Magnificent victory but lots of work to do

by Hugo Dixon | 15.01.2019

Tonight we can celebrate. We have passed a historic milestone. But further Herculean efforts are needed to get a People’s Vote, win it and heal the nation.

This miserable deal deserved to go down in flames. The 432-202 vote against it was the worst government defeat in history. Patriotic pro-Europeans don’t like it because it would be bad for peace, power, people and prosperity. Brexiters hate it too because it would mean losing control not taking it back.

The next main goal is to get Labour to back our cause. Before that happens, it first needs to try to get a general election. By this time tomorrow it will almost certainly have failed.

Labour should then immediately support a People’s Vote. After all, it is adamant that we should not crash out of the EU with no deal at all – and the only viable way to stop that is to ask the people whether they still want to quit.

Brexiters scream “betrayal”. But it is the Brexiters themselves who betrayed the nation with their fantasies in 2016. The reality of Brexit is so miserable because Boris Johnson’s cake-and-eat-it promises were undeliverable. It would now be undemocratic not to ask the people what they want.

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    No unicorns, only horses with cardboard horns

    Unfortunately, Corbyn may not come to this conclusion immediately. He may cast around for alternatives. Theresa May has said tonight she will cast around for alternatives too. So yet more time could be wasted.

    But there are no unicorns in this Brexit forest, only horses with cardboard horns glued on their heads. In time, the pressure on the Labour leader to do what his members, supporters and the country want will probably prove irresistible.

    At that point, there should be a majority in Parliament in favour of a People’s Vote. A wise prime minister – whether May or some replacement – will then push through the necessary legislation. But if she doesn’t, MPs will have to flex their muscles as they’ve already shown their willingness to do and take control of the parliamentary process.

    We will also have to win the battle over what the question should be. Staying in the EU should certainly be one option. Meanwhile, it would be an outrage if more fantasies were inflicted on the public. This means that unless the hardline Brexiters can come up with a viable plan that MPs can rally behind – and there’s no sign that they can – the choice will have to be between staying in the EU and May’s deal.

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    Project Hope

    After that, we’ll have to win the referendum itself. We’ll need a different campaign than the 2016 one. While there’s much that’s wrong with Brexit, we must not rely on Project Fear alone. We will also need Project Hope.

    Part of that will involve pointing out how our EU membership advances our national interests – for our peace, power, people and prosperity. But we need to do much more than that. We need to tackle the reasons that led many people to vote for Brexit in the first place – communities that have been starved of investment, the lack of funds for the NHS and the failure to integrate migrants.

    If we quit the EU, we will have less money – and our politicians will squabble for years over exactly what form of Brexit we should have. But if we stay, we will have the money and time to focus on these problems, as a report last month from CommonGround argued. We will be able to heal our country, so long as we have the political will to do so.

    So, yes, tonight was a magnificent victory. Tomorrow we get back to work.

    Edited by Luke Lythgoe

    9 Responses to “Magnificent victory but lots of work to do”

    • May’s Deal was rejected by 230 votes, setting a new record. It was rejected by both Leavers and Remainers as being equally unsatisfactory. So there is no point making the choice between May’s Deal and Remaining in the EU, in a future People’s Vote. As Theresa May herself has said many times, if her deal is voted down, the choice is between No Deal and No Brexit. That is the choice that should be put to the public.

    • Where is the platform where the benefits of revoking Article 50 can br seen by the mass who say they are ‘bored by Brexit’?

      EU member states are not going to be submerged in a superstate if you look at the identity-based turmoils in EACH of the current member states. The EU is set to save us in the UK from left-right extremism and we when in are a buffer against it elsewhere.

      When you explain what the EU does for us people say, ‘Nobody told us that’.

    • I’m sorry Hugo but I am starting to think that you and your extreme remain followers are bonkers!
      Firstly taking no deal off the table is removing all of our leverage to put pressure on the EU to come to a brexit accommodation. let’s be honest that is exactly why the treacherous remainiac MPs are trying to remove it so as staying in becomes the only other option.
      If we are forced to have another vote on staying in or Mays deal there will be a massive boycott – therefore no satisfactory result. If we have no deal or remain (basically the same as before) then if remain wins people like me will never accept it as we already had that vote and if leave won again would remainers really accept that decision? even if they did I cannot see the commons accepting it until we (the electorate) have had a chance to get rid of all those politicians trying to block the will of the people.
      All in all if there can be no new agreement (obviously involving getting rid of the backstop etc) then we need to leave on the 29th of March on WTO rules.
      Get real, the Brexit Genie is out of the bottle and I cannot see national closure until we have actually left the EU completely, even if it takes 10 years to achieve.

