Brexit: It’s time to stop this dangerous madness now – Christine Jardine

Leaving the European Union or the United Kingdom would not be in the best interests of any of us, writes Christine Jardine.

The Governments own analysis warns of potential food shortages and delays to imports of medicines (Picture: Jon Super/AFP/Getty Images)
The Governments own analysis warns of potential food shortages and delays to imports of medicines (Picture: Jon Super/AFP/Getty Images)

It used to be that when you googled the word “Yellowhammer” what popped up was a pretty picture and a Wikipedia description of a passerine bird in the bunting family that is native to Eurasia and has been introduced to New Zealand and Australia. Alternatively, you might learn that Alabama has been known as the Yellowhammer State since the American Civil War. Not any more.

Put the same word into any search engine now and be prepared to be met with a depressing analysis of what could be awaiting us on November 1.

Four syllables that used to conjure up heartwarming images of pretty birds or countryside have now taken on a more sinister, almost frightening, connotation.

They will forever now be associated with the title of the Government document that confirmed our worst fears about a no-deal Brexit.

For those of us closest to the epicentre of this latest storm to break, it is no consolation whatsoever that those warnings, which the Leave supporters dismissed as scaremongering, have now been confirmed by the Government.

It has only served to strengthen my resolve that we have to find a way out of what an increasing number of my constituents refer to as “this madness”.

Over the past few weeks, talking to people on their doorsteps, in the supermarket or even when they stopped me in the street for a chat, that has been a recurring theme. “Can we not just stop this madness?”

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I would in an instant. I have written here before about the frustration felt by many of us that important issues are being sidelined. But this past week that moved up to a new level.

When the Court of Sessions described the prorogation as “unlawful” and judged it had been for the “improper purpose of stymieing parliament” its judges expressed exactly how many of us felt.

On Tuesday evening, I had taken no part in the scenes, many of them little short of an embarrassment, that had taken place in the House of Commons chamber on the official suspension. But in the days that have followed I have felt acutely the lack of opportunity to challenge the government to explain not only what it is doing, but why.

And never more so than when I read the Operation Yellowhammer document. Just five pages – one section of it blacked out to prevent us reading it – but a clear illustration of why we need to put a brake on things and get a meaningful extension.

In the past few months, my concerns about the potential interruption of supplies of vital medicine have been dismissed by ministers in the chamber. And yet there they were in black and white. In the words of the document itself when it told us that the reliance of medicines and medical products’ supply chains on the short straits crossings from the continent make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays.

It also tells us that there may be food shortages and warns of potential civil disorder.

Even so, this may only be the tip of the iceberg. This is, as I said, just five pages, and surely the government knows much, much more than that. I would certainly hope so.

One thing in all of it is clear. None of it is good. But one other factor in all of this is beginning to niggle away at me.

Why is the Government suddenly so keen to admit how bad tings could be and the Prime Minister to insist that he wants to go ahead and leave on October 31, that he is prepared to ‘do or die’ in the process, and that he is attempting to negotiate a deal, despite an absence of any evidence to support that claim?

Perhaps that might be because we are all looking in the wrong place for the wrong negotiations. Perhaps the Prime Minister and his Government are also aware of the growing clamour to make the madness stop and to give the people the final choice on the deal – if he gets one.

Perhaps it is not the European Union but the British people with whom he is negotiating.

Imagine if we could be persuaded that there is now no choice but to leave on October 31 and that we best accept whatever is on the table for fear of Yellowhammer’s warning.

Why don’t you just back a deal? The answer to that is straightforward. I stood on a manifesto pledge of being both pro-EU and pro-UK.

I believe staying in both unions, and the economic strength they offer, is the best hope of having the wherewithal to create a better society and make the changes we need to protect the planet from climate change.

I do not believe that leaving either of them would be in the best interests of me, the country, or any of our futures. We all now know that there is no gold-plated, economically beneficial Brexit boost that we were promised. There wont be extra money for the NHS but a £30 billion a year bill instead.

We know that the best deal we could get with the EU is the one we already have, and that if we want to reform that body the best way is to do it is from within.

And the best contingency planning? Don’t do it. Don’t put the country in harm’s way.

That is the responsible thing to do for all of us. Ask the people what, knowing what they know now, they want to do. I am confident they would say: “Stop it. And do it now.”