Trevor Fisher says no other options will mean anything unless Parliament extends Article 50
February 14th’s Valentine’s Day massacre in the Commons marked the point where May finally lost control of Brexit and the Tory Party split into warring factions. The comment by Defence Minister Tobias Ellmore that the 72 Brexiteers who did not back May were “a party within a party” was well founded, but there will be no dividend for Labour. The bigger picture got lost in the scramble. March 29th is now 40 days away, and May is playing Russian Roulette.
A slowly dawning consciousness that the end is near is sparking a limited recognition that the only game in town is extending the deadline. Gary Younge in the Guardian wrote that this has to happen but not with May in charge. There is a reality gap here. There is no alternative Prime Minister that the Guardian readership would like. But the other options have closed down. It is now delay or else risk No Deal. May has to be overridden. She cannot be replaced.
Certainly the People’s Vote campaign has no chance unless this happens. Adonis told a meeting on February 2nd the best estimate of PV-voting MPs is 160. With the arguments inside the Labour Party becoming self-defeating, only an extension – preferably for a year – can create a space to build. If May continues to lose votes for her options, the choices will be No Deal or an Extension.
An extension would not be a walk in the park – the Sun attacked it before Christmas and the far right call of “BETRAYAL” will echo far and wide. But let us be clear: there was NO deadline in the Referendum motion and Parliament can change the date it chose and ask the EU 27 to comply. The far right will have to be faced down. But as neither a general election nor a referendum cannot be held in 40 days, the choice is clear.
Jeremy Corbyn said on Valentine’s Day that Mrs May “cannot keep on running down the clock and hope something will turn up”. Yes she can! Running down the clock can only be stopped by extending the deadline. Then the other options – general election, referendum, citizens’ assemblies, etc. – become worth discussing.
This was made clear in a letter to the Guardian on 16th January signed by notables including John Palmer ex Guardian European editor – and myself. It had no impact whatsoever. Yet if there is no extension Britain is heading for a bungee jump with no bungee. Perhaps the promised March 23rd demo could be a lever, but so far there is no sign Millbank has understood that the PV campaign has to be put on the back burner and an Extension put on the front of the political hob. It is now essential this happens.