Even as negotiations begin, Brexit could still be mitigated—or even stopped completelyby Hugo Dixon / June 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
The hung parliament has created much uncertainty. But for those of us who want to stop a destructive Brexit, there are more reasons for hope than fear. To start off with, the chance of crashing out of the EU with no deal has dropped sharply. Theresa May, or whoever replaces her, cannot now seriously repeat her “no deal is better than a bad deal” threat. The votes in parliament to carry out the threat aren’t there. Our European partners would think we were joking if we repeated it. This is good news because quitting without a deal would be the most chaotic form of Brexit, triggering instant tariffs on British goods, and probably causing a recession, while leading to the hardest of borders in Northern Ireland, and ripping up all our other agreements with our European partners including on fighting terrorism.
There is also now a slender chance of reversing Brexit completely. It’s hard to see how this could happen. But with politics suddenly mercurial, with new elections now entirely possible before we leave the EU, and with storm clouds gathering over the economy, everything’s up in the air.
Another reason for hope is that neither the Commons nor the Lords will any longer rubber stamp whatever emerges from Downing Street. And even before No 10’s plan is exposed to the light of day, it will now have to take account of the views of lots of people: pro-European ministers such as the newly-promoted Damian Green, now the “first secretary of state”; Ruth Davidson and her band of pro-European Scottish Tory MPs; and, backbench Tory pro-Europeans such as Nicky Morgan. The government will also have to listen to business, but won’t have to pay so much attention to the screaming hard-Brexit headlines of the Daily Mail. And it will have to navigate the predominantly pro-European House of Lords. If peers amend legislation—such as the ludicrously entitled “Great Repeal Bill,” which would give ministers sweeping powers to take EU regulations into UK law, and then repeal them—the government will struggle to overturn these amendments in the Commons.