The Channel 4 debate last night showed how the alternatives are crumblingby Peter Kellner / December 10, 2018 / Leave a comment
Sherlock Holmes would have understood. In The Sign of Four, he famously told Dr Watson: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
The Brexit saga is not a murder mystery, but Holmes’s logic remains: if MPs reject Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement decisively, all the options for leaving the European Union on 29thMarch will be impossible—politically, if not theoretically. The only sane option that will remain is for parliament to seek an extension of the March deadline and ask the people whether they still want Brexit after all.
Last night’s debate on Channel 4 underlined this point. One by one, the alternatives crumbled.
– James Cleverley, for the government, could not answer Jacob Rees-Mogg’s argument that the Withdrawal Agreement contained 68 pages of EU rules that would put Northern Ireland on a different footing than the rest of the UK. When Labour’s Barry Gardiner said the prime minister’s deal would be worse for the economy than continued EU membership, Cleverley did not contest the point: he said merely that the economy would continue to grow—as if anaemic under-performance would be something to boast about.
– Gardiner managed to keep an impressively straight face when he said that Labour would be able to negotiate a deal that maintained all the benefits of the single market and customs union without incurring the costs and responsibilities of EU membership. Asked directly whether Labour’s approach would be better for the economy than EU membership, he was honest enough to duck…