“What we need is not a policy compromise, but a process compromise.” Last week, lost in one of the many hours of grandstanding in the House of Commons, Alison McGovern made one of the most logical points anyone has made in the Brexit debates so far.
In the fraught layers of Brexit negotiation in the House of Commons, everyone’s vision of leaving the EU has been pulled back and forth, turned upside down and inside out. Thus the government whipped in a vote that was meant to be free. The Brexit secretary voted against a motion he had just commended to the House. My campaign whipped against a motion that could have achieved our ends (for quite understandable reasons of timing, I must add).
In the end, they have always sprung back right into place. The ERG have had sweetened political deals – Brady, Malthouse, a parade of unicorns – hovered in front of their noses, Theresa May literally chopped her deal in half in the vote last week and Nick Boles’ “compromise” Brexit policy drove him to an emotional and dramatic abandonment of his party last night.
But none of this is working. We are witnessing a ridiculous cast of characters on a Brexit carousel that just keeps on turning, never making any progress out of the complete mess parliament is in. The clock is ticking.
It will come as a surprise to absolutely no-one that at the heart of the country’s Brexit dilemma is an absurd and desperate logical dissonance. The proof of the need for a people’s vote lies in the inability of parliament to find a way out of the tangle of Brexit threads – pull on one and another becomes knotted. And yet, in order to get a people’s vote, despite the ever growing clamours from outside Westminster’s halls, we need our politicians to make a collective decision to agree to it.
In short, the process needs to be put into policy. Yet – as has become blindingly obvious – parliament agreeing on policy has proved to be incredibly difficult.
But this is where MPs need to focus their efforts and minds over the next few days and weeks. Nobody can claim that the process we are currently using to “sort out” Brexit is working. Yet a people’s vote must be put into policy by the House of Commons. But it is not an “alternative” policy to Theresa May’s deal – or any deal. There is a reason it can be attached to anything that parliament agrees.
It is a distinct option. A people’s vote is not just another card in the game everyone is playing to no success – it is a trump. It gives politicians a way out, and the people a chance to speak.
Phoebe Potter directs Our Future, Our Choice’s national grassroots organising campaign
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