Posted: 2018-11-20

The May-Barnier deal is a compromise and is much better than a hard brexit

It is now clear that on Brexit there are only three alternatives: the current deal, with possibly some tweaks; a departure with no deal; and a second referendum in which a majority vote to remain in the EU. This last choice, although producing the best outcome (see below: Need for a Second EU Referendum), is being strongly resisted by the government and most parties on the grounds that ‘the people have spoken’. So we are left with only two realistic possibilities.


The parliamentary Maths for May’s deal simply do not add up at the moment. If 80-100 of the 315 Conservatives, all but about 20 of the 257 Labour MPs, the 35 Scots Nats, the 12 Liberal Democrats and the 10 DUP vote against it, then it is dead in the water. To imagine, however, that the EU would agree to renegotiate the terms of a new deal with a change in leadership or government in the UK is wishful thinking.


The attitude of the opposition parties in Parliament is therefore puzzling to say the least. If they vote against the deal then the result is likely to be a no deal Brexit with all the disasters including a hard Irish border that will ensue. That would be the worst possible option as most of them already acknowledge.


Therefore a rethink is needed if a crisis is to avoided. As Voltaire put it, a situation cannot develop where “the best is the enemy of the good’. Labour as the main opposition party has a responsibility to act in the national interest. Seeking to unite the country by rescuing May from the clutches of the hard Brexiteers would stand it in good stead for the 2022 general election which it could fight partly on its avowed policy of a permanent customs union with the EU. The current deal of keeping the UK and the EU temporarily in a close economic relationship is not so far removed from what Labour says it wants anyway.


As for the DUP, it is in the unenviable position of being at odds on the deal with practically every business organisation in Northern Ireland, including crucially the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, Manufacturing NI, and the Ulster Farmers’ Union.


Considered in conjunction with its opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and scientific evidence on the age of the earth and global warming, the Duppers are actually in danger of being renamed ‘Sinn Fein‘  – ourselves alone!


Brian McClinton, 20th November 2018