The fact that all EU member states have so readily agreed to the British prime minister’s compromise deal while few UK lawmakers are celebrating more than two years of negotiations speaks volumes. No one can accuse Theresa May of not trying to please everyone but she has ended pleasing hardly anyone. Diehard Brexiteers and Remainers are united in their vehement opposition to her one foot-in and one foot-out solution.
May is battling on regardless warning there are only two choices — her deal or a crash-out. Both options will see the UK economically worse-off say the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. The Bank of England has warned that “a disorderly Brexit” would plunge Britain into a worse economic contraction than the 2008 global financial crisis. The bank has assessed various scenarios. The worst case would see the economy shrink by 8 per cent in a single year, a rise in unemployment, a 30 per cent fall in house prices and 50 per cent wiped-off the value of commercial premises.
Britain’s place on the world stage is also at stake. If May believes the US has Britain’s back she may be in for a disappointment. President Donald Trump has slammed her deal saying the UK “may not be able to trade with us”. Most major nations are already locked into trading blocs. To imagine countries queuing to clinch trade deals with London is ludicrous.
Not to be undone by what some refer to as “Project Fear”, the prime minister has written a letter to the nation arguing that she has secured “a Brexit deal that works for every part of our country …” and is touring around making a desperate sales pitch. She is also focused on persuading Members of Parliament to get behind her on December 11 when they are scheduled to vote on the 585-page divorce agreement.
As of now, she just doesn’t have anything close to the numbers. Over 94 Tory MPs have vowed to vote it down and the same goes for opposition parties including Labour, the Lib-Dems, the SNP and the DUP. There are predictions she faces a potential 200-vote defeat.
What happens in that event is anyone’s guess. The UK finds itself in unchartered territory. The Speaker may order a second parliamentary vote. She may resign as her predecessor David Cameron did when the referendum did not go his way or she could be ousted by a vote of no-confidence.
Labour will attempt to trigger a general election when there will be momentum for a People’s Vote, a path that May firmly rejects on the grounds a second referendum would be a betrayal of democracy that would split the nation.
Whatever occurs following a no-vote will result in political chaos and even greater uncertainty than that that currently exists. With just four months until D-Day, Friday March 29 next year Britain needs political stability more than ever.
In my view, her uncompromising stance is misguided. Firstly, the country couldn’t be any more divided than it is now. Secondly, the people who cast their ballots in favour of Brexit over two years ago had no idea of the ramifications of leaving. A poll conducted for Channel 4 last month found that if a second referendum were held 54 per cent would choose to remain. That said a Daily Mail poll published last week shows that 54 per cent would prefer May’s deal to no deal.
Given that the people were asked to take the decision in the first place now that there is an exit agreement in place, the most democratic course would be to allow voters to decide between crashing out, staying-in or accepting what is currently on offer.
A course that will impact Britons’ living standards and opportunities for decades to come should not be reduced to a competition between Brexiteers and Remainers. The government has failed to deliver on a deal that would ensure prosperity. When the prime minister was asked whether the country would be better off after Brexit during a radio call-in programme, she was unable to answer. So much pain for no gain! The politicians cannot agree so why not let the people, who were in the dark when they had the first word, have the last word?
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.