Hayes in the House (Free Press, 11 Dec 18 – see https://bit.ly/2Gb0di4), Sir John Hayes MP sets out:

  • Why he supports Theresa May’s unexpected decision to postpone the “Meaningful Vote” in Parliament on the Withdrawal Agreement she personally negotiated.
  • Why he can’t support this deal in its current form; and
  • What his “personal red lines” are for supporting his own government’s Withdrawal Agreement, if suitably amended. Sir John’s red lines are: “taking back control of our laws; ending free movement; and a clean break”.

The problem with his red lines is they’re fundamentally incompatible with: (a) upholding the Good Friday peace agreement in Ireland; (b) avoiding the loss of jobs, international exports and future investment in the UK; and (c) avoiding a catastrophic, no-deal Brexit on 29 Mar 19, for which there is no majority in Parliament.

Having prepared properly, communicated effectively and remained united, the EU27 have been able to secure the agreement of 27 sovereign, EU member nations to Theresa May’s negotiated deal. In contrast, Theresa May couldn’t even secure the support of her own Conservative MPs, let alone Parliament and the four UK nations. So, it’s reasonable to assume that whatever she comes back with from the EU27 will still be unacceptable to Sir John, the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party and his fellow ERG supporters, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg.

So, what’s the solution? Personally, I’d like to suggest a novel, three-step approach that would respect the 2016 vote, preserve voters’ confidence in democracy and reunite our country:

(1)    Revoke Article 50 (as we’re unilaterally allowed to do) until such time as we’ve explored a completely different approach.

(2)    Tell the Eurosceptics that they must develop a proper ‘prospectus’ for their version of Sir John’s “clean break”, much like the SNP developed a detailed, 670-page proposition, entitled “Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to an Independent Scotland”, in advance of the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014.

(3)    Put this prospectus to a UK-wide referendum, so voters can make a properly informed choice about the Leave and Remain options.

The benefits of this approach are significant. Let me mention three:

  • Although postponing Brexit slightly, it would resolve the issue fairly and conclusively – thereby allowing our divided country to come together again.
  • This would postpone (or potentially avoid) spending billions of pounds in negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement and Future Relationship with the EU, while simultaneously having to re-negotiate 127 EU trade agreements and over 750 other international agreements from which we currently benefit by virtue of being an existing EU member state – at least until voters have considered the clean break prospectus and decided if this is what they really want.
  • By making this temporary (or perhaps permanent) saving, we can insist the government immediately invests this planned spending on addressing the very real problems and widespread anger of voters that fuelled the Leave vote in 2016 around key issues that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with EU membership and everything to do with the ineptitude of our current political system in Westminster.