Half-way house not the answer

Date: Monday 1st April 2019

RORY Stewart seems to argue (Herald, 23rd March) that the sensible compromise between Brexiting and not Brexiting is to opt out of the democratic processes of the EU while remaining subject to EU rules, and hopefully minimising the economic harm of leaving.

Understandably, he glosses over the fact that persisting with Mrs May’s folly means two or more further years of negotiation, led quite possibly by someone like Jacob Rees-Mogg or Suella Braverman intent on frustrating them, to find out what sort of pig was concealed in the poke by way of a future relationship. Barely 32 per cent of the public back this fudge.

Anyone who thinks a half-in, half-out Brexit is the answer is asking the wrong question. The question is not what would save Mrs May’s face, despite the humiliation her intransigence (and her choice of ministers) has heaped on the country.

The question is what course of action will prevent the nations of the UK going their separate ways, and millions of its young people becoming utterly alienated.

At 5-48pm on the day Mr Stewart’s letter appeared, the number of signatures on a parliamentary petition to revoke Article 50 passed 4.5 million.

Four and a half million people had completed the three-stage process of signing the petition online, waiting many hours for a confirmation email, and validating their vote.

Three days later it passed 5.8 million, climbing at a steady 433,000 a day. At this rate it could reach 18 million on 17th April, five days after a no deal Brexit, if Mrs May’s vanity leads to that catastrophe.

How many people know there is a parliamentary petitions website? The answer must be at least 6.4 million because 580,000 have signed a “leave with no deal” petition.

A 10:1 ratio. How many would vote for Mr Stewart’s position is not known (nobody has started a petition). Only that it has been rejected overwhelmingly, twice, in Parliament. Does he really want to inflict a half-way Brexit on an unwilling nation?

Perceptions have changed in the last two years. The contrast between the knowledge, the courtesy, the patience and the clarity of the EU negotiators, Barnier and Tusk and Verhofstadt especially, and the shaming incompetence, unpreparedness, ignorance, discourtesy and rank chauvinism of May’s team, has been a graphic lesson in how EU governance has matured while that of the UK has fallen apart.

If Brexit is accomplished, England and Wales will crawl back, eventually, after decades of irrelevance and decline, into Europe’s second division.

Scotland and Northern Ireland, of course, will find their own route back rather more quickly.