THIS week in Parliament, I was chided by a Cabinet minister as we discussed the lack of progress on Brexit.
I’d made the mistake of pointing out to them that the state we have got the country into on Brexit was totally predictable and highly probable.
I wrote in The Yorkshire Post in July 2018 that this was where we would end up on Brexit – and the failure to confront the problems earlier have not served our country well.
Parliament in gridlock, going nowhere, while the clock ticks down towards Brexit.
My comments clearly touched a nerve. I was told I was a “know-it-all”.
I said I felt it was better to be wise before the event, rather than after.
Margaret Thatcher once said you might see banana skins ahead of you, but it didn’t mean you needed to tread on them, and she was right.
Frankly you didn’t need to be a genius to work out where we would end up with regard to Brexit.
All you needed was some common sense and the ability to do basic maths.
Common sense that for millions who voted leave and were told “Brexit means Brexit”, the Prime Minister’s deal, with our country continuing to follow EU rules but now without any say, was the exact opposite of taking back control.
It didn’t, and it doesn’t really mean Brexit.
And basic maths to tell you that in a finely-balanced Parliament with a minority Government, there was a large group of MPs representing many of those communities who would vote against it and block it.
If you’re a government pursuing a Brexit strategy that is so unpopular with everyone, both Brexiters and Remainers, it’s never going to be successful.
When you hit problems, there’s no underlying support and political capital to draw upon so you run out of democratic road. It’s like going out for a hike in the Dales wearing flip-flops. It won’t end well.
The Government has wasted eight crucial months with the blinkers on, heading down a political cul-de-sac.
No wonder it will miss the March 29 deadline. Two votes already on the Prime Minister’s deal – both big defeats – yet we’ll still have a third ‘meaningful vote’ next week.
They’re not meaningful votes when you need that many to win, they’re meaningless.
Even winning next week would now be a pyrrhic victory. MPs will only have tactically switched their votes, not actually changed their minds.
A fake consensus will get Britain nowhere and simply unravel later. It will feel like progress, but Parliament won’t have actually decided a path forward.
The Government’s Brexit charade will continue, but that’s all it will be – a charade.
That will come back to bite us when the legislation to pass the Prime Minister’s deal into law will likely be amended by deal-sceptic MPs to render it unworkable.
There is seemingly no consensus. Not in the Cabinet, not in Parliament, not in the country. Where do we go from here?
Firstly, the Prime Minister needs to accept that her deal isn’t acceptable to the people or Parliament.
Let’s not waste time on any more votes on it.
Secondly, we should vote next week on other Brexit options that different groups of MPs are proposing, to see if there is a consensus behind one of those.
Thirdly, if there is no consensus, then we really will have demonstrated gridlock and we will need to have a public vote – either a general election or a second referendum. I’ve been clear my preference is the latter.
We will need an extension of Article 50, but that should be for a Brexit approach around which Parliament has truly developed a consensus, or for a decision to have the democratic choice to let the people find a consensus if Parliament can’t.
Everyone’s exhausted with Brexit, so we’ve got to break the gridlock now, and fast.
I was WhatsApped later with an apology by the Cabinet minister who told me I was a know-it-all.
But that apology isn’t just to me. It should be to the British people. There’s a real unwillingness by senior politicians in our country to take responsibility for the mess they have led the country into on Brexit.
Putting party politics ahead of the country with no strategy, delays to avoid a decision, kicking the can down the road, a terminally unpopular deal and also too many people with an eye on their own future as a potential party leader instead of the country’s future – all were the exact opposite of what Britain needed at a time like this.
Both front benches have acted like passengers on a ship instead of behaving like the captains they actually are. We’re not going to chart a way through on Brexit while those politicians turn their faces away from harsh realities and prefer to play games of thrones.
I know that my clear-cut approach won’t be liked by some, but it will get us onto the other side with a decision. It will allow us to “get on with it”, and surely that’s the most important thing now.
Justine Greening is a Conservative MP. Born in Rotherham, she is the former Education Secretary.