The cabinet away day in Chequers has perhaps shed a little light on what kind of Brexit deal the government intends to seek. Faced with the unpalatable choice between aiming for full access to the single market (at the price of accepting its rules, including free movement) or leaving it entirely (at the cost of Britain facing tariffs and regulatory barriers to its main export market), it seems to have chosen the latter.
This ‘hard’ version of Brexi would mean a significant economic cost to Britain as we lose market share in Europe, and therefore revenue and jobs. We would also lose market share elsewhere, as we cease to be part of the EU’s trade agreements with countries across the world, which will take years to replace.
But the Tories would apparently rather have this than accept free movement, even though free movement is reciprocal, with nearly as many Brits in the rest of Europe as other Europeans here — and even though the bulk of migrants in Britain have come from outside the EU, entirely under our own rules. Indeed, blaming the EU is really scapegoating for May’s failure as home secretary to reach anything like her own target for reducing immigration.
In short, they prefer taking a massive economic hit in order to assuage an unjustified fear that they themselves stoked up.
Furthermore, the government intends to push ahead without a vote in parliament on this choice for a ‘hard’ Brexit, a choice that will shape Britain’s future for years to come. And there will be no debate or referendum on the outcome. The people have been allowed a vote on the general concept of Brexit, when multiple different (and false) versions of it were branded about, but the people will not be given a choice on the reality, once a proposal has been negotiated and when it becomes clear what it entails.
Can anyone stop this steamrollering?
The Government has only a small majority in the House of Commons. It could be vulnerable to a revolt by a small number of pro-European Conservatives. In the past, eurosceptic Conservatives have made life a misery for the Conservative governments of John Major and David Cameron, even when they were small in number. Do pro-Europeans have the same determination?
Given what moderate Conservative MPs said in the referendum about the disasters of Brexit, and given the duty of MPs to act in the national interest, surely any pro-Europe Conservative with an ounce of honest decency will stand up and be counted? Will they insist on a debate and vote in the Commons on which alternative to EU membership the government should pursue? Dare they demand a democratic vote on the outcome? Do they have any courage or are they a bunch of wimps?