Tom Richmond: Voters’ verdict was a call for cross-party consensus

Could david Davis head a cross-party Brexit commission?
Could david Davis head a cross-party Brexit commission?
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TWENTY Four hours after The Yorkshire Post’s editorial on Monday floated the idea of a cross-party Parliamentary commission to take control of Brexit, it was heartening that Tory grandees like Sir John Major, William Hague and Ken Clarke all concurred.

This triumvirate of top Tories speak from bitter experience about the extent to which the Major government was torn apart 25 years ago over the ratification of the Maastricht treaty, even though they had the good sense not to compromise the then fledgling peace process by forging pacts with the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland to shore up the Tory party’s dwindling Commons majorty.

All three know that Britain is due to leave the European Union in March 2019 – the clock is already ticking – and the country’s political leaders won’t be forgiven by voters if they keep re-running the election until they get a more convenient result.

My view is that the country voted for consensus on June 8. The electorate, in its infinite wisdom, chose not to entrust a single party with power – they simply gave the Tories first dibs at forming a minority government in the final arithmetic.

It can also be argued that they favour less austerity, a softer Brexit and an end to the destabilising threat of another vote on Scottish independence.

Yet, as this newspaper stated five days ago, an overwhelming majority of Tory and Labour MPs not only endorsed the decision to hold a fateful referendum on June 23 last year but they backed the ratification of Article 50. Rather than pious talk about “acting in the national interest”, both main parties now need to do put these words into action because this is what is expected of them.

There’s no reason why Parliament can’t delegate negotiations to a special cross-party commission headed by Brexit Secretary David Davis that leads negotiations on the UK’s behalf. Its final settlement would then be put to a vote in the Commons. She would have to resign.

In doing so, it means the process can continue irrespective of Theresa May’s fate – her intransigent ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ does not reflect the new political reality and would not withstand a Commons vote.

There’s a growing belief that Britain will need access to the single market, while an invitation to Labour to implement its side of the Brexit bargain would be very difficult for Jeremy Corbyn to refuse.

Such a strategy might just lead to a more responsible politics, when the key players work together rather than against each other. Either way, the terms of the Brexit re-negotiation are too important to be left at the mercy of party politics. Britain’s future is at stake.

ANOTHER senior Tory appearing to take heed of The Yorkshire Post’s editorials is Michael Gove who is the new Environment Secretary.

After this newspaper challenged the new Minister to engage with farmers on Tuesday, he said, in his first interview, that he would do precisely that while guaranteeing existing subsidy arrangements until 2022.

And, while some politicians jumped to conclusions and wrote off Mr Gove before he’d even had a chance to get his pristine new green wellies muddy, The Yorkshire Post suggested his appointment would – at the very least – bring some much-needed focus to the rural economy.

Again, Mr Gove has not disappointed. Aware that farmers are dependent on unskilled labour and fruit pickers, he said migration would only be reduced in tandem with the needs of business before saying that agriculture is “one of our most important manufacturing industries”.

Now you’re talking.

AS Theresa May seeks better advisers, she could do a lot worse than seeking the regular counsel of plain-speaking voters in Halifax – even by conference call.

Why? By launching the Tory party’s ill-fated manifesto in this mill town, Mrs May confidently expected to win this marginal seat. Yet Labour’s Holly Lynch managed to increase her majority from a slender 428 votes in 2015 to a comfortable 5,376 votes while the Tories, in fact, lost two West Yorkshire seats to Labour.

As I wrote on launch day: “While the success of this manifesto will clearly be judged on whether towns like Halifax turn blue on June 8, the greater test is whether Conservative values become ingrained here for a generation to come.”

By not using her limited power, and authority, to promote the post of Northern Powerhouse Minister to Cabinet status, and then taking six days to replace the incumbent Andrew Percy with the Lancashire MP Jake Berry, the North, once again, has been relegated to after-thought status by Downing Street. Yet it is here, in seats like Halifax, where future elections will be won and lost. Don’t the Tories get this?

NOW Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has been re-appointed, there’s now no excuse for him not acceding to this newspaper’s respectful request, on May 9, for a definitive timetable for the upgrading of trans-Pennine railway line in response to promises that he made on the campaign trail in Wakefield (another target seat that the Tories lost here). We’re still waiting...

JUST what will it take for the hopeless Liz Truss to be sacked? After her woeful response as Environment Secretary to Yorkshire’s winter floods, she became Justice Secretary where she struggled to comprehend the independence of the judiciary. Now she’s Treasury Chief Secretary, responsible for presiding over the public finances. If Theresa May is so weak that she can’t fire a nonentity who makes Labour’s Diane Abbott look like politician of the year by comparison, the Prime Minister’s days are numbered.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk