In November 2017, I wrote that the idea of having a second EU referendum was a “superficially-attractive option with very high stakes”.
So it still is, and I stand by everything I wrote a year ago about the risks and dangers of a second referendum: including the risk that Leave might still win.
We do know a lot more now about how the Leave campaign unlawfully gathered data uon UK voters, how they used that data to target adverts on Facebook, and how they illegally overspent the limits set by the Electoral Commission.
May’s deal was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of the Deal’s burial was signed by the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, by France, Sweden, Spain and Belgium, by the Chairman of the European Research Group, and the chief mourner. Leo Varadkar signed it: and Leo Varadkar’s name was good upon Fine Gael, for anything he chose to put his hand to. May’s deal was as dead as a door-nail.
Theresa May’s deal is the EU’s deal.
Our three choices before 29th March 2019 are
- May’s deal, which is bad
- No-deal Brexit, which is catastrophic
- or Remain in the EU
Before December, Theresa May’s Cabinet is going to have to agree to pay the EU around forty billion pounds – amount negotiable, but the UK government’s resistance to paying anything has meant they’re almost out of time to negotiate the amount.
Robert Halfon, Tory MP for Harlow since 2010, Chair of the Education Committee and former government minister under both David Cameron and Theresa May, says of this payment
with austerity on the agenda ahead of Wednesday’s Budget, “if we start saying that we’re going to give £40 to £50bn to the EU, I think the public will go bananas, absolutely spare”.
Mr Halfon said he had backed Remain in the EU referendum, but added “we voted to leave, the public want to leave, and I cannot believe that the public would accept such a huge amount when we need money for our schools, our hospitals, our housing, and many other things”.
EU Referendum Results Map
Last week, I wrote and posted a series about the four possible directions the UK can go from where we are.
- First, hard Brexit, which is catastrophic;
- second, soft Brexit, which is several different flavours of disaster;
- third, re-running the EU referendum, which would be expensive, time-consuming, and wouldn’t necessarily stop Brexit;
- fourth, Parliament voting to revoke the invocation of Article 50, which means an unprecedented rebellion of MPs in both Opposition and Government with unpredictable consequences.
From a worm’s-eye perspective, the fourth option is least-worst: but the people most likely to face negative consequences for carrying it out and saving the UK from catastrophe or disaster, are the same MPs who would have to vote for it.
And regardless of how bad it is for us in the lower income bands, MPs are all in the top ten percent by income just from their salary: they have a generous expenses system, heavily subsidised food and drink at work, complete job security until the next general election, and a nice golden parachute even if they lose their seats then: they will not directly suffer from the economic disaster of soft Brexit, and though the catastrophe of hard Brexit might hit them, they’re better insulated against it than most.
There are four ways the UK can go from here with regard to Brexit, and all of them are bad. Read the first direction: hard Brexit, or no deal.
Second: soft Brexit, the EU’s deal
Hard Brexit will be unthinkable catastrophe for the UK, and cause some damage to each of the EU-27 countries. EU-27 are prepared and ready to offer a deal to the UK, but as EU-27 are better-prepared to negotiate, have better negotiators, and are in a stronger position (they can survive the damage done by no-deal Brexit; it is uncertain whether the UK can or not) the deal for the UK on leaving the EU will be set in terms that will favour the EU.
In fairness, Theresa May never said what would happen if she lost 13 seats.
But here we are.
The Conservative Party has 317 seats in the House of Commons: even allowing for the 7 Sinn Féin MPs who never take their seats, the Tories are five seats short of a majority.
Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party, have between them got 314 seats.