Comment

Trust in our politics has collapsed. Time for MPs to act

by Nick Kent | 11.05.2018

We are just six weeks away from the second anniversary of this country’s most momentous electoral decision since 1945. And yet we do not know the terms on which we will leave the EU. Nor the rules under which we will trade with our largest market afterwards. Nor how we will carry out basic police and security measures, such as extradition, with our neighbours. And we have not begun to talk about security and defence co-operation with the EU at the most dangerous time in Europe since the Cold War.  

Politics in Britain is paralysed. Last week’s local elections showed that the country is as divided between Conservative and Labour as it is between Remain and Leave. No party leader seems to be able to offer a way out of this political stasis. Theresa May refuses to stand up to either the Brexiter extremists in her cabinet or on her back benches. Ministers have been drinking in the last chance saloon for so long it is a miracle any are still standing.

Jeremy Corbyn seems unable to overcome his lifelong indifference to the EU and the opposition of his Trotskyite allies to what they see as a capitalist club. Attempts to launch new political parties have failed to attract public support. The Lib Dems have barely revived, the SNP government is in decline and Northern Ireland currently has no government at all.

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Nothing of any substance has been achieved by parliament or government over the last two years. May’s promise to help those whose disaffection contributed to the Leave vote remains unfulfilled. On social mobility, so little has happened that the members of the government’s own advisory body, the social mobility commission, have resigned in protest.

We are on our third home secretary in under two years but we still have no immigration policy.  And despite spending £170 billion to prop up the UK economy, economic growth is below 1.5%. We are now being outperformed by eurozone countries that we were told were basket cases two years ago.

We can’t go on like this. The country is crying out for leadership but the politicians are just crying. Parliament is paralysed by fear of the “will of the people”. But it can’t work out what this “will” actually means.

All this means that the UK is a laughing stock right round the world.

Politicians, business chiefs, trade union leaders and all who care about this country need to come together. The stalemate has to be broken and that can only happen if there is decisive action. Parliament has three options before it:

  1. The moderates in the main parties can push aside their failing front benches and establish a national government to complete the EU negotiations and then hold a people’s vote on the outcome.
  2. Or MPs can take the weaker option of using the Lords’ amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill to force the present government to negotiate for a customs union, some form of regulatory alignment or membership of the single market; and then legislate for a people’s vote on the outcome in the autumn.
  3. Or it can call a halt to the Brexit negotiations altogether, force May to form a minority government without the hard Brexiters but with a mandate to stabilise the country and set a date for a general election before the planned date of May 2022.

Trust in our politics has collapsed. Attempts by Corbyn and May to hold their parties together are doomed to failure. This is one of those seismic moments in political history when the tectonic plates shift. It is time for parliamentarians to stop whimpering and start acting. Doing nothing is not an option.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

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