24 March 2019
When you know you’re about to experience something that is going to cause you pain, how do you approach it? I would say that the vast majority would rip off the plaster; quick and relatively painless.
So why is it then that we’re continuing to endure the agony of the Article 50 Brexit process? I will never in my lifetime understand how we got to this point. Our country is now prolonging the crippling uncertainty that we have had to endure for more than two years, because our MPs cannot reach a general consensus.
When you look at how divided the country is over the Brexit vote, there is little wonder that the MPs who are tasked with representing public opinion, are just as divided themselves.
The assumption now is that there are, as rumoured, seven options on the table. These range from the existing (clearly unpassable) deal, to completely revoking Article 50 altogether. MPs have less than a week to reach a general consensus or the deadline extension is dramatically reduced. Ironically with Europe in the driving seat with an ultimatum.
Understand Number 10 now seriously considering indicative votes on Brexit next week. Government source tells me there could be 7 options: PM deal, revocation, second ref, deal + customs union, deal + customs + single market, FTA or no deal
— Kate McCann (@KateEMcCann) March 22, 2019
Tightening the purse strings
Personal politics aside, there can be no one in the country who wants this extension, surely? We need to know what is happening, and just to get on with it.
Sir Richard Branson wrote this week about how he believes a no-deal Brexit would be full-scale disaster. Whilst he’s probably right, I am not sure that it would be as disastrous as continuing this period of complete confusion and misguidance.
The challenge here is that uncertainty is the single biggest business killer. It is impossible to plan what we need to do going forward, because we don’t know what forward looks like. It’s at these times when businesses tighten the purse strings, pausing investment and growth. It’s also when consumers start to get nervy about their money. We stop going out to eat as much, cut down on lavish holidays and stop improving our houses. The result we stop borrowing and count the pennies a little more closely.
We’ve already seen the first signs of a recession back in 2016 when the initial referendum took place. Thankfully, once the result was announced, the market rallied and we settled into the security of knowing we had two years to work out what Brexit looked like. The ship was relatively steady.
With less than a week until the original deadline, we still have no point on the horizon, no map, no compass and now according to the newspapers this morning, soon to be no captain with Theresa May reportedly on her way out. We’re adrift to say the least. I am interested to see which politician believes they can steady the ship amidst these troubled waters.
The divisive issue
Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with the Brexit process and certainly not the current outcomes, the job that Theresa May has taken on is unenviable task. It was a poisoned chalice from the get go. It’s easy for the opposition leader to poke fun and criticise, however I am not sure anyone could have found a result when negotiating with the European leaders who were resolute and immovable.
When you have such a divisive issue, where almost a third of the country didn’t turn out to vote (turnout was 72.2%), then 17.4 million people voted to leave against 16.1 million people to remain (51.9% v 48.1%) there’s no way to win everyone over.
There’s no compromise on a yes/no question. You certainly can’t please everyone and, in this instance, it’s impossible to even please the majority of the country.
So, what’s next? Put it back to the people? MPs can’t make their minds up, so should we as the public be given the opportunity to decide what the best course of action is now? One thing is for sure, the public have loudly spoken. A Revoke Article 50 petition online has garnered nearly 5 million signatures , making it the largest petition in the history of the country. A march coinciding with the petition had a turnout of reportedly two million people.
The Petitions Committee tweeted on Thursday to highlight that the Revoke Article 50 petition had been receiving around 2,000 signatures per minute. The traffic has been so high that the site now only refreshes signature count every half an hour to reduce the load on the site. The site which is hosted own an AWS (Amazon) cloud server eventually crashed and was down for some time. It is surprising that a site that gathers our personal information on behalf of the government is hosted by an American company, given their rules on allowing their US government access to all data hosted, regardless of jurisdiction and physical location. It beggars belief that someone in the public sector thinks this is acceptable, but this is for a blog on another day.
Whilst the hard leavers are pushing the rhetoric that bots are to account for many of the petition’s signatures, the system requires you to verify your email address if you hit the site more than once from the same IP. So you’d have to set up a heck of a lot of fake email addresses to make a meaningful difference. Listening to one Remainer brag on TV that they’d signed up as Mickey Mouse and Donald Tusk, is both highly unlikely and very stupid considering they would be admitting to tampering with an official government process, live on TV.
I’ve heard many people today saying that just as some in Parliament have changed their votes, why are we Brits, now armed with the real facts, not able to change ours? There is a very clear message defending the idea of a second referendum, say that it would be the end of democracy. But personally I don’t buy this. In a democracy, debate should be encouraged.
The best most concise response to this argument appeared on Twitter yesterday:
“Asking someone to respect the result of the 2016 referendum is the same as asking someone to respect Lance Armstrong’s 7 Tour De France wins. There was money and social media influence from a hostile foreign state, as well as electoral finance law breaking.”
There is a great deal of investigative work done from some of the broadsheets, journalist Carole Cadwalladr of the Guardian is particularly vocal given the evidence they uncovered that seems to have been brushed under the carpet. She is very clear and names various politicians as people who broke the law.
The simple truth though, is that whilst we think we can make a difference in this country of ours, it’s not really the case. What is more frightening though is I am not sure the politicians are in control either.
Another vote could be an interesting possibility and I honestly have no idea which way a public vote would go, or what the question should be.
Whatever the next course of action, I implore Parliament to get on with it. The whole country desperately needs answers so that we can get back to getting on with our lives, until then, we are adrift.
What are your thoughts? Speak up and before you beat me up for being a retainer, if you read carefully I am relaxed either way and just wanting the government to be decisive.