I’m no Carol Vorderman, but the numbers don’t look good for Theresa May pushing her Brexit deal through the House of Commons. A combination of opposition parties and Tory rebels make it appear a mathematical impossibility.
After two long years, the PM signed off on an agreement palatable to both sides. But her subsequent call for unity was misinterpreted, as hardline Brexiteers, Remainers (and many inbetween) clamoured to trash the deal. To them, this looks like capitulation or short change – which is often how things appear when smaller partners negotiate with bigger ones. Naturally, a Rees-Mogg shopping list wouldn’t be entertained in Brussels.
In a bid to scare moderate MPs in to backing her deal, the PM claimed: ‘It’s this deal or no deal’. (And on one occasion even threw in ‘or no Brexit’). That tactic seems to have failed.
To most, the ramifications of ‘no deal’ should be unthinkable. While somewhat unknowable, it’s safe to say that allowing 45 years of complex inter-dependence to crumble on the stroke of midnight will cause problems for everyone.
A safety valve must be introduced to take ‘no deal’ off the table. The UK cannot crash out in this way by default and it’s surely common sense that the decision likely to cause most upheaval shouldn’t be reached via parliamentary impasse. No one on the Leave side campaigned for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, and it’s nonsense to suggest this would respect the outcome.
The false choice of ‘this deal or no deal’ should be harpooned once and for all. While we’re told this is all that’s on offer; this is true only insofar as it fits within the PM’s restrictive red lines. Were we to pursue a deal guided by the national interest, new doors would open.
The priorities of Scotland’s charities are clear: a deal that protects human rights underpinned by EU laws; guarantees on funding that organisations rely on and a commitment that EU citizens can continue to live, study, work, volunteer and contribute in Scotland. These have been our guiding principles from the outset and, for us, any deal that fails to meet these requirements shouldn’t be supported.
Which leads to the ‘how?’ The clock is ticking. Understandably, the EU won’t hit pause, unless for very dramatic reasons. A General Election, second referendum or People’s Vote would fit that bill, but look unlikely. There is another alternative. An ongoing court case presents the opportunity for the UK to withdrawthe Article 50 letter that set the Brexit ball rolling.
Given Article 50 was triggered before the UK Government knew what it wanted to negotiate, it makes sense to buy back some time and ensure we’re not bounced in to rash decisions that would cause irreparable damage. The letter could, ultimately, be re-submitted after a period of serious reflection, contemplation and consultation.
While SCVO has always advocated continued EU membership, this move is no ploy to scupper the referendum outcome. Rather, it should be viewed as a serious attempt to prevent a calamitousBrexit and allow genuine discussion with people across the UK – something lost in the slogan-dominated referendum.
In 1999, SCVO played an integral role in the Scottish Constitutional Convention; bringing together a swathe of civil society. The Convention set the terms for devolution and achieved it by ensuring a plurality of voices were heard and that decisions were shaped in the national interest.
Faced with a far more complex constitutional challenge, and with no political leadership in sight, it’s time to buy time, prevent chaos and ensure people have a proper chance to have their say.