A majority of people in Britain may be against a no-deal Brexit, but Boris Johnson doesn’t want to find out.
On the long road that the UK has been travelling since the 2016 referendum, today will see this country take a most fateful step as Boris Johnson presents his Brexit deal to the EU.
Leaks of some supposed details and the manner in which this plan is to be delivered do not hold out much hope for those opposed to a possibly catastrophic no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
Officials briefed ahead of the Prime Minister’s speech to the Conservative Party conference that if the EU did not “engage” with the offer, then the UK Government would not negotiate until after Britain’s departure. That’s the sort of talk which accompanies an ultimatum, rather than the start of talks.
Excerpts from Johnson’s speech, released in advance, suggest he realises the need to deliver another ultimatum, this time to the citizens of this country.
He raises the prospect of “years of uncertainty” under Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn with second referendums on Brexit and Scottish independence.
Like many Brexiteers, he claims to speak for the “people”, saying they are “beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools... to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all”.
Democracy at stake?
And he warns of “grave consequences for trust in democracy”. This sounds like groundwork for a no-deal Brexit – accept it or democracy could be at risk.
It’s worth noting that while a small majority of people voted for Brexit one Thursday in June 2016, the UK electorate is about 45.8 million people.
Presumably not all Leave voters were in favour of no-deal, so when Johnson talks in sinister tones about “forces in this country” he could actually be talking about the majority of the people who live in it.
Maybe Johnson has discovered a solution to the Northern Ireland border question that no one else has thought of; perhaps the EU will cave in to his demands. But it hardly seems likely.
If the options are no-deal or Remain, the voice of the people must be heard in a single, final EU referendum. That would mean a few months of debate – not years of further turmoil as Johnson claims – but it would, once and for all, settle the matter. If the “people” truly are so desperate to leave the EU that they willing to risk plunging the UK into an economic abyss, so be it. But they should be given the chance to have their say.