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Analysis

Sam Gyimah shows unhappy Tories way out of their trap

by Hugo Dixon | 01.12.2018

With the prime minister’s deal virtually dead and no majority among MPs for any other option, the sensible path will be to ask the people whether they still want Brexit, says the latest minister to quit her government. Sam Gyimah’s interview on the BBC’s Today programme will resonate with many other Tories. In time, even Theresa May may come to see the wisdom of his words.

As the former science and universities minister says, May has produced a “deal in name only”. In the coming negotiations over our future relationship, our interests will be “hammered”. This is because we need the EU more than it needs us.

What’s more, we will no longer be “equal partners”. Instead we will be “supplicants” and the prime minister’s package will “cripple our interests for decades”. Gyimah’s generation of younger politicians will have to deal with the consequences.

The deal will rightly go down in flames on December 11 when MPs are asked to approve it. There will then be deadlock, because Parliament won’t be able to agree on any alternative form of Brexit. The only way to resolve this deadlock will be to hold a People’s Vote.

Some Tories think it may still be possible to get a majority for a different deal where we stay in both the EU’s single market and customs union. But with Labour rejecting that bad idea – which would turn us into even more of a rule-taker than the government’s plan – there’s little chance that it will fly.

So there’s no point in ambitious Tories backing it once the government’s proposal is defeated. Even if they are concerned for their careers rather than the national interest, they should jump on the People’s Vote bandwagon rather than ending up flat-footed.

The prime minister should do so too. As Gyimah put it, she has already taken a step in that direction by appealing to the public to put pressure on MPs to back her deal. If she thinks that’s acceptable, why not go the whole hog and ask the people properly whether they still want Brexit?

If the voters decided to stay in the EU, that wouldn’t just stop a national disaster. The Conservative party wouldn’t be blamed for it for years to come. Where Gyimah – and before him Jo Johnson – have led, others should follow.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

9 Responses to “Sam Gyimah shows unhappy Tories way out of their trap”

  • The ex-minister refers to “the sensible path”. The Government hasn’t followed a sensible path since the referendum was called. No point in believing that is possible today.

  • ” We will be hammered by the EU “. Yes, of course that is how it will appear to us with respect to the Galileo project now and other EU programmes in the future. But can we blame the EU for restricting the industrial access to the Galileo project to EU member states? Would we not do the same thing ? And as with the European Arrest Warrant and the Galileo project, these projects require acceptance of a common legal framework for their implementation and as the UK wants to exclude itself from this legal framework so it is automatically eliminating itself from the projects themselves. Such are the consequences of life outside the EU. The EU is simply applying its own rules and it is not a question of ” hammering ” or trying to punish the UK.

  • Been reading In Facts from the beginning. Thank you and i’m In favour of a PV and will vote to remain if that is an option. BUT you never entertain the entirely possible outcome that Leave will win again. You seem to assume that a PV will keep us in. I wish I could be so confident.

  • Mr Gyimah also said that he thought “leave” would win again.

    We haven’t got much time so Labour needs to start saying how it will improve things if “remain” wins.

  • This is the biggest danger inherent in another public vote. Some of those who originally voted Leave still seem unaware that they will never get what was promised before the 2016 referendum, so will vote Leave again. All the information now available makes this quite clear, but some people still seem not to believe it.

  • I think you are right, Bob. A properly organised campaign this time would be essential with convincing arguments that would resonate. They have to show that austerity has caused the damage in deprived areas, not the EU. When you look at the mood at the G20 it is clear the international institutional order is under threat and big players such as the USA, China and Russia are looking to impose their own brand of nationalism as individuals rather than cooperating together. If Britain is isolated outside the EU I really fear for the country’s security in the future. Every day the possibility of some form of conflict grows greater. It is not the time to be isolated and in fantasy land. This is a very serious situation. Remain politicians need to get out there and articulate the dangers of leaving the EU as well as the economic damage it will do. And they must show this is real and not scaremongering.

  • But at least let the sensible among the Tories say what is sensible and which, I take it, Labour might agree with (and which Sam Gyimah seems to have avoided saying).
    I wish I could stop being told — by Guardian writers, no less — that it’s an issue whether the question asked in a second referendum should be Remain vs May’s deal, No Deal vs Remain, or No Deal vs May’s deal, or should include all three options. It’s then said that “The Electoral Commission [EC] has a role in law to give advice and test the potential question, but ultimately the wording is decided by parliament.” Well, it’s true that the the E.C. having tested how best to word the question Parliament wants to be asked of the electorate, then tells Parliament what they’ve found, so that MPs can vote on specific wording knowing what the E.C. recommends. But the E.C. is not sovereign: its role is not to decide the underlying question.
    Those who’ve campaigned and marched for a People’s Vote have long argued that the electorate must have an opportunity to vote ON THE DEAL, i.e. to vote whether or not to Leave the EU knowing much more about what ‘Leave’ would actually mean in practice than anyone could have in June 2016. If Parliament should now decide that a referendum is the only way for the country to advance as a democracy (the upshot of the 2016 referendum being one that Parliament for its part cannot endorse), and if Parliament by a massive majority is opposed to No Deal, then surely MPs will have been brought to see that the referendum long advocated by the People’s Vote campaign is called for. And if that’s MPs’ decision (and the Govt settles for it, fearing No Deal as much as the rest of us) then the E.C. really cannot intervene.

  • Sam Gyimah’s comments were sensible, balanced and prescient. We need more such views. Also I am amazed that the very foundation of the EU, as a project for peace, after the bloodshed of 2 world wars, is not at the forefront of every argument concerning Brexit.

  • There is a very simple solution which has not yet been aired as far as I can see, and that is the legitimacy of May’s 29th March 2017 letter to the EU serving notice to leave.

    Presumably, May’s decision and the subsequent letter were based on the legal opinion of the Attorney General at that time.

    However, her statement in the letter that the decision had been made by the people on 23rd June 2016 does not conform to the High Court/Supreme Court judgment that the “referendum” held then was not a definitive decision, but merely an advisory snapshot opinion.

    The Courts further clarified that a debate must be held in Parliament which must then pass an Act formally stating the decision of Parliament that the UK should leave the EU. This has not been done, and when “Thick-as-Mince” Davis introduced the withdrawal bill he stated in Parliament that the decision to leave was not incorporated into the bill as the decision had already been taken.

    It is blindingly clear therefore that the notice to leave does not comply with the Art. 50 requirement of conformity to the member state’s constitutional requirements.

    It seems to me that the simple shortcut solution would be for May to write to the EU formally withdrawing the notice on the grounds that it does not comply with the UK’s constitutional requirements by reason of being based upon fundamentally flawed legal opinion at the time. I am quite sure that the current Attorney General can (w)easily come up with a suitably convincing form of words!

    This would then leave her with 2 main options: (a) to propose to Parliament that it holds a definitive referendum fully conforming to all the necessary parameters of a definitive referendum within the context of the UK’s constitutional requirements, or (b) simply to state that the question of whether to leave would be left as a manifesto matter for the next general election.