    • David Murray is correct. If a referendum offers May’s deal and the voters choose that option, only Parliament can deliver it. Do we really expect them to flip over the biggest government defeat ever? The only way that could happen is if the referendum were binding, and that can only happen if it is post-legislative. So again, Parliament would have to vote through the rejected deal, just with the rider “subject to confirmation by referendum”.

      I really can’t see it happening.


    • The EU was not a real national problem until David Cameron made it one in trying to solve an internal party problem. Peter is right the genie is out of the bottle and it is very difficult to deal with the consequences; everybody now has a view on the subject and unfortunately very few are based on actual facts. Clearly such a complex and emotive subject which affects not only the UK domestically but 27 other countries should never ever have been the subject of a referendum. It is all the more incomprehensible to think that no safeguards were decided as to the margin of ” victory ” required in order to make the result definitive. As it happens, we are now faced with ” the People’s will ” based on 37% of eligible voters obliging the country to reverse 60 years of UK government policy, irrespective of which political party has been in power.
      Peter is also right that logically the choice for a People’s vote would be between no deal and the present deal but as the consequences of no deal would be so catastrophic it is difficult to imagine that such a choice would be on the ballot paper

    • I know when someone glibly says we can just leave on WTO rules, they don’t deserve to be taken too seriously. John Redwood repeated this fallacy the other day saying ” Other countries trade on WTO tariffs, and they do just fine” He doesn’t expect you to research this, but the link below shows that even the smallest country has a trade agreement with its neighbours, because NOBODY just trades on WTO tariffs only. I would welcome Leavers being honest with their friends and neighbours, business that would go bust, and those worse off than themselves just what they are wishing on them.


      Brexit is indeed a genie out of a bottle, but now we can see what an ugly thing he is he needs burying in the desert.

    • So Tony you obviously don’t believe other countries would want to do trade deals with us even though they would see us as a major importer of there goods?????
      Remember we import far more than we export to the EU as an example.
      Just admit you are an EU zealot that cannot see any further than rule by Brussels.

    • It’s not a matter of whether countries want to trade with us as I am sure they would. We currently have trade deals with I think over 80 other countries via our EU membership, which may or may not be allowed to roll over. In the worst case we could end up on WTO tariffs for years while new deals are being struck. And for what advantage? Are we going to achieve a better trade deal with the US or China as 65 million, compared to the EU market of 500 million? The US is indeed interested in a deal with the UK as it would be the dominant partner with a view to Private medicine insurance taking over parts or all of the NHS. I assume you would agree with me that would be a high price to pay.
      Theresa May is on record before the referendum as saying alternative trading opportunities to EU would not make up for the loss of the benefits it has brought us. The Treasury forecasts and the ONS all confirm the medium term impact of Brexit will result in our economy falling behind the growth expected in EU. Somehow May’s lust for power and popularity meant that her prior objective thinking about this was conveniently forgotten.
      It’s hardly suprising that we import more from the EU than we export to it given the relative size of our economies. Have no doubt though WTO tariffs would hit us disproportionally as all of our trade to/from the EU would be affected, whereas the EU member states would continue to trade with each other as they do today diluting the impact on any one state.
      Interesting that you think I am an EU zealot. The Zealots wanted to bring a violent end to Roman occupation of Judea in the first century. I assure you I do not advocate a violent opposition to Brexit. As I have said before if I could see how Brexit would be to the benefit of the whole of UK society I would have supported it myself. The main advocaters of Brexit, who make statements like Redwood are multimillionaires who are immunised from its detrimental affects. The Government has witheld Impact studies from us, and yet all of the problems we are staring at is the fault of those of us who voted Remain insteading of just shutting up!
      Brexit is failing because it promised different things to disparate groups to win. The sort of No deal that I think you long for would not have won a majority in 2016, as no one could have claimed on that platform to be able to deliver a result which gave the exact same benefits as EU membership. No Deal will not be allowed by parliament either, so whatever happens it will something like associate membership but without any influence in the worst case.
      Your problem Peter, is that you think that you can speak for everyone who voted Brexit as if they all think alike when they don’t. I was chatting with a 7 friends the other week about Brexit. Two said they would still vote to Leave, where another had changed to saying he would vote Remain, simply because he now knows so much more about it. Even Jacob Rees Mogg used to think it would be perfectly reasonable to have a second Referendum once the Deal was clear, and David Davis is on record as saying a democracy that is not allowed to change its mind ceases to be a democracy. Don’t you ever ask yourself how difficult is for the electorate to make clear decisions when they are led by such dishonest politicians? You might think the end justifies the means, but is doesn’t and it won’t.

