Unicorns, evil trolls and fantasy islands. Sometimes the way politicians talk about Brexit makes it all sound a bit Lord of the Rings, Neverending Story or, perhaps, Princess Bride.
Politics didn’t use to be like this. Our MPs didn’t need to witter on about magical beings because, for the most part, the debate was reasonably well grounded in reality.
The best that can be said about Theresa May’s deal is that it is a pragmatic compromise. The trouble is almost everyone seems to hate it and only last week it suffered the biggest Commons defeat for a Government in modern history.
Yesterday was billed as the unveiling of Plan B, but, as Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston pointed out, “it’s like last week’s vote never happened. Plan B is Plan A.” Just as the need to get real about Brexit is becoming increasingly pressing, the Prime Minister appears to be entering her own fantasy story in the belief she will triumph heroically in the end. In her speech, she said she would “reach out beyond this House and engage more deeply with businesses, civil society and trade unions”. But all that should have been done and dusted months ago – it is the people inside the House that May needs to convince.
She knows the depth of their opposition to her deal, but casually dismissed calls for a second referendum, saying she did not “believe” there was a majority in the Commons for one. Yet it appears to be the only sensible option left if MPs will not support the Government’s Brexit plan. Of course, the default position under current legislation is a no-deal Brexit. This means the hardcore of mostly Tory MPs who support that outcome – much courted by May – are now never going to vote for her deal. They just have to wait, do everything they can to ensure the current Commons impasse continues, and they will get what they want.
So May is now reliant on Remainers on both sides of the House coming to the conclusion they must back a Government which has largely ignored their views to prevent a potential catastrophe. This is an extraordinarily large gamble to take. In the latest of many warnings about how bad no-deal could be, the CBI said it may eventually cost the Scottish economy £14 billion a year.
It is often said there is no majority in the Commons for no-deal. And yet, unless our politicians get real and quickly, that is what is precisely what is going to happen.