Paddy on Brexit


So now at last we know what Mrs May has decided shall be our future in Europe - or rather out of it. What she calls for is a fundamental break with our neighbours, our culture and our past of the kind which was never discussed during the referendum campaign.

Remember, when, time and again, the Brexiteers were asked what kind of Brexit they wanted? Time and again they couldn't - or more accurately, wouldn't - answer. Or, if they did, gave answers which were completely contradictory. Some said they wanted to stay in the Single Market; others demanded out; some proposed managed immigration; others insisted on none; some suggested a new trading relationship with the EU; others wanted to cut loose completely.

They would not tell us what we were voting for then; they should not be allowed to steal our votes for their prejudices now. If ever there was a case for putting the deal that is finally made with the EU before the British people, Mrs May made it today. Surely, before this Government is allowed to turn a narrow majority for leave into a swingeing mandate to re-name our country "Britapore" and paddle it out into the mid-Atlantic, we its poor benighted passengers, should be allowed a say?

Such a vote would not be to re-fight the in/out referendum. Those, like me, who campaigned for Remain must accept as gracefully as we can, that we lost. What we now have to decide, as a country, is what kind of relationship a Brexit Britain should retain with the European Union - in short, what kind of country we should now become. Mrs May has told us her vision. The question is do the people of Britain agree? Given the stark choices she has proposed at what she concedes is "a moment of great national change", do they too not get the right to speak?

No second vote, no consultation, no detailed plan, no chance for Parliament amend or scrutinise, (unless the blessed Supreme Court Judges instruct otherwise). The people have spoken and are now to be dispensed with as "not wanted for the remainder of the voyage". Conservative voters, along with the rest of us. What happened to the Tory manifesto promise of little more than eighteen months ago; "We say: yes to the Single Market"?

What is at stake, following Mrs May's speech, is nothing less than keeping Britain open, tolerant, united and planning a future based on engagement with our friends in Europe, rather than depending on the crumbs from Mr Trump's table.

The Brexit Bill is now being considered by the House of Lords, this will be the last chance for us to amend the Brexit Bill. We will demand that the British people have a say on the final deal and also seek to soften the "brutal Brexit" for which Mrs May has no mandate and will, if it means leaving the Single Market, terribly damage our business, economy and standing in the world.

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