The General Election will settle the questions the Brexit nay-sayers keep raising once and for all

The General Election will settle the questions the Brexit nay-sayers keep raising once and for all

Since becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May has run a virtually leak-free tight ship, and so it was that her announcement of a General Election for June 8th took all of us in Westminster entirely by surprise.

Just a few hours before the PM came out of the door of Downing Street, I had been reflecting on last month’s YouGov polling – noting how seven in ten voters want the Government to deliver on the referendum result and how even the majority of those who voted Remain were not wanting to frustrate the delivery of the expressed will of the British people.

So it is all the more frustrating that there remains a vocal minority, particularly among the political class – and disproportionately represented in the House of Lords which has to give its approval to all the Government’s Brexit-related legislation – which has refused to accept the result.

And even among those who say they accept the referendum result, there are those who (falsely) claim that the referendum gave the Government no mandate for vital aspects of Brexit like leaving the single market and customs union – despite it having been clearly accepted by campaigners on both sides that these were part and parcel of taking back control over our money, our laws, our borders and our ability to negotiate our own trade deals.

Theresa May evidently shared my frustration. Here’s the key passage for me from her Downing Street statement:

“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not. In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the deal we reach with the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill. The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union. And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.”

“What they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home and it weakens the Government’s negotiating position in Europe. If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue, and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election. Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.”

So with Article 50 having been triggered – from which “there can be no turning back” as Mrs May reminded us – and the European Union now preparing its negotiating position for the impending Brexit talks, there really is right now a unique window to settle once and for all some of the questions that the Brexit nay-sayers persist on asking.

Securing the passage of the Article 50 Bill through Parliament earlier this year was for the Government a mere dress rehearsal for the legislative marathon that will follow over the next couple of years. But without an existing manifesto mandate for any of those necessary measures (and therefore no ability to rely on the Salisbury Convention to stop unelected peers potentially voting down Bills in the House of Lords) there was always a significant danger that multiple spanners could be thrown into the legislative works, especially from the red leather benches.

So a vital takeaway from the General Election will be the delivery of clear and unadulterated instructions to the unelected House of Parliament, many of whose members have been refusing to accept the referendum result and were claiming until now that they had free rein to oppose any aspect of Brexit they wished.

This will certainly be the Brexit General Election. But that’s not to overlook the fact that all manner of issues will be up for discussion that influence how people vote. Of course there will be debates over taxation, health, education, foreign affairs, the welfare system, planning policy and so on. And the debates will also now be able to begin over what kind of immigration system we should have, the trade policy we want to pursue as a country, agriculture policy, fisheries policy and policies on a whole raft of other powers that the UK is now reclaiming as a result of Brexit.

Supporters of Brexit – and indeed readers of and contributors to BrexitCentral – come from a variety of political traditions and will support a range candidates wearing different-coloured rosettes. So over the coming weeks what we will seek to do is to continue providing first-class coverage of all Brexit-related issues throughout the campaign and then keep you fully up to speed with the negotiations and implementation of Brexit in the months and years that follow.

Photocredit: Coventry City Council