Monday, 9 January 2017

There is no mandate for a hard Brexit

It’s now clear beyond doubt that the new Tory government is planning a hard, hard Brexit for Britain.

In her first interview of the year, new Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sky TV that Britain couldn’t hold on to ‘bits’ of EU membership.

She has ruled out continuing with ‘free movement of people’, which by default means we cannot stay in the EU Single Market after Brexit, even though that would be possible as a non-EU member.

But Mrs May has no mandate for the Brexit she is planning for Britain. The only option on the Referendum ballot paper was ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’. We knew what ‘Remain’ meant, as we’d had it for over 40 years. But nobody voted on the type of ‘Leave’ we should have.

There was no box on the ballot paper on whether we should stay part of the EU Single Market after Brexit. No box to tick on whether to retain ‘free movement of people’ after Brexit. Mrs May now just assumes that’s what Leave means - but assumptions are dangerous, and undemocratic.

Mrs May should not be second-guessing what type of Brexit Britain wants. Nobody voted for a hard Brexit.

And importantly, the Conservative manifesto of 2015 – the basis on which the Conservative government was elected – assumed Britain would be staying in the EU.
All the Tory party’s plans, provisions and visions laid out in that manifesto were based entirely on our EU membership continuing.

Yes, the Conservative manifesto promised an in/out EU referendum and to abide by the result, whatever it was. But nowhere, absolutely nowhere, in the Conservative manifesto was there any blue print for Britain after Brexit.

You’d think that since the Conservatives promised to abide by the Referendum result, their manifesto would have included at least a page, or a paragraph, on its strategy and goals in the event of ‘Leave’ winning. But no. There is nothing.

It means that Mrs May’s new Tory government does not have a mandate to take Britain on the Brexit of her choosing.

To obtain a new democratic mandate for a particular type of Brexit (and there are several Brexits possible) Mrs May would need to win another General Election, or another Referendum on the terms of Brexit, or to ask Parliament.

But she’s made it clear that none of these options will be offered.

Now, everything Mrs May is planning to do is in direct conflict with the provisions and promises in the manifesto on which the Tory Party, under David Cameron’s leadership, was elected into power in May 2015.
• The Conservative manifesto promised, "Our aim is to make Britain the best place to do business in Europe." How is that achievable or compatible with Brexit?
• The Conservative manifesto confirmed, "We are clear about what we want from Europe. We say: yes to the Single Market." Precisely how will our new Tory government say 'yes' to the Single Market and still have Brexit?
• The Conservative manifesto promised "Yes to a family of nation states, all part of a European Union." How, precisely, will that manifesto pledge be achievable by this new Tory administration with Brexit?
• The 2015 Conservative manifesto promised, "We want to expand the Single Market, breaking down the remaining barriers to trade and ensuring that new sectors are opened up to British firms." How will the new Conservative government achieve that AND Brexit?
The Conservative 2015 manifesto assumed Britain would be staying in the EU - that, after all, was the official position of David Cameron's Tory government. His government formally urged Britain to vote to Remain in the EU.

But he, and his government, have gone. His manifesto only promised Tory plans for Britain based on the expectation that we’d stay in the EU. But none of those Tory manifesto plans are compatible with Brexit. Clearly, that manifesto is now redundant.

What's needed now is a new Tory manifesto that spells out the plan for Britain outside, rather than inside, the EU. Then, we should be allowed a vote on that new manifesto - or at the very least, Parliament should be allowed a vote on accepting or rejecting Mrs May's Brexit plan.

In the meantime, Mrs May has no mandate to continue.

Some may say that manifestos are not important, because they are not legally binding (pretty much the same as the Referendum wasn’t legally binding).

However, a party’s manifesto is its pledge to the nation on what it promises to do if voted into power.

Last month the Telegraph reported that Mrs May wants Britain to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights – but since that wasn’t in the Conservative’s 2015 manifesto, the paper indicated that she plans to add that to the next Tory manifesto for the 2020 General Election.

Mrs May should do the same for her plans for Brexit – because the Tory 2015 manifesto contained none.
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