Brexit vote: Fate of 66 million people depends on less than three dozen – leader comment

Eyes of the nation will turn to the Houses of Parliament as MPs vote on Boris Johnson's Brexit deal. Picture: Pixabay
Eyes of the nation will turn to the Houses of Parliament as MPs vote on Boris Johnson's Brexit deal. Picture: Pixabay
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The vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons is likely to have a profound effect on UK for generations.

Over the last few years, politicians have evoked the Second World War on too many occasions and in ways that were often not conducive to good diplomacy.

However today, as the eyes of the nation fall on the House of Commons, it is not too far-fetched to paraphrase Churchill and say that never has so much of such vital importance to so many depended on so few. Sixty-six million people await to hear how ‘undecided’ MPs – thought to number about 30 – will vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, swinging this historic decision one way or the other.

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A vote in favour will see the UK leave the EU on 31 October – and begin a whole new round of negotiations about the UK’s trade relations with the bloc during a transition period until the end of next year.

The consequences of a vote against will depend on the reaction of Johnson and the view in Brussels. The UK can unilaterally call the whole thing off, but a delay requires the unanimous approval by the other EU member states. It also requires the UK Government to ask for one, something the Benn Act seeks to force the Prime Minister to do although Downing Street sources have suggested Johnson could try to circumvent its intentions.

The Scotsman was delighted when Johnson and the EU demonstrated they were serious about getting a deal – by agreeing one. They should remain serious. A no-deal Brexit – in the EU one minute and out the next in less than two weeks’ time – is too dangerous an outcome.

Johnson must not despair and simply throw the UK off the no-deal cliff if he loses. Instead, he should emulate the dogged determination of Theresa May – whatever anyone thinks about her time in office, she tried, she really did – and turn to the country to ask for their support. He should not fear to do so, because he could very well get it but also because the true ‘will of the people’ is something all politicians should embrace.

The undecided MPs will have to mull all this over and make a huge decision that will echo for decades into this country’s future even though it is uncertain how Johnson or the EU will react.

A no-deal must be avoided but, on balance, The Scotsman’s view is that MPs should vote against the deal then seek to persuade Johnson to go for a decisive ‘People’s Vote’. But whatever happens, it is important that we accept a decision made in a democratic way, whatever it is.