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3:56pm on Wednesday, 26th April, 2017:
Yesterday, the Labour Brexit secretaryKeir Starmer, gave a speech about Labour's Brexit policy. One of the key points he made was that parliament should be given a vote on whether or not to accept any deal agreed between the UK and the EU.
OK, fair enough. However, what happens if parliament doesn't accept the deal?
Well, this is where I'm unclear (despite the fact that his speech used the word "clear" seven times). The Conservatives make no bones about it: if parliament doesn't accept the deal, then we'll leave the EU with the hardest of hard Brexits. What's Labour's perspective, though?
When questioned about it on the Today programme yesterday, Starmer seemed to suggest that we'd stay in the EU and continue negotiating for a better deal. This sounds reasonable, but I see three problems with it.
Firstly, we may not be able to stay in the EU anyway, now that Article 50 has been triggered. There doesn't appear to be anything in the treaties for untriggering Article 50. If we can't untrigger it, we'll have to leave regardless of what Labour wants. If we can untrigger it, well then there's nothing to stop the government of the day from untriggering it then immediately retriggering it in order to get another 2 years of negotiation. They could continue this indefinitely. The EU is alert to such a possibility and is trying to find a way to allow an untriggering only with the support of the other EU members; this will probably involve getting a compliant Court of Justice to rule in favour of that suggestion. However, this is exactly the kind of rule-bending that put a lot of people off the EU in the first place.
Secondly, if the EU knows that offering a rubbish deal will result in the UK's remaining a member, it'll offer a rubbish deal. Why wouldn't it?
Thirdly, this is a way for all those MPs who don't want to leave the EU (which is the majority) to vote to remain. They simply vote down the bill and then we don't leave. In other words, it's a way for the MPs to overrule the referendum result. That is not going to play well anywhere in the UK except London and (if they don't think it could happen in a second Indyref) Scotland.
As I said, I don't actually know what Labour's policy is in this area. Would a defeat of the "meaningful vote" entail a hard Brexit or a Bremain? If Starmer really is aiming for an accept-or-remain vote for parliament on the final deal, well that may impress some party strategists who will see it as an oh-so-clever way of confounding the voters but it's going to be seen through for the perfidy it is.
Unfortunately, one of the consequences of raising the political consciousness of voters is that they become politically conscious.
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