Monday 9 September 2019

Brexit insights

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Comment, Sep 4, and letters, Sep 5), while agreeing that the Leave vote should be honoured, writes that “it’s a legitimate and democratic position to argue that we should only leave when we have an acceptable deal”. Yet the EU has said that the deal it offers cannot be changed, and parliament has rejected that deal thrice — by larger margins than Tuesday’s vote. If an “acceptable deal” is simply not available, Finkelstein’s argument is undermined.

He also writes, of a no-deal Brexit, that “even if it comes out all right, it’s a hopeless long-term position”. But those serious commentators who advocate it, such as Martin Howe QC, are not proposing it as a long-term position. They see it as enabling the UK to negotiate new free trade deals, with the EU as well as with other countries. That is something virtually excluded by Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement and political declaration. One hears politicians denouncing no deal as if it were a nihilistic refusal ever to negotiate. In fact, both Mrs May’s deal and no deal are ways of entering the next phase of negotiations — with potentially different outcomes.
Sir Noel Malcolm
All Souls College, Oxford

If we are not to have a General Election in which a Conservative Government is returned with a small majority and again held to ransom by people like Ken [Clarke], then I think the Prime Minister had to do what he did [deprive 21 Conservative MPs of the party whip]. We can't have a General Election which brings us back to Square 1. We have to have one which enables the people of our country to resolve this issue.
Lord Howard, Conservative Leader 2003-2005

Labour MPs should have voted for a deal when they had a chance. Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement was precisely the document a Labour prime minister would have negotiated in her place. If Britain ends up leaving the EU without a deal, Labour MPs will bear a large part of the responsibility.
John Rentoul

Mrs May kept putting things to Parliament; Mr Johnson knows it’s a waste of time. Mrs May tried to hold the Tory coalition of Remainers and Leavers together; Mr Johnson looks back on the history of his party and can see that at certain moments it has been forced to choose, and that every choice has lost it old retainers. If the Tories didn’t exercise ruthlessness, they’d still have MPs who are pro-Corn law or opposed to Catholics voting.
Timothy Stanley 

It’s almost seven years, now, since David Cameron decided that an EU referendum would reunite the Conservative party. I wouldn’t want to speak too soon, but just at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be going entirely to plan.
Michael Deacon

A General Election in October or November.
A Hung Parliament with Labour the largest party.
A government of national unity formed including the LibDems and others.
Sir Keir Starmer as Prime Minister (with LibDems refusing to support Jeremy Corbyn as PM).
A second referendum on EU membership in January.
We vote to stay in the EU.
Matthew Jordan

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