Oxford for Europe
The Definition of Insanity.​​
​by Peter Burke, Chair, Oxford for Europe.
“Insanity is doing the same thing again and again, and expecting different results“ - these words were attributed to Albert Einstein, and it is difficult not to think of them in regard to events in parliament at the moment. We are in the hiatus between 2 presentations of the withdrawal agreement to Parliament, and there may be more to come. It seems hard to believe that on its second visit it will have greatly changed, nor that it will gain the support of many more MPs than it did before. All that will have happened is that time has been wasted and the country slides closer and closer to the proverbial cliff edge, with those who care for its future looking on in helpless stupefaction.

I am not saying for one moment that the prime minister is insane, but in the world of normal politics it is hard to understand her actions, both in continuing to flog this dead horse and in not resigning. Oddest of all was her decision to support the Brady amendment, which in effect meant saying to her MPs “please tie my hands and send me off to Brussels to do something which I know to be impossible!”. The only explanation is that she will come back and say that she tried, but the EU 27 were unreasonable, in other words an exercise in blame shifting. We know that, she knows that, and most of all the EU 27 know that. I wonder if she understands their level of anger and frustration with her behaviour. Given her surprise at Donald Tusk’s observations about a special place in hell, perhaps she does not understand. It still seems to elude politicians on all sides that the Europeans are actually not lying, and that they meant what they said in early 2016 about the four freedoms being inseparable and that they would stand their ground. Realistically, nobody on the EU side has the authority at this late stage to turn the ship around anyway.
Mrs May was entirely right when she said that her withdrawal agreement was the best Brexit deal available, given her red lines. The only way to get a better one would be to abandon those, and of course the easiest way to get a better deal is to stick with the one we have at the moment, as we all know. I have heard the Prime Minister say on four occasions that the only options are her deal, no Deal, and no Brexit. She was not misspeaking, this really is the case, and as her deal slips out of view and the horrors of no deal become increasingly obvious, we need to focus on no Brexit as a serious possibility, with or without a People’s vote.

The past week may or may not have brought a good outcome closer. It has, however, made the problems of Brexit even more apparent, if that were needed. The revelation that a £60 million subsidy was not sufficient to keep Nissan playing along with the fantasy that all was well, speaks for itself and it does not augur well for BMW, the largest industrial employer in this city. We may have forgotten how much faith was placed two years ago in Nissan’s promised investment and what it told us about the buoyancy of post Brexit Britain. Along with so many other fantasies, that one has now evaporated, and we are left with the cold stark reality that the only argument in favour of Brexit is that politicians are under some kind of obligation to “honour the referendum”. To use this argument to push forward an outcome which has at best 20% support among the public is a piece of doublethink almost unparalleled in the history of pseudo democracy. In the same week, Jeremy Corbyn has unilaterally rewritten his party’s ‘six tests’. The new 5 item version specifically excludes the requirement that any Brexit deal should not leave the country worse off. How’s that for an admission that any Brexit deal is bad for the economy? The Government has already as good as admitted as much. Meanwhile Tom Watson has joined Keir Starmer and John McDonnell in speaking approvingly of a ‘public vote’. Their leader surely cannot be far behind as it becomes clear that hic ‘compromise’ has no legs.

The message for us is this. All the opinion polls now show that more than half the electorate favour remaining in the EU over any form of Brexit. When the status quo is pitted against specifics rather than generalities, i.e. the withdrawal agreement or a no deal Brexit, the margin turns into 60:40. There is not, and never has been, any form of informed consent for Brexit, and the time has come to find out whether such consent is even possible. If Brexit is going to happen then let it happen only after people have had a chance to look it in the eye, to weigh up all the evidence, including the impact assessments which we now have, and to consider whether ‘sovereignty’ really means becoming a vassal state. We in Oxford for Europe believe passionately that we have the best possible deal at the moment and we should fight for this with all our strength. We also believe that we and our friends, including the 1% of the UK population who marched in London on October 21, can make this case with passion and conviction if allowed to in a People’s vote.
As each week passes, the options open to our politicians are narrowing, to the point where a People’s vote is the only one left standing. Parliament will again have a opportunity to rule out decisively a no-deal Brexit, and we must show our MPs that by doing so they will truly be ‘honouring the will of the people’. Many of us will be in Parliament Square on February 14 to make this clear. Please join us.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oxford for Europe.

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