May and Raab increase chance of ‘no Brexit’

by Hugo Dixon | 15.11.2018

Dominic Raab – the Brexit secretary who actually helped negotiate Theresa May’s deal – has resigned, saying he doesn’t want to “submit to the blackmail of my country”, and raising concerns about the threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom and not being able to unilaterally leave any “backstop” locking us into a customs union with the EU. Esther McVey has also quit.

The Cabinet turmoil threatens to overshadow something the prime minister said last night. The choice facing the country was her deal “or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all”. Previously she was insisting that the country faced a choice between her deal or no deal. This is the first time she has put “no Brexit” on the table so clearly.

These, indeed, are the only three options. All the other ideas being tossed around – such Boris Johnson’s “Super Canada”, Nick Boles’ “Norway for Now” and Labour’s scheme to stay in a single market and customs union but without the bits it dislikes – are mirages.

But the three options the prime minister spoke about after yesterday’s marathon Cabinet meeting are not equal. Crashing out of the EU with no deal at all would be extraordinarily destructive. Only a tiny number of MPs think this is sensible. So it is not politically viable.

May’s deal, set out in 585 pages, is miserable. It damages our power and our prosperity. It would mean following EU rules on trade, labour standards, environment, state aid and competition policy without a say on them. There are 100 pages of so-called level playing field provisions designed to ensure our firms don’t undercut EU business. We would also pay into the bloc’s budget without a vote on how the money was spent. The hardline Brexiter critique – that we would be turned into a vassal state – is correct.

And it’s not even as if it would protect our economy. The deal would do little for services, which account for 80% of our industry. It wouldn’t give fully frictionless trade for goods either. And the uncertainty about our future relationship would go on and on – sapping confidence and investment, which are the lifeblood of future prosperity. That also means less money for the government to spend on public services such as the NHS, not more.

This deal has no real friends and lots of enemies. The opposition is attacking it. The DUP is fuming. At least 10 Cabinet ministers spoke up against the deal.

Boris Johnson and the hardline Brexiters are apoplectic. Some are muttering about launching a leadership challenge against the prime minister. Pro-Europeans including Jo Johnson are also angry about the loss of control. Scottish Conservatives have written to May saying they could not back a deal which didn’t give the UK full control of its fisheries policies by the end of 2020.

So the chances of MPs passing the deal are slim. It is far worse than our current deal within the EU.

But Parliament can’t just cancel Brexit. After all, two and a half years ago the people voted to leave the EU. If MPs don’t want the deal and won’t agree to crash out of the EU with no deal at all, the only option will be to ask the public what they want in a People’s Vote. The prime minister’s statement outside Downing Street has opened the way to such a vote.

Edited by Jenny Sterne

6 Responses to “May and Raab increase chance of ‘no Brexit’”

  • I have been under the impression that we could, in fact, simply cancel the exit process and continue on as members of the EU as we were before this whole fiasco began. Several leaders in the EU have voiced this option more than once.

    Are we obliged to expose the public to another round of chicanery and almost legal opinion manipulation as the brexit folk seem ready to do?

    The rights of the pro exit voters have been defended even in the face of serious legal questions about how the referendum was run and funded. Lies and half truths have been exposed time and time again. Can we not just say ‘oops! Sorry about that, let’s be friends again?

  • From the last paragraph:

    > But Parliament can’t just cancel Brexit.

    Actually, it can. The referendum was advisory; Parliament remains sovereign. I am reluctantly persuaded that a people’s vote (with the option to remain) is the line of least resistance, but a simple vote in the Commons would be enough to kill it dead. All it requires is for the Remain majority to have the backbone to vote with its conscience. Oh well.



  • Not only that, but it was arguably invalid too, tainted by corruption and would be declared unsafe in any court of law. Oh well.

  • Note:
    Macron and Merkel now calling for a Euro army – something the remain side said during the referendum was a lie put about by leave campaigners! Both are determined (along with EU commissioners) to integrate Europe more closely. Nationalism on the rise and Italian debt crisis about to hit home.
    Please explain what has changed to make ordinary working people want to remain in this rotten undemocratic club?

  • Peter,
    I can sense you must be feeling desperate with a comment like that. With us being a part of the discussion as part of the EU talk of an Army was unlikely, and therefore true at the time of the Referendum. With a strategic partner like the UK walking away and becoming more dependent on the US, you should be able to understand why the idea has more traction. The only rottenness I can see is undemocratic behaviour of May’s fractious government borne out by all the recent resignations as they try and scramble together a deal which is vastly inferior to the one we already have.

  • Peter, a European army has ALWAYS been on the cards, as a counterweight and balance to Amerikkka’s NATO ordering us around.

    Why would you imagine this as scary? It will have senior British officers and generals, Germans, and – sadly – French, working together to defend us and our rights. When Amerikkka tries to drag us into war, we will be able to say “NO!!” and save our service-personnel from being sent to die for US corporations in Iraq or Iran, Fx.

    I’d rather be part of the EU than NATO.