Ian Murray: Tory infighting still matters more than national interest
What a tumultuous time in politics. For the first time in history the Government has been held in contempt of parliament for refusing to comply with a parliamentary vote. They were compelled to release the legal advice they received relating to the Prime Ministers Brexit 'deal'. They then lost another vote that gives parliament a say if the PMs Brexit 'deal' falls (which is highly likely).
It is extraordinary. But what started off as the world’s worst pantomime has turned into a farce and now a Greek tragedy, where all of the important things are happening off stage, away from the public, instead of in our sovereign parliament. So much for “taking back control”.
And to make matters worse, the Prime Minister’s integrity is irreparably damaged: she promised there wouldn’t be an election and called one; that she wouldn’t call off the meaningful vote and called it off; that her “deal” was non-negotiable but is trying to renegotiate it, and she can’t keep any of the promises that were made during the EU referendum. This can’t go on.
This problem has arisen because the Government set impossible red lines before the negotiations started. That meant their negotiations were always doomed to fail. You have two choices that are incompatible with each other. Either you remove yourself from all of the EU economic institutions and it is bitterly painful or you keep yourself closer to the EU to reduce that pain and it’s not Brexit. That is why she has united both Leavers and Remainers against her “deal”.
Now we have the situation that not only can she not get anything through Parliament, she can’t even get anything through her own party. And even, in the extremely unlikely event that she is able to renegotiate the most contentious part on the future of the Northern Ireland backstop, the hard Brexiteers in her party will still not be happy. They can’t be placated.
We now have a Prime Minister fighting for her political life as the clock continues to tick down towards the UK leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. But when you cut through all the complicated parliamentary processes and party manoeuvrings it comes down to the jobs, livelihoods and future prosperity of my constituents and the wider country. I will vote against any “deal” that makes my constituents poorer.
Whatever happens it is clear that the Tory divisions over Europe continue to take precedence over the national interest and a change of Tory Prime Minister is irrelevant. What we need is a change of direction on Brexit that allows the public into the process with a People’s Vote or a general election to change the Government.
We know that the vast majority of MPs would vote to prevent a no deal scenario but the Government refuses to put that to Parliament. As they continue to run down the clock towards a no deal, the suspicion is that they want to get to a stage where, in the words from The Godfather, they make us an offer that we can’t refuse. That is unpalatable. I have had unprecedented levels of correspondence from constituents, but I am unable to tell them what is going to happen as the “meaningful” vote has not been rescheduled. This Government is now treating the public with contempt.
Now that the Prime Minister has held on to her job, it’s time for her to listen, rule out a “no deal” and reach out across parliament to seek a consensus (something she should’ve done months ago) and do what is in the national interest and not her narrow party interest.
Theresa May, as they say in panto “they are behind you”. That has always been her problem. Now we need to put the public centre stage and have a People’s Vote on her deal, with the option to Remain, before it is too late.
Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South