Engaging in double speak has become a routine means of communicating amongst politicians. Whilst obfuscation is used to confuse the public and distort their understanding of events (notably Brexit), occasionally a granule of truth winds its way into the narrative which serves to offer a more accurate picture of where members of parliament stand on an issue.
Brexit has dominated political discourse in the UK ever since the original referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU was announced three years ago. Most recently, we have seen an attempt by Conservative party ‘rebels‘ to remove Prime Minister Theresa May from office fail, the withdrawal agreement negotiated by May’s government comprehensively rejected by MP’s, and a subsequent vote of no confidence in the government defeated.
What these events have done is solidify the impression that parliament is at an ‘impasse‘ over Brexit. But as I have argued in previous articles, what this ‘impasse‘ is actually doing is creating the necessary conditions for a second referendum (a ‘people’s vote‘) to become a reality. Gradually all other options are withering away to leave going back to the ballot box as the only remaining solution. A referendum therefore assumes the appearance of being an organic occurrence rather than a premeditated outcome.
Here is how a referendum could find itself in the statute book in the next few weeks:
The next significant parliamentary event is Monday, January 21st, when Theresa May will make a statement to parliament outlining a ‘plan B‘ for how she proposes to gain approval for a revised version of her defeated withdrawal agreement. Whilst it is unknown what she will suggest, it is a safe assumption that it will exacerbate rather than quell division amongst MP’s.
The key aspect to whatever Theresa May puts before parliament is that it will be amendable, meaning MP’s can table amendments to the plan in an attempt to influence the next steps in the Brexit process. One of those amendments is expected to call for a second referendum. Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, is due to table the amendment.
For it to be successful, three things need to happen.
Firstly, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, is responsible for determining which amendments are selected for debate. Bercow, a supporter of the EU, has previously accepted amendments that allow parliament to assume more control over the legislative direction of Brexit. Thus it would come as no surprise if he chose an amendment that called for a second referendum.
Secondly, for the amendment to pass through the House of Commons, it would need to command the support of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. Corbyn’s preference has been for a general election rather than a second Brexit referendum. But the defeat of his no confidence motion in the government has eliminated this option. Back in September last year, the Labour party voted to keep the prospect of a second vote ‘on the table‘ should attempts at forcing a general election fail. Now that they have, it is likely that Labour will soon adopt a ‘People’s Vote‘ as official party policy.
Thirdly, to gain a majority in the House, the amendment would require around twenty disgruntled Conservative ‘remainers‘ to support it. Again, this appears increasingly likely.
January the 29th is when MP’s will vote on Theresa May’s ‘plan B‘. It represents the first opening for a referendum to be called. If we surmise that over the next few weeks a second vote will officially be in the works, it would then become about what question parliament would put to the British people. This is the area in which politicians have been practising to deceive.
A proportion of MP’s are openly demanding that Theresa May rule out a no deal exit from the EU. One of them is Labour’s Chuka Umunna. Seen as the leading political figure behind the People’s Vote campaign, Umunna has consistently communicated via Twitter that to prevent no deal from happening, parliament must ‘extend Article 50 and give Brexit back to the people‘.
If you are wondering at this point what Umunna recommends asking the UK electorate a second time round, the answer might surprise you. Speaking to Sky News presenter Sophy Ridge this month, he advocated for the option of remaining in the EU, and also for a ‘hard‘ Brexit:
I do think you have to have an option that would please the likes of Peter Bone (Conservative supporter of Brexit), that is a hard Brexit so to speak.
Those two choices, in some way, shape or form, would need to be presented to the British people.
For some time now the term ‘hard Brexit‘ has been perceived as the UK dropping out of the EU with no withdrawal agreement in place.
Umunna is not a lone voice in advocating for a ‘hard‘ Brexit option. Over the months, former Prime Minister Tony Blair has called for a ‘clean break‘ choice on a future ballot paper, as have Gina Miller (founder of Best for Britain) and Conservative MP Justine Greening.
The Independent’s ‘Final Say‘ campaign also endorses a no deal option, whether parliament approves a withdrawal deal or not.
Then there is the man who conceived Article 50, Lord Kerr. Kerr recently appeared on LBC radio where, in regards to what the public could vote on, he told presenter James O’Brien:
Do they want the deal, do they want no deal crash out or do they want our existing deal with the European Union?
Kerr and Umunna are not strangers to each other. They shared a platform together back in November 2017 – on behalf of the anti Brexit group Open Britain – where Kerr proclaimed that Article 50 was reversible and that Britain could change it’s mind on Brexit at any stage prior to withdrawal.
The European Court of Justice have since ruled that the UK can revoke Article 50 unilaterally, but would still require the approval of all twenty seven member states in order to extend the deadline beyond March 29th.
Ask those calling for a ‘People’s Vote‘ their perspective on a no deal outcome, and they will tell you how it would be the height of irresponsibility. An eventuality that the House of Commons should in no way countenance. Why, then, does Chuka Umunna and company wish to see this option dismissed by MP’s, but presented as part of a referendum? It is a question that no broadcaster has thought to raise.
It should be obvious that by endorsing a ‘hard‘ Brexit option, it intensifies the risk of no deal rather than mitigates it.
The People’s Vote campaign continues to promote that the only way to prevent leaving the EU without an agreement is to consult the public. This is nonsense if we consider that in the event of a referendum, the electorate will likely be granted the option of leaving on World Trade Organisation terms. Sections of MP’s would view this option as reckless, but in my view the argument that ‘hard Brexiteers‘ need to have their voice heard in a referendum would win enough support.
As noted previously, Lord Kerr is on the Executive Committee of the Trilateral Commission, whereas Chuka Umunna is a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations. What we are witnessing are representatives of globalist institutions frequenting both sides of the argument. On one hand they have successfully managed to implant into people’s consciousness that no deal would be disastrous, yet on the other have advocated that those same people should have the choice of engineering said disaster.
In the background as ever are the Bank of England. This week governor Mark Carney addressed the Treasury Select Committee and expressed how the recent rise in the value of sterling ‘would appear to reflect some expectation that the process of resolution would be extended and that the prospect of no-deal may have been diminished‘. Carney was quick to point out, however, that this was not his opinion, rather it was ‘the market’s initial take‘.
With the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos next week, I would expect warnings over a ‘disorderly Brexit‘ to be re-emphasised as the potential for a second referendum gains ground.
Unfortunately, as campaigners hyper focus on securing a remain option for a future vote, they continue to perpetuate the belief that a ‘People’s Vote‘ would kill off any prospect of a ‘hard‘ Brexit. The danger of this misguided logic should now be self evident.