Time for Some Sense on Brexit

Cyrus Yazdanpanah 12 November 2019
Image Credit: PA Images/ Politics Home

TCS’ Politics Columnist Cyrus Yazdanpanah takes a long hard look at the electoral promises as they stand…

Looking at the polling for the election ahead, it seems likely that the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats are going to be handing over a large majority to the Tories.

Both parties have seriously underestimated how sick people are of the issue of Brexit, and neither of their policies seem to offer a way to end this matter once and for all. Currently, I personally feel extremely disillusioned by politics because of the lack of practical and reasoned thinking, specifically with regards to Brexit. After David Cameron decided to open this can of worms, all many people now want is for there to be an end in sight. The Prime Minister’s slogan of “Get Brexit done” was not chosen by accident- it appeals to surprisingly many people because they just want this issue to go away. Sadly, it might not be going away anytime soon given the options that are being discussed so solve the current crisis that we are in.

Despite the fact that there are other issues that plague our country such as the growing climate crisis, the growth of artificial intelligence and a suffering NHS, we are now at a worrying stage where every single election for the next 10-15 years is potentially going to be about Brexit.

Currently however the stances of all the Lib Dems and Labour (as well as the hard Brexiteers) will lead to years more of Brexit discussion. For example, the Liberal Democrats’ idea that they can just cancel Brexit, much as it may be appealing to many people, just means this issue will never go away. The 52% who voted to leave will not just accept that and move on. Of course the Lib Dems could only ever do this if they had a mandate to do so (ie by being elected), but this does not seem likely at all. Therefore their stance is not helping the debate whatsoever. The reality is that while I believe a referendum should not have been called in the first place (as I am opposed to them in principle), the fact is we had it and there was a result. Now we need to find a way to respect that result. I would naturally vote Lib Dem in a normal general election, which is why this is particularly frustrating for myself.

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The Labour parties’ position has confused many, but essentially what they plan on doing is to negotiate another deal which they would then put to the public, with remain as an option. This notion of having a second referendum again is not helping the debate- one referendum was bad enough, a second one with the terms they are offering I don’t believe would achieve anything. If for example remain won marginally, people on the leave side could justifiably demand a third referendum (and so on), and our elections would consequently all still be about Brexit. The only way a second referendum should be considered (and I would back) is if two clear options were offered that still meant Brexit, for example a customs union/EEA option (soft Brexit) vs Boris’s deal. This may sound defeatist to many people (like myself) who still rather us be in the EU, but going back to the public and asking the exact same question again is fundamentally damaging to our democracy. If Labour do manage to win the upcoming election on a mandate of negotiating a deal to then be put to the public for a second referendum, this would also be a completely pointless exercise in the sense that the EU would have absolutely no desire to spend time negotiating a deal (let alone a good one) that could then simply be rejected in a referendum.

Whilst the Prime Minister’s deal does get us out legally, but there’s very little substance as to what comes next.

The focus seems to have been getting something which ticks us over for a year or so, rather than something which provides us with some degree of finality. This one election will probably determine whether or not we leave in three months from now, however just because we’ve left does not mean the next election won’t be fought again on the EU and what sort of relationship we are going to be having. This is why I would have been more for having a second referendum on the terms of how we leave- ie. a customs union Brexit vs Boris’s deal. To hold a general election which is really about one issue is also a very dangerous move- a more divided parliament risks us getting bogged down in more stalemate.

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Sadly the Brexit party will be receiving plenty of coverage this election campaign, despite their wish for no-deal being completely illogical and a suicidal concept in itself.

Nigel Farage likes to describe it as a “clean-break;” this is totally meaningless. Putting aside all the arguments about the economic damage it would most likely cause, does it mean that we are never going to have any relationship with Europe in the future?  Would we never negotiate a trade deal with them? No one, not even the most extreme, have really gone as far to suggest that all ties with Europe should completely cease after Brexit. Most no-dealers believe that we should leave and just simply negotiate a new trade deal with them. This line of thinking holds that all the current issues at stake at the moment will suddenly disappear overnight. If it came to leaving on no-deal, for the sake of the country some sort of trading agreement would have to be reached with Europe in the future. But issues for example such as the Irish border, regulatory alignment and the £39 billion we owe are not going to just disappear if we leave with no deal. When we inevitably return to the negotiating table, these issues will not have gone anywhere. I believe that when we come to look back at this period in history, the anger will be towards all the political parties who have failed to come up with a coherent, sound ideology, that respected the result of Cameron’s regrettable referendum, whilst not being too extreme.

What do you think? Let us know at editor@tcs.cam.ac.uk with the subject line ‘Letter to the Editor’!