Remainers pushing “soft” Brexit options are only damaging Britain’s national interests

Remainers pushing “soft” Brexit options are only damaging Britain’s national interests

Don’t tell Rees-Mogg, but the Rampant Remoaners have their tails up and the Remaining Remainers are breaking into wintry smiles: they’re beginning to think they’ve found a soft option to give us Brexit without leaving and then persuade the nation to vote for it as if it’s what they wanted in the first place – a cunning plan to end up where we started, as Unhappy Europeans.

The first part of their plan is to stay in the Single Market but pull out of the political structures. Hopefully (but not certainly) that would allow all our financial institutions to continue to trade, thus sustaining London house prices and protecting all the vested interests which have grown up round EU membership.

There is a cost. There’s the £60 billion trade deficit, the loss of whatever small influence we had before and a requirement to accept any new regulations the EU cares to decide without being able to block them. It would also require us to let Brussels hand out our fish and stop us buying cheaper food on world markets because we couldn’t make trade arrangements with other countries. To Euro-enthusiasts, all this is a price worth paying to sustain their one-sided love affair with Europe.

The back-up strategy to secure this happy outcome is another referendum. Not the silly second referendum urged by Tony Blair in the hope that the people will reconsider and agree to crawl back, but a referendum on whatever’s agreed in the negotiations. This is such a comfortingly democratic demand that they’re making it part of a constitution Britain doesn’t have. According to the constitutional oracle, Vernon Bogdanor, the Lords have the power to ask the people to think again about a decision they’re not qualified to take in the first place.

Unfortunately, these two ‘go back to jail’ cards contradict each other. What if the electorate decides that staying in the EU but being moved into its garden shed isn’t what they wanted? What if they get so annoyed by being buggered about to force us into the Single Market option that they reject it in anger and demand that Government go back to the drawing board?

Such fears don’t matter to the Remainers. Their campaign for the Single Market and a commitment to a referendum will encourage the EU to take a tougher line, so that no other option is available. Yet the real problem with this two-card trick is the question of what the nation would be voting to go back to. Would we be permitted to go back to the pre-referendum status quo ante, bringing back the agencies we lost, staying out of the euro and keeping what remains of our rebate? Or would we be treated as a new member obliged to join the euro?

There’s also the problem of how much the EU will have changed in the meantime. The Macron proposals for a European budget and financial institutions – and the development of a European army – may have made progress. That will reduce the role of those members who don’t participate to impotent peripheral spectators on an accelerating process of ever closer union. No chance then of “leading Europe” or any role other than being dragged reluctantly behind.

The EU could of course sweeten the pill by offering to soften the terms of a membership which now requires disproportionate contributions. They could allow greater freedom to limit immigration, re-balance the economy and finance effective regional policy to help the people and the regions left behind. But there’s no indication that the Remainers have used their influence in Europe to do more than encourage the EU to make life as difficult as possible in the hope that we’ll give up. Euro-cochons might fly but it’s difficult to see that the EU will offer more than the small peanuts it offered Cameron.

Thus this contradictory two-pronged approach is a waste of time. The only way forward now is the way out. Seeking soft options is a distraction which will damage Britain’s national interests and sustain our slump into Europe. We’re going into the ring for a tough fight, not to play Patsy hoping to win by losing.