Forget the Daily Mail: Four reasons MPs should have a proper say on Brexit

Majority of public back parliamentary scrutiny - including Leave voters


With MPs continuing to demand a greater say ahead of the government triggering Article 50, hard Brexiters (and the Daily Mail) are up in arms about “unpatriotic Bremoaners”.

Here are some reasons why MPs should be given a proper debate and a vote:

  1. Because the Brexiteers need to be properly held to account, with a day of reckoning, for the fraud that was that promise on NHS spending.

For those who campaigned for Brexit, immigration was at the heart of everything and must, they argue, trump everything else. If that was really the case, why did immigration not feature once on the Vote Leave’s now infamous red battle bus?

What was instead written was clear: ‘We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.’

Following the news Theresa May will not provide any extra cash to the health service, this fraudulent statement has been proven to be just that.

Yeah sure, the likes of Nigel Farage and Ian Duncan-Smith have since argued that they did not agree with the statement on the bus. But if that’s the way they felt, why did they not have the integrity and the honesty to say so during the campaign itself?

  1. Because the country did not vote for economic self-harm.

Whatever the siren voices of the Brexiteers might say, the country did not vote to become poorer. Yes, concerns were expressed about immigration which must be addressed, but this cannot come at the expensive of sacrificing people’s jobs on the altar of a hard Brexit.

ComRes poll for the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror over the weekend found that at 49 per cent of people in the UK ‘are more likely to say that the government should prioritise getting favourable trade deals with EU countries when negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU than think it should prioritise reducing immigration’ (39 per cent).

Polling commissioned by Open Britain and conducted by Benenson Strategy Group has found that 59 per cent of people supporting staying in the single market, contrary to the views expressed by the hard Brexiters.

Let’s not forget what our esteemed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson noted in his pro-EU article, leaked over the weekend: ‘Britain’, he declared, ‘is a great nation, a global force for good. It is surely a boon for the world and for Europe that she should be intimately engaged in the EU. This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms: the membership fee seems rather small for all that access.’

And what did the manifesto upon which every Conservative MP was elected say? ‘We say: yes to the Single Market.’

  1. Because the arguments about parliament not having a say are complete nonsense.

Ministers continue to peddle the argument that they will not provide all the details of their negotiating position. That’s perfectly legitimate. Issues however about whether we will remain in the single market or not are more than just ‘details’.

They are fundamental economic decisions that will affect the future of the country for generations to come. Parliament being excluding from deciding the UK’s position on such major issues is frankly absurd.

Theresa May agreed as much in 2008 when, as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, she declared:

“We should have a statutory scrutiny reserve so that ministers would have to gain parliamentary approval before negotiations in the Council of Ministers.

The scrutiny reserve should be put on a statutory basis so that ministers are required to come to the committee before negotiations at the European Council and cannot override it.”

Similarly, just days before being appointed to the role, Brexit Secretary David Davis used an article for ConservativeHome to call for a ‘pre-negotiation White Paper’ on the UK’s options for trading arrangements with the EU post-Brexit. We await this White Paper with baited breath.

What is more, the polling for Open Britain has found extensive support among the public for parliament having a greater say in the country’s negotiating strategy with the EU.

With those who were ‘not sure’ removed, 73 per cent of those question agreed with the statement that the government should ‘set out what it is aiming to achieve in negotiations with the EU ahead of the start of formal negotiations so that they can get parliament and the public’s approval for their plan’.

Just 27 per cent disagreed with this. Interestingly, 49 per cent of those who voted to leave the EU agreed with this (compared to 33 per cent who disagreed and 18 per cent who were not sure).

UKIP voters were also the most enthusiastic backers of proper engagement with parliament, supporting the idea by 62 per cent to 20 per cent.

  1. Because sometimes people do change their minds.

According to data completed by the respected British Election Study, six per cent of those who voted to leave the EU now regret doing so – a larger margin than won the referendum for Brexit.

And what did David Davis say in a speech to mark the 40th anniversary of the UK’s entry into the Common Market? He declared, ‘if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy’. Well said!

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward


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