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Analysis

Only way May could salvage her deal is put it to the people

by Luke Lythgoe | 29.03.2019

The government’s cynical “meaningful vote 2.5” on the first part of the prime minister’s rotten Brexit deal has today been defeated by 58 votes. If Theresa May doesn’t want today to be the last gasp for her deal, there is a strategy still available to her: putting it to the people.

The prime minister has ruled a public vote out many times before, but when has that stopped her doing a u-turn? What’s more, it might salvage some of her political credibility and, at this point, could be the least damaging thing for her party – two things she really cares about.

Look at the alternatives. Parliament will not let the UK to crash out of the EU with no deal. The direction things seem to be moving after Wednesday’s “indicative” votes in the Commons is towards a softer form of Brexit – potentially with a confirmatory referendum attached. Either the UK will stay in just the EU’s customs union, or it will stay in its single market as well as the customs union.

These outcomes are explicitly ruled out in the Conservative party 2017 manifesto. Although some moderate Tories would break their pledge to the people and back a softer Brexit, hardliners would loathe it. And they would be sure to cry “stitch-up” if a new referendum was between a soft Brexit and staying in the EU. In short, any form of soft Brexit would tear the Conservative party to apart.

Putting May’s deal to a public vote would be different. For a start, the Conservative manifesto never ruled out a new referendum on Brexit. What’s more, as of today a whole host of Brexiters have voted for May’s deal through gritted teeth: Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey, Iain Duncan Smith, Jacob Rees-Mogg. If the deal was now put to the people, it’s hard to see what justification they would have for resigning from the Conservative party.

The dream scenario for May would be winning such a referendum. Even if she didn’t, we would be staying in the EU, the uncertainty of Brexit would be over, and the country could move forward and fix the country’s real problems – helping the NHS, building more houses, revitalising left-behind communities. After all, that’s what May said she wanted to do when she first stood in front of Downing Street nearly three years ago.

A People’s Vote is now the prime minister’s least bad option – for her legacy, her party and the country. It’s time for one more u-turn.

Demand a vote on the Brexit deal

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

4 Responses to “Only way May could salvage her deal is put it to the people”

  • It really is high time the people had a say in all this. The MPs have been keeping all the fun to themselves for far too long, now we want to play as well.

    Whatever the outcome of all this, one thing is for sure, this country will feel the fallout for decades, if not generations, to come. Thanks ever so, David Cameron. Plonker. (It is noticeable that he has been really, really, really quiet during all this).

  • Now that Maygabe has promised to go (and I woudn’t bet any money on that; one thing we know about Maygabe is that she is mendacious, duplicitous, dishonest etc) we cannot allow the Tory Party (now no more than UKIP 2nd XI) to foist yet another PM on the country, especially at such a crucial time. If she does go soon then we must press for a GE. brexit has made this country a banana republic.

    And if there is still somebody out there who believes that Fat Boris is a good egg his flip-flop on the WA should shatter any illusions that brexit isn’t solely about getting into No 10.

  • It may be that another Gen Election is the most likely way out. It would allow May to save face as she has never ruled one out. Remember she had one in 2017 only 2 years after previous one. Although elections are fought on a wide programme, in effect it would be a Brexit election and would allow those aggrieved with agenda of issues