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Is there life after Brexit?

August 5th, 2019

I don’t, unlike Dominic Cummings, think that No Deal is unstoppable. Parliament can stop it if it wants to. But let’s suppose that Mr Johnson succeeds in taking us out of the EU on October 31. Let’s further assume that he calls an election soon afterwards. 

His pitch is obvious. “I said I’d get you out and I have. Now we need to charge whole-heartedly into the green fields awaiting us. I want to show you how great life will be outside the EU. But I can’t do it with a majority of 1 and individual backbenchers trying to hold us all to ransom. Give me a proper majority!”

What, then, are the Opposition manifestos going to look like? 100% of the effort so far has been on preventing No Deal and predicting how awful it will be. But that’s a prognosis, not a policy. What do the parties want to do if it happens?

For Labour, I suspect pragmatic caution to prevail. “We very much regret leaving, but we have to make the best of it, which means negotiating a close relationship guaranteeing workers’ rights and environmental protection. And we won’t do a trade deal with the USA or get into any of their wars.” Of all the accusations that are levelled at Jeremy Corbyn, a suspicion that he will suck up to Donald Trump is not among them.

As a policy, making the best of a bad job is sort of OK, but hardly exciting. But what of the LibDems?

The logic of “Bollocks to Brexit” suggests that they should stand on a platform of rejoining. But even among hardened Remainers (like me), the prospect of starting the negotiations all over again looks wearying, with no real prospect that the EU will entertain a fresh application for a moment – after the experience of the last 3 years, they would be mad to do so. So would the Lib Dem policy, too, be “make the best of it”?

I truly have no idea about either party, but I’m alarmed by the apparent fact that nobody appears to be giving it any thought. Quite possibly, we are going to have to write those manifestos 3 months from now. Isn’t it time we did a bit of contingency planning?

Nick Palmer

Nick Palmer was Labour MP for Broxtowe, 1997-2010