Very soon Parliament will—at last—have to make its mind up on Brexit.
The Prime Minister has set out a timetable: a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement by March 12th (with a reported Labour amendment in favour of a second referendum); a vote on whether the UK should press ahead without a deal on the 13th; and a vote on a possible “limited extension” to Article 50 on the 14th.
There are too many different possibilities to explore here. But several things are clear. First, if it comes to it, Parliament as a whole is very likely to vote for some form of extension rather than
Secondly, the different groupings opposed to the Withdrawal Agreement are having to recognise this political reality. If the Labour party is determined to scupper Brexit, it risks being severely punished by voters. Equally, no-deal Brexiteers are having to face the serious possibility that if they vote against, then Brexit may not take place at all.
Thirdly, if there is genuine movement on the proposed backstop, then Parliament is likely to support the Withdrawal Agreement. It is famously true of the EU that they never agree any deal until the very last moment. We are close to that point, so we must see what they have to offer.
My own view remains the same. The Withdrawal Agreement provides a sensible basis for a future long-term relationship with the EU, especially if the backstop is amended. And a second referendum, which in effect re-ran the vote in 2016, would be highly unwise.
A no-deal Brexit would almost certainly be extremely painful in the short term. But the possibility of no-deal has very usefully focused minds both at home and in the EU. As I have witnessed close up in the area of transport, it is highly unlikely that we would have seen the
rapid recent improvement in Brexit preparations on the other side of the Channel without it.
But the key point is surely this. People are heartily sick of the delay and rancour surrounding Brexit. They want those in authority to speak with one voice, on behalf of the normal, decent, caring and hard-working citizens of this country. And they want that voice to be strong, warm and wise, not full of anger, foolishness and self-indulgence.
Now is the moment for Parliament to come together, speak with that shared voice, and get the job done.
As always, constituents seeking to put questions or get in touch on any issue are very welcome to contact me through www.jesse4hereford.com.