Exit from Brexit

Browse By

An important indicator of Theresa May’s personal position on Brexit are her answers to the not-so-difficult question of how she would vote if the referendum was held today. She declines to say.

Ever since the B-word emerged from Teutonic depths, both May and her Chancellor, Philip Hammond, have been careful not to commit themselves: the first rule of politics is not to be at the front of a Gadarene swine. However, with Brexit it has been difficult to know in what direction the swine have been heading.

May knows that Brexit is bad for Britain, but she daren’t say it. She also knows that the best terms that she will be offered are going to be awful and on top of all that she knows that the mood in Britain is increasingly anti-Brexit. But her party isn’t ready to retreat and she’s desperately hoping that someone else will emerge to take the blame for the inevitable volte-face. Like Mr Micawber she just hopes that something will turn up.

If I was Jeremy Corbyn I’d abandon the PMQ nonsense of asking questions from Gladys in Gateshead and keep going for Theresa’s jugular. Every Thursday I’d ask her how she’d vote. And I’d ask it again and again and again.

Until a few weeks ago Corbyn couldn’t have taken that line in case someone asked him the same question; but increasingly he’s moved away from years of bloody-minded opposition to the Brussels gravy-train and increasingly he’s accepted that the future of the Labour Party lies in a social democratic European model and with his young and fervently anti-Brexit supporters, not the traditional old guard, increasingly out of kilter with modern Labour.

A hundred years from now Brexit may well be seen as a crucial turning point – but not for the reasons that worry us today. When the dust finally settles, it could be the moment that Britain finally puts away its little England mentality, embraces Europe and accepts a joint destiny with our neighbours. It could also be remembered as an epiphany for the Labour Party, when the left finally abandons the shackles of traditional class divisions and leads Britain into a truly democratic and equitable future.

But first we have to accept that we are on the brink of a calamitous mistake and sound the retreat. If Theresa May isn’t willing to do it then she must give up now and hand over to someone who will.