Brexit: Why MPs of all parties must back Theresa May '“ Brian Wilson
Events always look bigger from inside the bubble. This week has been full of them but the essentials have not changed and the calendar keeps rolling.
Publication of full legal advice may sound like a great procedural triumph but it did not add much to the sum of human knowledge. The view of a legal official in Geneva that the UK could unilaterally reverse Brexit is academically interesting but not much more.
Dominic Grieve’s amendment giving more power to MPs over the terms of Brexit sets the scene for further Parliamentary excitements. The difficult bit is that no matter who sets the terms of Brexit, there has to be a counter-party willing to accept them.
Cumulatively, these transient dramas and the prospect of defeat in the House of Commons heighten speculation that Theresa May may fall upon her sword. But what will that change other than the cast list?
It seems unlikely the European Union will suddenly weaken at the knees and offer up anything that has hitherto been refused – least of all the fabled backstop which has become the supposed font of all hypothetical evil.
There is at least a possibility that a Tory leadership contest would produce a replacement more cavalier about “no deal” than Mrs May. Who would gain from that? Would the Brexit clock stop while the Tories fight their private war? I doubt it.
Amidst such confusion, there is always the argument that “something might turn up” even if there is no consensus over what that something should be. The more bitter the divisions, the more dangerous seems the glib idea of holding another referendum to reverse the result.
Polite liberal opinion deplores the rise of populism in Europe yet sees no democratic problem in negating a referendum result rather than settling for a compromise that ticks the Brexit box while keeping most things the same. The arrogance of elites can be dangerous as President Macron might confirm.
The latest Scottish wheeze is to pretend that the Northern Ireland backstop has grave implications for Scotland in the event of it ever having to be implemented. On such tenuous grounds, it is now part of our national discourse to shout “liar” at those with whom we disagree. Classy.
There are absolutely no grounds for comparison between Northern Ireland’s situation and our own. Nor is there disadvantage to Scotland in acknowledging the EU’s duty to protect the interests of Ireland in these unique circumstances, without trying to parasite upon them.
Rationality plays little part in the current frenzy but the more I look at the alternatives, the more I tend to conclude that – given where matters now stand – the best way forward and the only certain way of avoiding the madness of “no deal” is for MPs to vote for what is on offer.
At least this week there was a reminder of what a true Parliamentarian sounds like. Michael Heseltine rolled back the decades with a bravura speech in the Lords, making the critical point that those with the least economic muscle will pay the highest economic price for all of this.
The truth is that those who are driven by a single constitutional objective care nothing for the implications that might flow from it. For the rest of us, it is then a case of damage limitation and that is where we now are with Brexit.