Don't be fooled by the deal - we still need a People's Vote
13 November 2018 20:30
As I began writing this article, I was planning on talking about the Government’s seeming inability to even pass the first stage of the UK’s Brexit process – agreeing a withdrawal agreement with the European Union.
Whilst this week was anticipated by many as the moment when the music would stop, the record had seemed perpetually stuck on repeat. But it now appears that a deal of some kind has been agreed. Cabinet Ministers are being drafted in to sign off the agreement, and there will be a Cabinet Meeting on Wednesday.
The timing was always going to be incredibly finely-geared. To ensure that there was an agreed deal to take to the emergency summit at the end of the month – and therefore hold a vote in the UK Parliament before Christmas – a deal needed to be struck this week.
As ever, the devil will be in the detail. There are still massive obstacles to be overcome and significant challenges for Theresa May to see off – within the Cabinet and the Tory party membership – before any kind of agreement stands a chance of being signed off by both Houses of Parliament.
At the time of writing, there appears to be an agreement for some kind of customs arrangement for the entirety of the UK, with special provisions for Northern Ireland. Whether or not this would lead to a separate regulatory zone for Northern Ireland and some kind of border in the Irish Sea remains to be seen. Obviously both questions are of the highest importance to the fate of the deal in the Westminster village.
The unspoken hope of those who see this as Brexit’s best chance must surely be that the agreement is couched in such mind-bendingly technical language that the public (as well as the politicians) are ultimately disposed to approve it – if only to get the process that has dominated British politics for two and a half years out of the way.
Yet let us not lose sight of the fundamentals, too often obscured by jargon and minutiae. Any kind of Brexit will make the United Kingdom less prosperous, and influential in the world. The deal, if approved, will restrict the opportunities available to young people in this country, jobs will move abroad and – no small matter given the Brexiteers’ endless allusion to democracy or the ‘will of the people’ – bears scant relationship to what was promised in the 2016 Referendum.
Well: as a Italian national, and a young person, I’m not buying it. I don’t believe that the United Kingdom will buy it; and nor do I think the House of Commons will sign up to such a shoddy and misshapen deal.
Much more detail will be forthcoming overnight. But, for now, we at last have the rudiments of a deal to measure against our current EU membership. The public deserves a final say on this momentous offering: via a People’s Vote.