By Tom Wyatt, President of the UWE Liberal Democrats
So, it’s two minutes to eight as I’m writing this and approximately six hours ago, Boris Johnson lost a vote in parliament forcing him back to the EU groveling for an extension which, despite reports to the contrary, they will probably grant.
What happens now?
I can see the divide that has lacerated this country for three years worsening. Leavers will accuse Remainers of kicking the can down the road, denying the will of the people, and worsening relations between parliament and the people. Remainers will accuse Leavers of all sorts of crimes; unlawfully proroguing parliament, tearing up the union of the UK, taking back control to no one but powerful English elites. The situation will only get worse until something explodes.
However, even if the original referendum was a landslide result for leaving, Brexit would still be impossible due to what I like to refer to as, “the Irish dilemma”. The UK cannot have a metaphorical wall in the sea as that leaves Northern Ireland still subject to EU laws, institutions and free trade zones. Likewise, you cannot have a hard border on the island of Ireland for reasons our parents can tell us about vividly. So the catch-22 here is that so long as Northern Ireland is still in the UK, one cannot simply leave. Damn colonialism, ruins everything.
My party’s line is simple: Stop Brexit. It has resonated with so many people and transformed us from fourth in the polls to a contender for government. Brexit has strengthened us, but it has also been a thorn in our side as it has been for every man, woman, and child over the past three years.
Many have called for a compromise. Backing some form of a deal to avoid a hard “No Deal” Brexit which, at face value, does seem appealing. However, I am not partial to compromise, as that is not party policy nor would it satisfy the hunger of the so-called Remainer “ultras” that reside internally and externally to the Liberal Democrats. No. As a new extension has been de facto announced, our original policy for settling Brexit is put back on the table as it were.
This all started with the people. Let it end with the people. Let the bickering over the past three years cease with a People’s Vote. Ultimately, no one is going to be happy with the result but at least the people will have expressed their view on the negotiated deal and whether they felt it is positive for the UK. And for those who say, “but what if it ends up being 52/48 the other way?” Then you realise that a result like that is not a mandate for such damaging constitutional change that Brexit would bring to this great island.
Cover image: Bristol Liberal Democrats at #StopTheCoup protest at College Green on August 31st, taken by Jack Fifield.