The time has come for Theresa May to tell the [British] nation: Brexit can’t be done

By Alastair Campbell, in The Guardian

Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd; www.theguardian.com

The hard-liners in her party will howl with rage, but most of the country will welcome it if the prime minister is honest about Brexit’s awful consequences

Monday 16 October 2017 17.46 BST / Last modified on Monday 16 October 2017 22.00 BST

As she tries to move the Brexit negotiations forward, how much better would Theresa May and the country feel if the speech she made to her party went as follows.

“Leadership is about confronting the great challenges. But Brexit is the biggest challenge we have faced since the second world war. So I intend to devote my speech, in four parts, to this alone.

“First, I want to explain why I voted remain – because for all its faults, the European Union has been a force for good in Europe and in the UK. I believed that our future prosperity and security, and opportunities for our young people, would be enhanced by staying in. Second, I want to explain why, nonetheless, I was something of a reluctant remainer. The truth is, there is a lot wrong with the EU. So though I voted remain, I was not starry-eyed. I was determined that, had we won, we would also fight for reform.

She would get resignations, and vitriol by the bucket-load from the Brextremist media

“Third, I want to explain why I have been trying so hard to deliver the Brexit the people voted for. It was a close result. But leave won. I felt strongly that it was my duty to deliver the only Brexit that I believed could meet the demands of the majority of leavers – out of the single market and the customs union, out of the European court of justice.

“But precisely because I have a profound sense of duty, I want to tell you the absolute truth as I see it. It cannot be done. Yes, you can shout. You can storm out. But I have looked at it every which way. And, as your leader, I have concluded that it cannot be done without enormous damage to our economy, to your living standards, to our public services, to our standing in the world. This is damage I am not prepared to inflict. The cost is too high.

“I will publish the legal advice that I have the right to unilaterally revoke article 50, and if you look behind me you will see the backdrop has gone and instead there is onscreen the letter I will be sending to Donald Tusk and the EU 27 heads of government later today.

“… I am ready for any challenge, confident that finally I will be able to fight for what I believe is the right course for Britain, and confident that once the public have the proper debate we failed to have during the referendum and the election, that my view can prevail in the country.

“The Labour party will also have to make up its mind. Most Labour MPs support the position I am setting out today, though their leadership may need to be persuaded. We may need a general election to settle this. At some point we may need a referendum to reverse the outcome of the first one. I am aware I am launching something here, the course of which is unpredictable. I am prepared to take all the risks attached to that. For I am no longer willing to pretend. I am no longer willing for the delusions of the few to dictate a strategy for the many, when so much is at stake.

“I will also be publishing the sectoral advice papers we have received on the impact of Brexit on all aspects of our national life, so MPs can debate these fully. I know many of you think I might be ill. I feel a lot better now. Because what has been making me ill is the reality of which I have been certain more each day … that Brexit is a disaster, a potential catastrophe for our country. That my duty now is to steer the country to the only sensible decision I can see – a rethink, a change of course: not hard Brexit or soft Brexit, but no Brexit at all.”

Big and bold, I’m sure you will agree. She would get resignations, and vitriol by the bucket-load from the Brextremist media. She might lose her job. Equally, this might be the way to save it. In her Florence speech, May called for more creativity, as though it needed to come from others. This speech is the kind of creativity she needs. It would be the making of her. And most of the country, I am sure, would breathe an enormous sigh of relief.

  • Alastair Campbell was Tony Blair’s director of communications and is editor-at-large of the New European

There Will Be No Brexit. Probably.

By Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

There will be no Brexit. This is my, as a lawyer I can say this, provisional legal opinion. But not only legal, if you commit a general system analysis. Brexit is an objective impossibility, and all this for the following reasons:

