My last blog called in aid the Eagles and the reality that while the UK may formally “check out” of the EU, in substance we “can never leave”, a fact that is becoming ever more starkly apparent as the days pass. So perhaps we should now turn to the Rolling Stones for advices because, as they observed,
“You can’t always get what you want, But if you try sometime you find you get what you need”.
With the belated but welcome and general acceptance that the UK cannot quit EU membership without an agreement, and with there being no plan to quit that attracts majority support, what we need now is time. Whether you favour a ‘People’s Vote’, a direct move towards a Norway ++ arrangement or some other constitutional concoction, it is clear that there is not the time needed to secure agreement and get things on their feet before the end of March when we are mandated by statute to give up our membership of the EU. Ergo, the Article 50 time limit will have to be adjusted. The options for doing so are either that the EU members agree to prolonging the process or that the UK withdraws the Article 50 letter and we reconsider whether to start all over again but with a new and developed plan. In either event, we will remain EU members and will have to take part in the EU elections next year, continue to pay our contribution into the EU Budget and allow free movement while remaining subject to the jurisdiction of the ECJ.
With the question of how to postpone being the only one that we must and can address immediately, one might hope it will be the first order question once the current Deal is voted down in Parliament next week. What is more, addressing that question could offer the political classes and the Government in particular an opportunity to recover in some small but vital part their reputation for being truthful, competent and respectful of the people.
Simply to extend the Article 50 period would be to pretend that there is a way we can have our cake, or at leas half of it, and eat it and that it is just a matter of time before we stumble upon a plan that satisfies all the often self-contradictory wishes of both soft and hard Brexitiers and the EU. Doing so would take us deeper into the mire and offer up further and daily evidence of the mendacious incompetence of all involved in the UK.
Withdrawing the Article 50 letter and giving the UK time to reconsider its future in the EU in the light of the lessons learned from the present debacle would be a more honest and respectful approach in coming clean and admitting that for the present we are stumped and have found no way of ‘honouring’ the referendum in the terms demanded by the Brexitiers and set out Mrs May when she initiated what has proved to be Mission Impossible.
Of course there would be cries of betrayal from the Brexitiers, not least as a smoke screen to save them from exposure as fools or dissemblers in advocating for forty years a revolutionary change for which, when invited earlier this year, they could offer no plan for delivering. If there has been a betrayal, they are traitors for lulling the people of the UK into dreaming the impossible dream (as Andy Williams might have crooned).