With less than five months to go until we are due to exit the EU, the Prime Minister and her Cabinet are still struggling to agree a viable deal on the terms of our withdrawal. Rumours are rife of an agreement being imminent but it’s clear there are still many areas to be agreed, not least the Northern Ireland border issue.
This uncertainty is damaging business and industry, with sectors such as timber, chemicals and farming all having raised with me their concerns about the potential impact of Brexit. The lack of clarity from Government is leading many to look at alternatives to provide the UK with the certainty we need to protect the economy and jobs.
Earlier this week a cross-party group of UK MEPs wrote to every Member of the European Parliament to ask them to consider the extension of the Article 50 timetable. The MEPs said they want to continue to work for a strong EU, even if the UK is no longer a member, but fear that this will be undermined by a no-deal or blind Brexit. In this event they ask colleagues in the European Parliament, and in EU capitals to be ready to give the UK time to avert it.
This is important because if the Government is unable to either secure a deal with the EU, or get any deal it is able to agree through Parliament, a general election or People’s Vote might well result. Either eventuality would require additional time beyond the end of March.
My own view is that given the difficulty in securing a general election, a People’s Vote is the best option for agreeing a decisive way forward. The push for a People’s Vote was boosted here last week with the launch of the ‘Scotland for a People’s Vote’ campaign and new evidence of a turnaround in public opinion on Brexit. I will continue to argue for such a vote to give the public the final say on this most crucial of decisions.
Martin Whitfield is the Labour MP for East Lothian