WITH opinion on Brexit still holding the country in a state of political paralysis ahead of this week’s House of Commons votes, the only thing the electorate can agree on is that it is a complete mess less than three weeks before Britain is due to leave the European Union.
Having voted ‘out’ in June 2016, there was an initial sense of euphoria on the ‘Leave’ side of the argument. Euphoria swiftly manifested into a stark realisation that not a single key figure had a legitimate plan for the process of leaving.
As a Leave voter myself, I took for granted that the individuals fighting for a cause, and in a powerful position, were doing so on the basis that there was at least a broad plan for what they were advocating.
There wasn’t. To the outside world, it is retrospectively evident that key figures in the Brexit camp had put their energy into the persuasive rhetoric and a momentous strategy to secure our departure. In terms of the departure however, there wasn’t even the slightest whiff of a contingency plan in place.
On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Remain figures were belligerent in the view that their scaremongering would conquer the underlying, yet restless disapproval of the EU. They were wrong. And in the aftermath of the referendum, they were in a state of debilitating shock.
Following the initial shock of the result, the Remain politicians have diluted into several factions. One being the Ministers who have accepted the referendum and want to make a good go of Brexit (in which our Prime Minister is one). The Ministers who want a watered-down Brexit whereby we remain in certain key EU mechanisms such as the single market. Finally, the Ministers who simply cannot accept the referendum result.
Unhelpful as it is for progressing with legislation, this conglomeration of differing views on Brexit is a true reflection of the electorate. An electorate torn on Brexit, disillusioned with the political parties and in despair of the political posturing of the opposing leaders.
With Theresa May being weakened by her disastrous General Election and her reliance on the DUP, not to mention the fatal divides in her own party, she is stubbornly fighting on. She tied her own hands behind her back with some of her decisions, but she is still negotiating in unenviable circumstances.
The question of what happens next is so unforeseeable that it would be fruitless to speculate. However, there are glaring areas where the lessons to learn are clear.
Cross-party co-operation is paramount to any chance of a successful deal; the electorate had the power to leave the mighty constitution of the EU with a majority of 52 per cent of the vote, so there’s no reason why elected Ministers could not reach a similar level of consensus and for it to be satisfactory.
Industry experts and national business leaders should have been far more engrained in the process to enshrine workers’ rights, and other complex issues, that leaving will bring. Not only will this strengthen the Government’s grip on these issues but it will act as a stabiliser to the economy.
Vitally, we have big bargaining chips to play. The negotiations thus far have been symbolised by Britain bending to the might of the EU. We need to impress on them what they risk with a no-deal scenario. The huge divorce settlement we have to pay to the EU should be explicitly used to say ‘if you don’t show willing, the money is off the table’.
It does seem as though leaving isn’t a forgone conclusion and another dynamic that has to be looked at is how we could ever stay in the European Union. But it should be put to the EU that the British people voted on the grounds of our sovereignty, the bureaucracy of the EU, immigration and economy. Those were the grounds on which the referendum was won and lost. So, if the EU has come to the conclusion they cannot offer us a good deal in leaving, the Government could end up suggesting that the EU provides an alternative deal that would reform our previous co-existence within the EU constitution.
Time is ticking away. Uncertainty and instability only encourages the EU to continue with their steadfast approach to the negotiations. A rise of consensus politics, finding middle ground where you see a vacuum and reassuring the electorate with responsible leadership is the only way to reform and ressurect our chances of making Brexit a success. Even now.
Jack Houldsworth, 21, is a Leave voter from Knaresborough. He describes himself as a ‘keen observer of politics and also a budding writer’.