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‘European Union’

An appealing plan to defeat Brexit from Lord Heseltine

It is good to see Michael Heseltine still has the spirit to swing the Mace even if today it is a virtual one. His idea is appealing: Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage must lead the Brexit negotiations because if others did this the trio would campaign against any outcome as being unsatisfactory.

So they would have to negotiate and present the outcome to the Commons which would inevitably reject it as a big majority of MPs are pro-Remain. Then there would have to be a general election or a second referendum.

Lord Heseltine’s argument is appealing (BBC)  but we could not reach that stage without triggering Article 50. I would prefer it if Article 50 was never invoked.

And what would be the choices if we were outside the EU. It could be exclusion from the European free trade area or accepting something like the arrangement Norway has including membership of Shengen Area and rather larger payments to the EU.

What will happen in the next few months is impossible to predict but I sense that the mood in the country has changed quite a lot since Friday. Politicians are constantly telling us they “respect” the referendum vote. They would not need to say that if the they were bound by the vote. It will take time, but they might just come to exercise the sovereignty of parliament they insisted upon when drawing up the referendum laws.

Will Article 50 ever be triggered?

It is understandable that David Cameron felt he had to announce he would resign after his gamble of appeasing the Left of the Conservative party by calling a referendum had failed. He could not continue to govern with any credibility.

Yet he has also left a country, more divided than at any time since the English Civil War, with a rudderless government without authority for three crucial months in the history of the United Kingdom. That is hard to forgive.

And in making his announcement he reneged on his intention to immediately trigger Article 50 which creates a vacuum in which anything could happen. While in doing this he was accepting what Brexit campaigners wanted, the new prime minister could find that the remainder of the EU has already reached a consensus on the terms of a settlement it is prepared to offer the UK.

It also allows more time for remain campaigners to further question the validity of the referendum vote. As I write 3,167,000 people have signed the petition to parliament calling for a new referendum with more stringent rules. Those signatures come predominantly from England.

There are grounds for the argument that the referendum was neither democratic nor valid because voters were misled by lies and guesses during the campaign. Three months before the possibility of triggering Article 50 is time for these concerns to grow, especially if more businesses shift jobs to Europe and investment in industry and commerce stalls.

The Scottish government is confident that Brexit is an area which requires the Edinburgh parliament to give consent to Westminster legislation. Nicola Sturgeon made this clear talking to Robert Peston on ITV this morning: it would be likely to lead to a constitutional clash.

Another factor will be the Conservatives finding a new leader who can command the confidence of the House of Commons. This may be difficult and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, also on the Peston show, ruled himself out of the race but had a person spec for a new prime minister: it amounted to Brexit-lite. Others in his party have very different ideas. It could be difficult to form a new government.

What will happen is impossible to predict: there are too many variables. But one possibility, opened up by Cameron’s decision not to invoke Article 50 immediately, is that it will never be invoked.

Note: Pure coincidence but this post was published half-an-hour before the Guardian article with an identical headline. John Henley raises the same question but with very different text: well worth reading.