The Brexit debate has laid bare the desires and cravings of all parties that have been revved up for years. The Conservatives, traditionally the party of politeness and solidarity, have endured over two years of open warfare, from Jacob Rees-Mogg to Anna Soubry. For both sides, it seems as though you can have all or nothing. There is no compromise. You are either in Europe with the single market, customs and union and Juncker and his cronies, for all the benefits and disadvantages of that club, or you’re out , ‘independent’ and left alone, free to spend years making trade deals with Belgian farmers like the poor Canadians. What fun.
One of the most obvious solutions to this war of attrition is to have a second vote. It would, of course, be nigh on impossible to have a considered debate, with the vitriol that surrounded 2016 almost certain to make a recovery. Despite this, a final vote on the Brexit deal would be able to hopefully conclude all arguments of whether to stay or leave.
With different sects taking sides over the most complicated pieces of legislation in the book, Theresa May’s compromise was never going to be popular. She needed to comfort British and London-bases business that they would be safe while also pleasing the zealots on the Paleoseptic wing of her divided party. Chequers is not perfect. No one in Westminster is going to realistically stand up for that.
Despite this unpopularity, it is the most sensible solution to the problems. Since the referendum, the European Union has been lamenting the decline of British pragmatism, urging May to find her inner Elizabeth 1 and make a deal with both sides. This she has attempted to do, and yet the bureaucrats are demanding more, obviously ignorant of the perilous position of the Prime Minister. If Parliament chucks chequers, we could see the man all liberals dread as our next leader.
Emmanuel Macron, low in the popularity ratings, have made a classic French tactic of lying into the British, evoking Charles de Gaulle’s simple “non” to the proposal of UK membership of the EEC in 1967. Donald Tusk, so far the voice in Brussels willing to listen and understand the political situation in l’Anglais, has said that Chequers “will not work.” Although her European compatriots are against her, Mrs May must stand up to her solution and set out a clear choice. Chequers or no deal. And Boris.
If the Europeans and the few pragmatic Tories still left in power can understand this, then the Prime Minister can finally reveal her inner Iron Lady.