From the beginning, I was astonished with what kind of childish stubbornness Brexit was implemented into the British Government’s activities. I know- also in parallel from my own political history – that this was and is done in context with inner-party power struggles, beginning with a totally wrong estimation of the relation between inner-party Tory wings and the population’s position, by former Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron, and this is the danger of several years being in power at the same position, has lost a lot of ground contact, like Chirac in France when he decided to hold a Referendum on the EU Constitution a year ahead of when this was held – a year where he easily could lose a lot of approval, when an unholy alliance  brought this Referendum to failure. The same thing two times (!) in the Netherlands, when first Prime Minister Balkenende, the guy who looked like Harry Potter, ordered the second Referendum in NL after the first around 350 years or so ago, also on the EU Constitution, which was lost against an unholy alliance, too. The second (or third) Dutch Referendum was lost, when the Government submitted the Ukraine Association Agreement with the EU to a public vote. Not very many people have seen the text of this Agreement nor discussed it. A Referendum is always, in open, democratic societies, in EU countries above all, an invitation to kick the respective government in their ass, and nothing more. Why then some politicians, most at the fringes of the political spectrum, advocate a Referendum in questions where they expect a popular outcry against any government activities? However, we all live in parliamentary democracies, with parliamentary committees where many questions can be discussed and solved, and public hearings for these committees can be held, etc.  I took (actively!) part in British discussions in 1971/1972, right after school when I was invited for several panel discussions by Young Conservatives (and confronted with arguments against the then EEC, like „at one breakfast with a Rhine Army officer’s relative near Münster/Germany one foul egg was served…“). But I think there was more discussion about joining the EEC then, than before the Brexit Referendum to leave the EU.

Anyway, it was a clear deficit by the Tories and their protagonists in leading the debate before the Brexit vote. And nobody in the Government made any clear plans what to do if Brexit were approved – The UK suffers still of this disease, if you see and hear the leading politicians of this country, like David Davis.

Regarding the „system analysis“ arguments, I cannot imagine that British citizens today and collectively are, excuse me, so stupid to vote for their economic down-spiralling, for their loss of influence within or towards the EU, for not being taken serious anymore in the EU, for their world-wide loss of influence (as proven by Theresa May’s and BoJo’s travel & talk attempts in the last months). Everything said in this respect is a big lie, or perehaps „fake news“. And the gain of „control“ to everybody else in the world, by tougher immigration policy also to the EU, which is expected as a tool of new British nationalism means self-isolation and again loss of influence.

And now the British press is fuller than ever with qualified opinions (Nick Clegg) on how to exit the Brexit. British political culture may manage this U-turn, with a lot of what has lacked since 2016: the typical British pragmatism (which lacks totally in the negotiations with the EU). Forecasting attempts in policies should never be linear – like: 1 x voted for Brexit (and this with 37% of the population only!) – there will be the Brexit. This, by the way, is more immanent to a dictatorship, which is not applicable for Great Britain. Linear moves would permit the extrapolation (or intrapolation) of political circumstances, based on a population which is immune to learning. I hope this is not the case with the British. We have already a lot of UK citizens who changed their citizenship, and they are now Germans, French, Spanish, Portuguese etc. And lots of EU citizens have returned to the EU since the vote, and new ones hesitate to go to Britain. This is not typical for an element of a European open society.

In this situation, it cannot be a miracle that Theresa May seems to commit many mistakes. One of the next ones would be not to publish the legal opinions kept in secret until now about the Brexit and its implications – they seem to be good for a U-turn of the Government. While we are in a situation when senior Brussels personalities tell in private „OMG, let the British go, the sooner the better…“, this is clearly the result of the chaotic, unprepared, and probably unfeedbacked negotiation position of UK. It would take the Brexit negotiations with the EU into a year-long, maybe 5 – 8 years lasting negotiation nightmare. In the time between June 2016 and March 2017 any state of the world could and would have been better prepared than H.M’s Government.

Once more: to keep the advantages for UK in the EU Single Market which is and will be seen as necessary for the country, will require a U-turn towards the Brexit. It will take several generations until the British will be as „European“ as the French, the Italians, the Spanish, the Germans etc., but there may be a new agreement between the EU and Great Britain about the continuation of the EU Membership. Until now, I have thought, this can be achieved only by a change of government (which does not necessary mean a Labour one) and a significant change of public opinion. Now I believe it can be started by a change within the Government  This – or the other solution – seems today more likely than ever. Which leads me to the cautiously optimistic opinion that there will be no Brexit at all. If UK ask the European Council to vote for an extension of the March 2019 deadline, it probably will be granted, as first step. However, if the British would come back to the EU, a (francophone) senior Brussels personality has to be quoted: „Alors, s’ils reviennent, c’est la merde que recommence…