
We have moved from being the fastest-growing member of the G7 to the slowest, and our credit rating has just been downgraded. And this is just the downpayment. We haven’t even left the EU. Thanks, Brexiters.
Many pro-Europeans recognise all this but think the best we can achieve is a soft Brexit, staying in the single market permanently. That’s what more than 40 senior Labour figures are pushing for. While this would cushion the blow of Brexit, it is clearly inferior to staying in the EU and staying at the top table.
Others think that it is undemocratic to keep fighting Brexit now the people have spoken. We must slay this canard once and for all. In a democracy, people are free to speak their minds. They are also free to change their minds. One person, one vote, one time isn’t democracy: it’s how dictators keep power.
Boris Johnson suggested last weekend that the young people campaigning to stay in the EU are unpatriotic. Quite the reverse. Patriots have a duty to try to stop this historic mistake.
We will, of course, need to change public opinion. But we have the strongest arguments, reality is biting and politics is moving in our direction. The government is on the run. We must press our advantage and boldly make the case to abandon this mad escapade before it’s too late.
Published: 27-09-2017 09:32