Since the very beginning of her premiership in 2016, Theresa May has faced a seemingly impossible task, to get a deal with her Cabinet and Brussels. Despite a constant barrage of vitriol and complaints laid against her and her plans, both of those obstacles have been vanquished. The Chief Whip, Julian Smith, now faces a Sisyphean assignment, to get the deal through Parliament when it eventually comes before the Commons. For the first time in weeks, a creeping possibility of that emerged. The quixotic European Research Group once again surrendered any remaining plausibility by failing to go through with their coup against Theresa May, an act that would have been a gross betrayal of the national interest and the Conservative Party as a whole. The gossip in the tea rooms and the piling of muck on WhatsApp is plentiful but, mercifully for Britain, the action is lacking. That same torpor may be what saves the Prime Minister when the deal is eventually put before MPs.
May is always proclaiming that the British people ‘want us to get on with Brexit.’ This declaration could only be backed up by a second referendum, but that would be a calamitous and dangerous tactic, and also has no clear path towards being voted for in the Commons. There is a particularly impressive hypocrisy from those urging the country to vote again since they got it wrong last time around. They have consistently mocked the claims of ‘will of the people’ from their foes, but have in return set up a ‘People’s Vote’ campaign. In the two mass marches held in London so far this year, the protesters managed to fail in what should have been a core objective: to show that they weren’t all just remorseless Europhiles who haven’t accepted the first result. Like so many things discussed in Parliament, the growing hope among some for a second referendum is a north-London fantasy, its supporters locked up in an echo-chamber that convinces them of their pious and righteous cause. Far from ensuring certainty, a second referendum would leave the European issue open for years to come, as the Remain campaign would easily come away with victory, thus ensuring a furious and indignant Leave side. Remainers can have much more pleasure on their default side of victimhood, claiming for aeons to come that the country would be far better off inside the block. The People’s Vote presents a logically overwhelming and persuading case, but the notion of having the vote again is impractical. Having a second bite at the cherry will not put the issue to bed either. Brexiteers will feel incensed that their vote was ignored, prolonging the anger and bitterness we have endured over the last couple of years.
MPs threatening to vote against the draft deal will not be well treated by the history books. The choice set before them is clear. It is either this deal, which is the result of often-strained, painful and often apparently fruitless negotiations, or no agreement at all. The illusions of other votes are reveries that will damage the country further. The plotting Eurosceptics and loyal Corbynistas are all on the same side, and not for the first time. Voting down the deal won’t bode well with the electorate or the future of the country. Theresa May has done her bit. Now it is time for Parliament to fulfil their side of the bargain. Otherwise, to quote Psalm 48 once again, we may well see the ‘wrecking of the ships of Tarshish’ becoming a regular fixture in British politics for many more years to come.