To thine own vote be true

The New European - - News - An­drew Ado­nis

“To be or not to be” is in­deed the ques­tion if there is to be a Peo­ple’s Vote – whether or not Eng­land will con­tinue to be fun­da­men­tally Euro­pean and a re­spon­si­ble mem­ber of the Bri­tish Isles.

The ac­tual choice on the bal­lot pa­per will be more pre­cise and the ref­er­en­dum will em­brace the whole UK. But if

Ham­let taught us any­thing, it is that hu­man so­ci­ety is an un­end­ing strug­gle against tragedy. Brexit is an English na­tion­al­ist tragedy and, as in Ham­let, the only com­edy in­volves grave-dig­gers.

As the Brex­iters rail against the EU, Ire­land and Scot­land, the raw English na­tion­al­ism driv­ing Brexit is ever more ex­posed. The mask slipped com­pletely when Do­minic Raab, fresh from dis­cov­er­ing the port of Calais, re­signed as Brexit sec­re­tary in protest at a deal he had just ne­go­ti­ated along­side Theresa May, ac­cus­ing the EU of “bul­ly­ing” and “black­mail”.

A week ear­lier Raab made his ex­traor­di­nary bid to Michel Barnier to scrap the Ir­ish back­stop com­pletely, as if Bri­tain had no re­spon­si­bil­i­ties what­ever for the peace and sta­bil­ity of North­ern Ire­land.

This be­hav­iour, ex­em­pli­fy­ing all the prej­u­dices and pho­bias of the Brex­iters, led Bobby Mcdon­agh, the for­mer Ir­ish am­bas­sador to the UK, to crack maybe the best Brexit joke so far: “Do­minic Raab’s res­ig­na­tion in protest at a deal he was him­self re­spon­si­ble for ne­go­ti­at­ing is like rob­bing a bank and then per­form­ing a cit­i­zen’s ar­rest on your­self on the way out.”

Brexit is a des­per­ate strug­gle be­tween dif­fer­ent con­cep­tions of Eng­land. Be­tween an Eng­land which is a col­le­giate and re­spon­si­ble mem­ber of the two demo­cratic unions which dom­i­nate our in­ter­na­tional life – the United King­dom and the Euro­pean Union. Or an Eng­land which re­jects both unions, ap­peal­ing to a bet­ter yes­ter­day of im­pe­rial sovereignty and chau­vin­ism, and in­sti­tut­ing a po­lit­i­cal/cul­tural war which will over­whelm us for decades to come. A Peo­ple’s Vote is the last best chance to call a halt.

As for the pre­cise ques­tion for the Peo­ple’s Vote next year, only one is cred­i­ble: ‘Do you wish to stay in the Euro­pean Union or do you wish to leave on the terms agreed by Theresa May?’

There is an ir­refutable rea­son why this has to be the ques­tion. Par­lia­ment has a moral and po­lit­i­cal duty not to put to the peo­ple any pro­posal which sim­ply can­not be im­ple­mented. No-deal is in this cat­e­gory.

We know that no-deal can’t be im­ple­mented be­cause the govern­ment has told us so.

It spent the sum­mer pub­lish­ing ‘tech­ni­cal pa­pers’ set­ting out the con­se­quences to the UK of leav­ing the EU with­out a treaty ei­ther to con­tinue or to re­place any of the 20,000 pieces of Euro­pean law and treaty pro­vi­sions, gov­ern­ing ev­ery­thing from our avi­a­tion and ports to food and medicine stan­dards.

More­over, with­out a deal there has to be a hard bor­der in Ire­land be­cause the 208 cross­ing points be­tween Ire­land and North­ern Ire­land, cur­rently in­vis­i­ble as a bor­der thanks to the Good Fri­day Agree­ment (GFA), be­come the ex­ter­nal tar­iff, cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion bor­der of the Euro­pean Union. This will ne­ces­si­tate hard bor­der in­fra­struc­ture and breach the GFA, which is an in­ter­na­tional treaty and the ba­sis of peace in the re­gion.

Then there is the lit­tle mat­ter of the £39bn exit fee which May has agreed to cover our EU li­a­bil­i­ties. I love point­ing out to Nigel Farage, who wants us to pay the EU noth­ing, that this is im­pos­si­ble be­cause of his £73,000-a-year pen­sion for two decades as an MEP. No deal, no pen­sion. We can’t have Nigel as a bur­den on the state, par­tic­u­larly now his adult chil­dren have Ger­man pass­ports so may not even be in the coun­try to look af­ter him.

So the ques­tion has to be ‘May’s deal ver­sus Re­main’. If she had the slight­est no­tion of lead­er­ship and the na­tional in­ter­est, she would now call a ref­er­en­dum on this ques­tion. She would say: “I have done my best to ne­go­ti­ate a work­able Brexit. Now you de­cide whether it is to be or not to be. That is the ques­tion.”

As for the pre­cise ques­tion for the Peo­ple’s Vote next year, only one is cred­i­ble: ‘Do you wish to stay in the Euro­pean Union or do you wish to leave on the terms agreed by Theresa May?’

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