MPs handed the Brexit decision to the people – they must not now be allowed to overrule us

MPs handed the Brexit decision to the people – they must not now be allowed to overrule us

We live in febrile times, but in many ways it is just the calm before the next storm, each one battering at the very foundations of the edifice we know of as the United Kingdom. We as Britons are very fortunate to have managed to build a system of government envied by many in the rest of the world for its stability; a stability given to it by the careful balance between the power of the individual and the state.

We owe this to Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution, the Common Law, the Acts of Union, Simon de Montfort, John Wilkes, suffragettes and many other events and people in our history. However, over the last 45 years the EU has come like a bull through this and has not just upset it, but as we try to leave is threatening to destroy it.

We, the people, elect representatives to Parliament to run the country on our behalf, yet over the last 45 years they have increasingly delegated this responsibility to Brussels without declaring in many cases that this is the case. They have in many areas been reduced simply to ciphers for the Commission in Brussels. Nearly four years ago Parliament voted to put this situation to a referendum and give the people the decision as to whether the UK and its institutions should be fully independent of the EU. Three years ago it was decided quite clearly that this was so and all decision-making that had moved to the organs of the EU should return to the UK.

Now, nearly three years later, due to EU intransigence – with, one can only assume, a certain complicity on the UK side – a Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration have been proposed that is not Brexit. It is Remain with a Brexit wrapper, converting our membership to that of a colony that can be asset stripped with impunity by the EU without repercussions. It is a disgrace and epitomises a deep low point in British statecraft.

We have got to this point because MPs and the Government have consistently taken the easiest option. They voted for a referendum, thinking it would be won by Remain, and then backed the triggering of Article 50 because they knew they could not look the voters in the eye if they didn’t. In voting through Article 50 and then the EU Withdrawal Act they set a deadline of 29th March to leave with or without a deal with the EU.

Now that the choice is between a No Deal exit on WTO terms or the Prime Minister’s flawed deal, many MPs and ministers are trying to backslide on their previous commitments. They quote business as being the reason, the need to avoid chaos or the devastation that will be caused by No Deal etc. I write this as someone in business importing assemblies and components from all over the world and exporting more than two-thirds of our turnover to more than 120 countries around world. Whenever I ask who it is that is going to cause all these problems, no one can tell me; initially it was going to be due to delays at the Channel ports due to extra checks, but the port operators, Border Force and HMRC all say “Not us, Guv”!

With any changes, such as applying new procedures to almost anything, there is always an element of disruption – but it will be small in the overall context and in a few months’ time we will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. However, what we are witnessing is a groupthink bubble that has been inflated to such a size that those propagating it have to keep inflating it, because if we do leave on WTO terms and it is as I expect a relatively straightforward change, they will be shown to have been crying wolf.

I can understand that ministers and MPs are continually buffeted by the professional lobbyists of the CBI and others who are looking at any way of preserving the status quo. For them the fear of sudden change is paramount; they can happily cope with the drip drip draining of sovereignty and they may whinge about bad regulation, but they find it hard to handle change that might adversely affect their vested interests and the status quo.

However, ministers and MPs have been charged by the electorate, who under our system are ultimately sovereign, to take back control. They seem reluctant to take on the extra responsibility that this entails; they appear to think that they are not able to do it. How do the other 165 non-EU countries of the world cope? Instead they wriggle and fidget in every way possible to try and thwart the wishes of the people, using every sort of excuse from the downright arrogant – that Leave voters are stupid – to telling us that if we had known it was so complicated, we would not have voted Leave. It is only complicated because they have chosen to make it complicated. Instead of carping, they all need to concentrate on making departure under WTO on 29th March as smooth as possible. The irony is that because it is the only option we in business can plan for, it is the only one we are prepared for.

It is worth remembering that these are the same MPs who say that we must increase voter participation at elections. Yet when we had the highest turnout in a generation for the EU referendum, they attempt to ignore it!

There is considerably more at stake here than just leaving the EU, there is the whole fabric of what makes Britain what it is and that is worth more than a possible temporary shortage of lettuce. The problem is that at each stage the Government and Parliament have made the mistake of never seriously addressing our relationship with the EU – in part because our membership is based on a lie, that it would not affect sovereignty, over which politicians have always been in denial. An ever-increasing proportion of the population, meanwhile, have smelt a rat especially as whatever the politicians say we have seen more and more areas of policy drift out of our control.

Now in theory in the departure lounge, we see the same pressures coming into play because what has been presented as a Withdrawal Treaty plainly is not, so the only escape is to leave on WTO terms. As the date for departure was set two years ago, this has become a totem from which any slippage will be seen by the voters as betrayal.

The time for kicking the can down the road has come to an end and MPs – especially in the governing party – have to look over the edge at the train of events that they are going to set off if they don’t hold out for No Deal and leaving on 29th March.

The first thing is that the Conservative Party would be finished for at least a generation, if not ever; and secondly, the UK would probably be finished: the SNP-run Scottish Government say they will call a referendum in the event of a No Deal. They are looking for any excuse, but the likelihood of them winning it is probably higher in the event of No Brexit, a delayed Brexit or even under the terms of the proposed treaty. Thirdly, society would become ever more polarised between Leavers and Remainers. Fourthly, the very roots of British democracy, envied around the world, would have been cast aside, and the votes of 17.4 million people disregarded by an arrogant elite.

The EU has behaved just as Yanis Varoufakis predicted and in turn the UK has fallen into the traps he predicted. There is only one way out and that is to go WTO on 29th March, otherwise the conversation between MPs and voters is going to go something like: “Sorry old boy, I am afraid your vote didn’t count but mine did so we are staying in”. That would set off a chain of events over which politicians of all parties would have little control.