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Thursday, June 13, 2024

The great Brexit betrayal is nearly complete – but Theresa May still has the chance to be a national heroine

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Pro-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament
Has there ever been a time in British history when the political and media class around Westminster has been more out of touch with ordinary voters? CREDIT:  JACK TAYLOR/GETTY

Has there ever been a time in British history when the political and media class around Westminster has been more out of touch with ordinary voters? If so, I am not aware of it. I have been writing about the great Brexit betrayal since July 2017. Now it is nearly complete. And the ramifications of the endless broken promises to which the people of this country have been subjected could have a catastrophic effect on our politics for years to come.

First, let’s focus on the Labour Party. Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s years as a Bennite anti-EU campaigner, often making comments about Brussels that were even stronger than some of my own, he has capitulated. Labour now backs a second referendum.

There are two reasons for this U-Turn. The Parliamentary Labour Party is dominated by a North London metropolitan elite whose outlook is overtly Remain. And, furthermore, Labour is terrified of more defections to The Independent Group from its pro-EU MPs and those sickened by Labour’s anti-Semitism problem.  Even if this second referendum idea fails in the House of Commons, it will be Labour’s policy until the next general election.

This is astonishing. It’s as though Labour’s chiefs don’t realise that five million members of the electorate who backed Leave in 2016 went on to vote Labour at the 2017 election. This group is intensely Eurosceptic. Many had previously voted for Ukip. They insist that immigration must be drastically cut. Now, any bond that existed between them and Labour has disintegrated.

This is a big problem for Labour. Two thirds of Labour seats in England and Wales are in Leave-voting constituencies. More importantly, the vast majority of marginal seats in the Midlands and the North of England that Labour need to win to form a majority also voted Leave.

If the Conservative Party can hold itself together – not a given by any means – Labour has just lost the next general election. Moreover, Chuka Umunna and his chums in The Independent Group will discover that the second referendum ground in British politics, which they had to themselves for about a week, is now somewhat overpopulated.

The disconnect between parliament and the people is becoming more obvious in the Conservative Party too, however. Theresa May’s endless assertions that she will deliver the Brexit the people voted for is beginning to look as if it was a deceit from the start.

Article 50, which parliament backed overwhelmingly, states that the UK will leave the EU on March 29 with or without a deal. The no-deal option is crucial to any negotiating position in Brussels. To remove it from the table would be like fielding a football team without a goalkeeper. Yet when cabinet ministers openly defy the government position and demand that no-deal is ditched, no action is taken. How Mr Juncker must be enjoying his booze-filled lunches in Brussels this week.

There is now no prospect of the appalling Withdrawal Agreement, the worst deal in history, being changed, and the argument for the extension of Article 50 has come to the fore. The moment that decision is made, all trust between Tory voters and their party will be broken too.

The ludicrous suggestion that an extension could be for just two to three months misunderstands that there would be no-one to negotiate with during this period. Brussels closes down in April as the European elections campaign begins. After that, the elite European Commission will be replaced. If we extend once, we will extend again and again. Voters’ fury in this scenario should be not underestimated.

The only way Brexit can now be delivered, and faith kept in our democratic system, is to leave on March 29 on WTO terms. If we apply to the WTO, and Article 24 of the GATT Treaty is used with both the consent of us and the EU, we would have a minimum of two years with no tariffs and quotas during which a trade deal could be concluded. More importantly, we would be outside the EU, the single market and the customs union. If May holds her nerve and keeps the current legislation in place, we will leave on the due date. She still has a chance to be a national heroine, albeit a slim one.

Another possibility is that the government and parliament are stupid enough to request a very short extension of article 50 which is vetoed at the EU Summit on March 21. By then, time would have run out, there would be no other alternative.

Those of us who want Britain to be an independent country again must accept that Westminster’s politicians are about to betray us. But we can beat them and win this great prize if we are prepared to stand up and fight.

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