There’s an antidote to May’s Project Fear

by Hugo Dixon | 12.11.2018

Theresa May’s attempt to frame the choice MPs will face as “my way or the highway” – my bad Brexit deal vs no deal at all – is dishonest. It ignores the fact that only a tiny number of MPs actually think it is sensible to crash out of the EU with no deal and no transition. If Parliament rejects her deal, it is far more likely that we will have a People’s Vote with the option to stay in the EU.

That said, the prime minister’s scare tactics might win over some MPs on both sides of the house. They will worry that the government might still press ahead with a self-destructive strategy as if on auto-pilot.

Keir Starmer has come up with a clever mechanism  to neutralise these concerns. Labour’s Brexit secretary has proposed that MPs pass a motion or amendment making clear they reject “no deal” at the same time that they reject the government’s deal.

Such a motion or amendment would probably be passed by a large majority of MPs. The government would then lack a mandate to crash out of the EU and would find it untenable to say this is what it should do.

Instead, it would have to come up with another solution. Once MPs’ various pet projects – such as Boris Johnson’s “super Canada” scheme and Nick Boles’ “Norway for Now” plan – had been explored and found wanting, the way would be clear for Parliament to back a People’s Vote with a good majority.

By then, even Jeremy Corbyn would be supporting it, despite his comments at the weekend that he didn’t think Brexit could be stopped. So would lots of Tories such as the former home secretary who now back the prime minister’s miserable proposals or who are pinning their hopes on one of the alternative wheezes.

The beauty of Starmer’s idea isn’t just that it would prevent the government embracing the crash-out option if its deal is voted down. It is that, by taking the wind out of May’s Project Fear, it would increase the chances of rejecting it in the first place.

Edited by Quentin Peel

7 Responses to “There’s an antidote to May’s Project Fear”

  • So much damage has been done to the country. Politicians are putting their own personal intetests rather than those of the Nation. The only way to unite the country is to give the people a mandatory vote that includes remain. The PM cannot unite the country and neither can Corbyn. Only a vote will do that. The chaos that Brexit has unleashed must be stopped.

  • The real danger of no deal isn’t that MPs may vote for it, they won’t. The real danger is that they will continue bickering and May will continue dithering until March 19th with no decision made at all, at which point we will fall out of the EU like it or not. Exactly the outcome the brexstremists want.

  • Labour’s plans to revitalise the country will go a long way to heal the divisions. Fair pay for fair work, affordable housing and support for working parents, sinle or couples will improve the spirits of communities. Proper care for the aged and disabled and support for family carers will raise the spirits of many. Demonising the unemployed whilste enriching the wealthy must come to an end. So many carbuncles to be swiftly removed and this will make Britain Great again.

  • @Burton Schrader

    That sounds very good but I doubt if it will heal the divisions in the country over Brexit if it happens next year. For one thing, I have no idea how we would pay for it with an economy hit by Brexit, without massive borrowing leading to a future Tory government re-introducing austerity? For another, we are continually being told it was the ‘left-behinds’ who voted for it. As they are the ones who will most benefit from social reform it will not lessen the resentment felt by remain voters at the loss of their EU citizenship

  • I think I’ve worked out the official Labour policy on Brexit.
    It is to establish what the Government policy is, and then to make sure it is marginally slightly more pro-Europe.

  • How sad that the nation’s future comes down to a game of bluff and counter-bluff. The May position was “no deal is better than a bad deal”. It has morphed to support this deal to avoid a “no deal” situation. Parliament is being threatened that unless it back’s May’s deal, it will cause a hard Brexit – something other utterances she has made suggest she would not allow. To suggest that what she is doing could be in the national interest is to pervert that concept: the national interst is clear, it is to remain in the EU.
    Labour must come off the fence and anil their colours to the mast. What the Tories propopse will cost jobs, security prosperity and public services. On its own, that would be reason enough for all opposition parties to live up to their names and oppose.

  • Keir Starmer’s idea is good for another reason – if successful it would stymie any suggestion for “no deal” to appear as an option in any “people’s vote” ballot paper. The choice would have to be between the May proposed deal and remaining in the EU. I have always thought it as quite improper to put an option before the electorate which virtually all MPs know would be absolutely disastrous. The question must be (In effect) – “Here is the best brexit deal available from the EU. Do you want it or would you rather stay in?”