    • Oh Peter! By repeating one of the Brexit myths, you’ve really got my goat. I have to enumerate and expose the main ones in the hope of making them so recognisable as MYTHS that they’ll lose their slogan power. You use the phrase “rule by Brussels”, as though that is a given for our present situation as an EU member.
      Myth No1. We are ruled by Brussels. NO we are not, any more than Germany is, or France or any other EU member. Well over 90% of the decisions of the Council are approved by a majority of the British MEPs, and a good many are proposed by Britain. A tiny minority of them have irritated some British politicians, like those concerning prisoners’ rights, which many people in this country probably supported, despite David Cameron. At the same time we benefit by contracting out to Europe a huge amount of admin work, vetting and often improving boring but sensible and necessary regulations about industry standards, food additives etc etc. We also benefit from legislative ideas coming from other member states, including much social and H&S legislation, and gladly accept it. (It amazes me that Corbyn is so anti EU!) I’ll be briefer about other myths. No 1s is allied to …
      Myth No 2. Loss of sovereignty. The only ‘argument’ behind that ridiculous claim is the ‘ruled by Brussels idea’. See above. Our Parliament continues to make and/or approve of the vast majority of laws that apply to Brits. There is no evidence that so-called ‘European legislation’ receives a whit more criticism from British citizens than ‘truly British legislation’, like those Osborneian austerity measures (e.g. draconian cuts in benefits to the poorest citizens). Can you imagine France standing for ‘loss of sovereignty’ if it meant what those Brexit scaremongers seem to imply by the term?
      Myth No. 3. ‘Freedom of movement means Britain suffers vast damage from uncontrollable immigration’. Discomforts experienced by a few communities from pressure on schools and services etc is a hundred times offset by the benefits the country has gained from EU immigrants. Consider their cash contributions to taxes, and their labour, without which farming, medical and care services, and the catering and hospitality industries (and many more) would be in a parlous state, and are likely to become so if our stupid government were to impose crackpot restrictions on immigrants (presumably from all countries) like a £30K income requirement. Moreover the damage that serious curbs on immigration would do by provoking counter measures to restrict Brits from travelling to and working in Europe is almost immeasurable. Industrial and scientific collaboration are just two of the areas that would suffer catastrophically.
      Myth No 4. Brexit will enable new trade deals around the world that will transform Britain’s economy. Oh!? So many foreign nations have made it abundantly clear that the good deals we already have with them emanate from the bargaining and economic strength we gain from being members of the EU, which is, by the way, Britain’s biggest export market and one in which it would become far more difficult to compete if our exporters faced the import tariffs applicable to non-EU members.
      There are other myths, some of which are now surely utterly exploded, like the Boris myth (or rather, untruth) of being able to invest in the NHS the £350 millions/week saving of our EU membership fee. Except it hasn’t often enough been pointed out that that that GROSS figure is currently buying enormous cash benefits for Britain in any number of grants to various sectors of our economy in addition to the previously mentioned benefits of funding a huge load of administrative work that otherwise our civil service would have to carry out. Have the Brexiteers even bothered to calculate what that bureaucratic cost will be when we have to find the extra money to pay for what is currently shared by all member states to the benefit of all of us?
      There might be some benefits from Brexit, like regaining control of our fishing waters. The trouble is that by making a great hullabaloo about such, VERY FEW items, a great smoke screen is thrown over the overwhelmingly vast disadvantages of leaving the EU. Oh, and it’s likely that when it actually comes to negotiating our terms of trade with Europe under any Brexit scenario, we would have to make significant concessions in just such areas as fishing rights.
      Understand the falsity of the myths I’ve mentioned, and the duplicity of those who have mongered them, and realise that leaving the EU would be for Britain to succumb to one of the greatest confidence tricks of all time.