Grinning from ear to ear David Davis stood up in the House last week to explain to us all for 13 long, painful, minutes that Brexit meant Brexit.
“Naturally”, the newly minted Secretary of State went on, “people want to know what Brexit will mean. Simply, it means leaving the European Union.” The award for the most asinine observation in modern politics goes to David Davis, although given the politics of 2016 so far, it was a hard fought contest.
Brexit means Brexit has become the Prime Minister's stock phrase to hide the fact that her government has no idea what Brexit actually means for the 17 million people in this country who voted for it. They don’t have an answer for the Farmers, whose livelihoods depend on European Subsidies, or for the Fishermen whose destiny has, for so long, been decided by the Commission. Nor do they have answers for the poorest corners of our country which rely on European subsidies to build roads, bridges and run ferries. Even on things that the Leave camp did have an idea on, the end to free movement, more money for the NHS, these things have been abandoned by Nigel Farage, Ian Duncan-Smith and others.
No one knows what post-Brexit Britain will look like. There is no consensus on whether we want to be in the single market or out of it; or if we want freedom of movement, or not. That is fundamentally the problem with Brexit. The referendum was not brought forward as a national debate about the future direction of our country. It was about papering over the cracks and divisions in the Tory Party. As a result, no one spent any time thinking about what post-Brexit Britain would be like. So the choice was between a known (the status quo) and an unknown (or the rainbow and unicorn option if you believed the Leave camp).
Only once we know what post Brexit-Britain looks like will we be in a position to make a genuine choice, between two known quantities. We need to know what the future will hold, not what the Leave camp might hope it to hold. In the Scottish Referendum there was the Scottish Government paper “Scotland’s Future" (however fanciful and insubstantial it might have been). In Elections there are manifestos from the major parties. They are choices between known quantities. They are fair contests. They allow us to accept the decision (mostly) and move on, heal the divisions and work together as one nation to get the best out of the situation.
Brexit means Brexit, means ignoring the 16 million people who voted to remain, and denying everyone who voted, a meaningful democratic decision. We need a referendum on the Brexit deal not for a chance for the remain camp to have a second go because they didn’t like the result, but so we can settle this, once and for all. Then, and only then, will we as a country, be able to move on.
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