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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Unity is achieved through compromise, Prime Minister, not exhortation

As Theresa May prepares to make a statement to the House of Commons the BBC reports that she is going to use the opportunity to call for unity. Her problem is that what she is seeking to unify us behind is contrary to the wishes to 48% of the population and some leavers too.

It is one thing to respect the outcome of last year's referendum, which I do, but in that campaign we were told explicitly that we would remain part of the single market, that we would have £350m a week extra for the NHS and that trade deals would be lined up with comparative ease to enable us to take advantage of our new status.

None of that is going to happen. In fact Theresa May has taken the hardest line possible and in doing so she is disrespecting the will of the people as expressed in that referendum. She needs to learn that it is not enough to call for unity, she must meet us half way through compromise to achieve it.

Tim Farron has it absolutely right in today's Guardian article. He says: It was May’s choice to plumb for the hardest and most divisive Brexit, taking us out of the single market before she has even tried to negotiate. That’s why we believe the people should have the final say. Someone will: it will either be politicians or the people. If the people decide they don’t like the deal on offer, they should have the option to remain in the European Union.

This is simply too big to trust to politicians. May wants to hijack David Cameron’s mandate from the general election to deliver hard Brexit. Meanwhile, the recent tough talk from Keir Starmer won’t hide Labour’s feeble deeds: voting for Brexit, failing to stick up for the right of EU nationals to remain, and even now only really threatening to abstain rather than vote against the final deal. I have heard of loyal opposition, but this is craven.

If May wants unity then she needs to allow the electorate to decide whether what she is able to negotiate is acceptable or not. And Tim Farron is right about what happens if a deal is not signed:

For a start, all UK trade would be subject to tariffs immediately. This is not a matter of negotiation, as pro-leavers claim. World Trade Organisation rules require that the minimum “most favoured nation” tariff is applied to everyone unless there is a future trade agreement in place. So if we wanted to continue trading with the single market without tariffs, we would need zero tariffs on our trade with the rest of the world too.

Immediate customs checks would be required at the EU border, including possibly between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

And there are so many more problems, from City firms losing passporting rights, to the EU no longer being obliged to trail terror suspects, to travellers having to pay a fee to travel to continental Europe and be limited in the time they could stay. The future of UK citizens living in the EU would be thrown into doubt, while British students would no longer enjoy free access to EU universities. All the protection for our beaches, air quality and energy efficiency would be at the caprice of a Conservative government that includes climate sceptics.

It is quite a mess but it won't be solved by meaningless soundbites as the Prime Minister seems to think.
I would be more impressed by Mrs May's vision of a global Britain if her government and most recent Conservative governments had been visibly engaged with the Commonwealth.

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