The latest stage of the slow-motion Brexit train crash has unfolded in Parliament, with Theresa May promising the Earth if only MPs will support her abysmal “deal”.
If her plan passes Parliament, she tells us, she will involve MPs, business groups and unions in the next phase of negotiations. Not only that, but she has guaranteed to strengthen workers’ rights and environmental protections post-Brexit.
Oh, and she’ll do something about the Northern Irish backstop – but it seems clear that she has no idea what that will be. She hasn’t said anything about amending the Good Friday Agreement or doing a bilateral deal with the Irish government, so it seems clear that the stories about them in the press over the weekend were fake news.
But then, it’s all a pack of lies, isn’t it?
Once she gets what she wants, she’ll do what she likes.
That is the lesson of the damp-squib attempt at a Tory rebellion in June last year, when Mrs May promised the Earth to 14 Conservatives who were threatening to vote against her Brexit plan at that time.
As soon as she had secured their support and won the vote, the government issued a statement saying, “We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the Government’s hands in the negotiations.”
Mrs May lied then and you can bet she’s lying now.
And that’s at least one reason you can’t trust what she’s saying about calls for a second referendum.
Labour has submitted an amendment to Mrs May’s Brexit update, calling for a vote on its alternative plan – or on a new referendum on a Brexit deal or proposal that manages to gain majority support in the House of Commons.
If you’re still living under a false impression that Labour doesn’t have a Brexit proposal, you’ve probably been misinformed by the Tory press, or by a Tory stooge on the radio or TV. For clarity: Labour proposes that the UK remain in a post-Brexit customs union with the EU and maintains a strong relationship with the single market. Citizens’ rights and consumer standards would be harmonised with the EU’s.
The question of the Northern Irish border would not arise as the border would remain open.
One aspect on which I’m not sure is whether Labour wants MPs to vote on a Brexit plan and carry it through, or to vote on a Brexit plan and then take it to the public in a new referendum with the other option being remaining in the EU.
It seems clear that neither option is supported by Mrs May.
She’s still saying the choice will be between her mess of a deal and “no deal”, and won’t accept any other proposals.
As for a second referendum, she seems to support the contradictory view that denying people a chance to vote is somehow upholding democracy.
Yes, we had a vote in 2016. The result was heavily influenced by extravagant claims that turned out to be lies, and by investment in the various campaign groups by foreign powers that had no right to be involved.
And now a significant number of people who were too young to vote at the time have joined the electoral register, replacing people who did vote but have since died. Don’t they get a say in a matter that will affect the course of their entire lives?
Not according to Mrs May. She said: “A second referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.”
You might consider that to be another lie.
A spokesperson later stated: “There is a covenant of trust between the electorate and the government of the day and the PM’s firm belief is that it is the government’s duty to act on clearly expressed wishes of the electorate and, obviously, were that not to happen, that wouldn’t be, and shouldn’t be, without consequence.”
The government of the day was, of course, David Cameron’s government of 2015-16 – not Theresa May’s government of 2017 onwards (or even her government of 2016-17); the change at the top meant a change of direction. No government can be bound by the actions of its predecessor, nor can we be expected to assume that Mrs May has done exactly as Mr Cameron would have, had he stayed in his position rather than trotting off to the continent like a squealing pig.
She’s pushing her personal Brexit at the rest of us because that is what she, personally, wants to do. It has nothing to do with democracy.
But Parliament has a chance to change all that – and, given the evidence of recent events, it seems Parliament may embrace such a change. Mrs May must be shown she cannot hold us to ransom.
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