All is not lost—it is a mighty throw of the dice by Leaversby Jolyon Maugham / October 3, 2016 / Leave a comment
Click here to read more from our November 2016 issue
It is mere machinery, the proposed Great Repeal Act.
It moves the debate on, as Faisal Islam wittily quipped, only from “Brexit means Brexit” to “How Brexit means Brexit.” But it leaves unanswered the What: it tells us nothing about the shape our relationship with our European neighbours will come to take.
One might, warming to this theme, come to see it as a purely technocratic exercise in advancing to today a step that would otherwise be taken tomorrow. The European Communities Act 1972—which translates into our domestic law the rights and responsibilities we derive from the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU—would need to be repealed anyway. And the Great Repeal Act won’t take effect until we leave the EU. It does nothing now.
All of this is right. And yet it misses the true import of what Theresa May announced.
Writing on the Friday following the Referendum I expressed the view—one from which I have not shifted—that hopes for our remaining in the EU rest largely on how events are sequenced.
Voters, when they entered the booth on the 23rd of June, and in their unwritten ledgers of Leaving and Staying, priced up present resentments and discounted future costs. The passing of time, ran the argument, would cause them to re-mark their concerns to reflect the reality of life outside the EU. When investment stalled, and jobs were lost, and public finances were hit, and the promised NHS savings were reversed, voters would revisit their ledgers. Public opinion would turn.
This may yet happen. And those who have fought and won the fight to Leave know it. It is this that spurs their sense of urgency. That is why we must Leave now and the consequences of acting precipitately be damned.
Only when you see the battle to Brexit in these terms can you begin to understand why Leavers have argued for exactly this solution: a Repeal…