Leader comment: May must apply the Brexit brakes now

The case for delaying the UK’s departure from the European Union stronger by the day.
Theresa May has delayed a vote on Brexit againTheresa May has delayed a vote on Brexit again
Theresa May has delayed a vote on Brexit again

Prime Minister Theresa May has decreed that a “meaningful vote” on Brexit will not be held in the days ahead, citing as the reason - though some may prefer the word “excuse” - ongoing positive talks with the EU. For a third time, the chance to vote on the shape of Brexit is postponed.

The PM insists that a vote will take place on March 12 - little more than a fortnight before the nation is due to depart the EU. We are bound to say that the last minute nature of such a vote will render it, in our view, meaningless.

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The time for Mrs May to stand-up, in the interests of the country, to the hardline Conservative Brexiteers who would gladly see us crash out of Europe without a deal is now long past. She should make clear that, regardless of their protestations, she is not willing to countenance a No Deal Brexit.

Despite the career-long Euroscepticism of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is now warming to the idea of a second referendum. Greater urgency from the opposition would be welcomed.

The promises made by the Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum campaign have collided, hard, with reality and the result is that we can see clearly just how complex the process of Brexit is. Furthermore, we are able now to see that leaving the EU without any kind of agreement would be desperately damaging to the UK. Those who scream loudest for Brexit whatever the cost would, we have no doubt, react furiously to any delay to the UK’s departure from the EU. Their zealotry should have no bearing on the PM’s thinking.

Instead, Mrs May must put the country before the right-wing of her party and apply the brakes.

Regardless of their positions on the European question, it is incumbent upon political leaders - across the spectrum - to ensure that departure from the EU causes the least possible damage to the British economy and to our way of life. At the very least, Mrs May must now delay Article 50, the mechanism under which the UK is due to leave the EU.

The Scotsman is in favour of a second referendum. We believe that the difference between what was promised by Leavers and the reality of the situation we now find ourselves is so great as to make it necessary. If those who campaigned hardest for a Leave victory are so sure of their arguments, they should have no fear of a “people’s vote”.