Democratic Brexit can only be achieved with cross-party consensus
The favourite solution for a soft Brexit is now apparently the Norwegian model. But, as Donald Tusk told us, there will in the end be only two real choices: a hard Brexit or remain. Ian Rutledge (Letters, 14 June) reminds us that the Norwegian option will not satisfy the concerns of those who voted leave. It means accepting the free movement of people. It also means accepting EU regulations without a say in making them. We lose sovereignty, not recover it.
Most important, the effects of Brexit are beginning to bite: a fast-growing shortage of EU nurses, worsening the crisis in the NHS; accelerating inflation, declining living standards, a slowdown in economic growth, an increasing number of companies planning to move abroad. And we ain’t seen nothing yet. What if there is little progress in negotiations or they break down over money? Yet talk of the option of remain is taboo in parliament, because the referendum verdict is deemed sacrosanct. When will MPs get real? Leavers said Brexit would provide £350m a week more for the NHS. Instead we face a possible bill to leave of £100bn. People did not vote to make Britain poorer. Indeed, research by YouGov about what motivated leavers found they overwhelmingly believed Brexit would have no costs. When the consequences sink in, a major shift in opinion, it concluded, is on the cards.
Emmanuel Macron and Wolfgang Schäuble have thrown us a lifeline, inviting us to stay. The separate antiBrexit bodies should now urgently unite to form a cross-party democratic alliance to stop Brexit before time runs out. Liberal Democrat, House of Lords • When a declared Green party member like Michael Gold (Letters, 14 June) can reject the EU single market on environmental grounds, unreconstructed remainers like me really do have a problem.
Apparently the urban waste water, habitats and water framework directives matter not a jot, even though they and other environmental directives underpin the single market. The UK was instrumental in several of these, and other Europeans referred to them as “the British directives” (so much for “taking back control”).
Why can’t people grasp that the single market requires adherence to directives that are designed to limit the capacity of individual European states to pull a production fast one by failing to internalise environmental (and other) costs? We can’t be in that market in any sense without abiding by that principle; and, like Norway, we will, if outside the EU, be unable to contribute to the development of the very regulations that make it work.
There are all kinds of reasons that make production cheaper in some places than others and that lead to the transportation issues Gold identifies, but at least the EU has done its best to limit the scale of abuse. I despair for the UK if its future is to walk away from responsibility for the wider world. Cambridge • Should Labour or a progressive coalition come into power and continue with the Brexit negotiations, such a poisoned chalice could tar its reputation for years to come. If Labour were to come in on an anti-austerity ticket, Brexit could leave it in tatters. Inflation, slowing economic growth and investment are already setting in. The wage squeeze can be argued to be a direct consequence of Brexit.
Negotiating Brexit and dealing with the consequences and aftermath will be incontrovertibly associated with the party in power. In opposition, the Tory party would be in a position to blame economic disarray on the political ineptitude of those in power.
The rightwing press would not even allude to the Tory party having caused the crisis. The strength of negative feeling towards those in power would be overwhelming. Does Labour really want to find itself in that position?
Why is there no reasoned and rational political pushback against Brexit before it is too late – at very least another referendum, especially given the torrent of misinformation that spewed out during the last one? Leeds • Keir Starmer (Report, 16 June) rejects calls for a cross-party committee on Brexit but is open to a progressive partnership. Given that the UK faces the most significant constitutional change in its modern history, it is imperative that people from different parties, from different regions, and with different views are brought together to shape the future of our country. The alternative is for the process to be conducted behind closed doors, by a minority government propped up by the DUP.
The Conservatives put their Brexit plan to the electorate, and lost their majority. The landscape has fundamentally changed, and this must be reflected in the approach to Brexit. Unlock Democracy’s latest report, A Democratic Brexit, highlights several models for how parliament can be meaningfully engaged in the process. For example, a limited amount of patience regarding your collusion in my exploitation. London • For the past few years I have felt so flamboyant when reading my Berlinersized Guardian, easy to handle, particularly when ostentatiously page-turning in a public space to remind others that damned smartphones are not the only media outlet. So your new format will take a while to come around to, no doubt. But so long as the journalism and photography are not too compromised and there are no staples to hold the pages together, maybe it’ll be okay. And, of course, the 50% reduction in price is a real bonus! Or was that false news? Exeter • As a loyal reader for 50 years, I welcome the proposed tabloid format. The Guardian needs to connect with more progressive people, especially the young Labour supporters out there. But I do see an opportunity to write more concise articles. Most of us do not have the time to read the lengthy articles of late. Nottingham • When you changed to the Berliner size I was pleasantly surprised to see the Danish government is required to get an agreement from a cross-party committee for any negotiating strategy which guarantees scrutiny, and similar models must be explored for Brexit.
Brexit must, above all, be democratic. An inclusive, consensus-based approach is not just constitutionally and democratically important but a practical necessity. If the government pushes forward with plans that have not been endorsed by a majority of the electorate, then we could face a fatal undermining of our democratic institutions. Director, Unlock Democracy • If the general election really was about Brexit it is depressing that 84% of voters voted for the impossible. Labour has followed the Tories to the Mad Hatter’s tea party where they squabble over the single market but all hope to have their cake and eat it.
Proposing to leave the single market but still enjoying access to it on the same terms as EU members is an offer that is either confused or dishonest.
Why would the EU 27 tear up their fundamental principles to accommodate a UK that has opted to leave the club? The truth is they won’t. MEPs, including many Labour MEPs, know this to be the case.
Delusion and dishonesty have triumphed. It seems that those of us who have been upfront and realistic over our post-Brexit relationship with the EU have been punished at the ballot box. Ruth Davidson is right to suggest involving other parties in exploring how we approach Brexit. This must include strongly pro-EU parties like the Greens who favour giving people a say on the final Brexit deal. A failure to get real on Brexit will mean ultimately that the electorate punishes those who promised cake but delivered crumbs. Green, South West England that there was no loss of gravitas resulting from the change. I do believe that changing now to the tabloid shape is to be regretted but if your readership has indeed more than halved in the years since then you have little choice. Kidlington, Oxfordshire • As a longstanding reader and current subscriber I welcome the news that you will be changing format to continue the print edition. But may I put in a plea? I’ve grown older with the Guardian and now find it difficult to read the sometimes very small print in G2. Please will you ensure that all print sizes in the tabloid paper will be readable without reaching for the magnifying glass? Bungay, Suffolk • Whatever size or shape the Guardian comes in I will always buy it but please do not tamper with those marvellous cryptic crosswords. Bridport, Dorset • My aunt maintains that she buys the Mail because it fits the cat’s litter tray. Now perhaps she will improve her reading habits. Southampton • A letter on British nationality laws in the 1960s, when only fathers could pass on British citizenship to their children, said James Callaghan was the Labour prime minister who changed the legislation in 1973. Callaghan was prime minister from 1976 to 1979. The British Nationality Act 1981, which allowed mothers as well as fathers to pass on British citizenship to their children, became law in 1983 under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government (Mother’s husband had to sign for me to stay, 15 June, page 34). • A profile of Shaun Fenton, the new chair of the Headmasters’ Conference, said that Reigate Grammar school had a 250-metre indoor swimming pool. It’s 25 metres (‘The children we educate will take leadership roles and create a fairer society’, 13 June, page 32).
‘Danger do not cross the line … otherwise you’ll get a bit wet.’ Canal in Porto Vecchio, Corsica, France Share your photographs at gu.com/witness