Brexit: It is MPs’ patriotic duty to be brave – leader comment

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaks during Prime Minister's Questions (Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire)
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaks during Prime Minister's Questions (Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire)
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Politicians must be prepared to cross party lines to prevent a no-deal Brexit to avoid the risk of a recession on a par with the 2008 crash.

If Theresa May’s twin-track approach of trying to scare Leavers and Remainers with different visions of catastrophe fails and her unpopular Brexit deal is defeated in the Commons, the sensible majority of MPs, divided among different parties though they are, will need to move quickly to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

So it is heartening to read the words of SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, reported in The Scotsman today, that “MPs on all sides” need to realise a no-deal is “unthinkable and must be stopped”. The UK Government’s ramping up of no-deal contingency plans – with exercises involving scores of delivery lorries in Kent – should act as a “wake-up call” to MPs about the “insanity” of proceeding down that path, he added.

Putting aside the fact that any MP sleeping, even metaphorically, at such a moment of national crisis should not hold elected office, it gives hope that the SNP is prepared to work across party lines for the good of the UK as a whole.

READ MORE: Government planning ‘live test’ of disruption caused by no-deal Brexit

It can be politically dangerous for any party member to take such a step – “collaborating with the enemy” would be an easy charge for those who bandy about words like “treason” and “enemies of the people”. But now is the time for MPs to be brave. It is nothing less than their patriotic duty. A no-deal Brexit – a far cry from the pre-referendum visions of the Leave campaign – would address few of the sources of public discontent that contributed to the result of the 2016 vote and create new ones, with all the evidence pointing to a significant blow to the economy, possibly even on a par with the 2008 financial crash.

So MPs who are the most implacable foes of the SNP must work with them and the SNP must not turn any potential allies away. Party leaders, whips and constituency chairs must be defied if needs be.

In the event that May pulls off a surprise victory in the Commons’ vote, then Brexit will go ahead.

But if it fails, the only sensible course of action is to delay the UK’s departure from the EU beyond the current 29 March date to enable a second referendum or a general election or further negotiations with Brussels or anything – anything at all – that avoids a no-deal.

We are about to live through a decisive moment in British history. Any MP who votes against their better judgement or conscience out of party loyalty or other comparatively trivial considerations will surely regret it.

READ MORE: Poll: 57% of Conservative members back no-deal Brexit