A deal is still the best way forward

A deal is still the best way forward.  A no-deal Brexit would threaten the United Kingdom itself.  Scotland is more likely to break free. Northern Ireland, if it hasn't fallen back into the chaos of the "troubles", will likely seek closer ties with the Republic.

Boris's substitute for the backstop would hand control of our relationship with the EU to the Northern Ireland assembly, which in any event is currently suspended.  But at least it acknowledges the need for a deal, even if it is a cynical ploy to put the blame for rejection on the EU.  

We could say "so what!" to all this. Let the United Kingdom break-up. But this was surely not what the EU referendum was about.   None of us voted for a constitutional crisis.  Yet, we are in the midst of one. 

We are forever told that the United Kingdom voted "as a whole". Nothing could be further from the truth. There was nothing "whole" about it.   We are now a fragmenting country, where populists take advantage of a disillusioned and angry electorate.

Now is not the time for a Little England, nationalist mentality. The referendum was not about the constitutional arrangement in the United Kingdom. It was about UK membership of the EU. 

Now, we need a sensible approach to getting a workable deal that should be put back to the people.   We need a strategy that heals and unites us,  not one that divides and alienates us.  It is time for a constitutional convention bringing all parties together to discuss the future of the United Kingdom.  

Some Brexiters simply say that "we voted out", and the "leave means leave."  Indeed, that is so, and parliament should be seeking to honour their commitment to that vote. But to do that there needs to be a deal. Our arrangement with the EU needs to be sorted properly, and not by crashing out without a deal. 

Because of the economic impact, the impact on the peace process,  and on the United Kingdom, the people must be given the final say on any deal negotiated with the EU.   Politicians must take heed not only of the overall majority but also that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted in large numbers to remain.  Our Kingdom is divided.   We should talk about the "will of the peoples" rather than "people".  Ignoring the aspirations of the nations that form the United Kingdom is risking the integrity of the country.  

This was recognised initially by Theresa May in talks she had with the First Ministers. Sadly this approach was not followed through because any thought of compromise was cast aside.  For Mrs May, it became her way or no way. 

We need to be sensible about the way forward. It serves nobody's interests to crash the economy, break up the United Kingdom and harm the fragile peace in Northern Ireland. 

Hard Remainers need to take stock too. They must stop using the difficulty of finding a deal as a way to undermine Brexit. We must stop the entrenched "winner takes all" strategy on both sides.   All the main parties said they would accept the result of the referendum, and all parties campaigned on manifestos to get a deal for Brexit. 

The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy. It doesn't merely decide matters by plebiscite. All parties in parliament have a duty to seek compromise and a negotiated deal for Brexit. 

That does not mean the case for Remaining in the EU should not be made. But it is better made in the light of the kind of deal for leaving that is workable, and then the people can decide what they want. 

The problem with the 2016 referendum was that it was not an informed choice.  No work had been done to assess the consequences or to provide a road map for leaving.   The assumption was that a majority would vote to remain.   It was the height of irresponsibility for Cameron to call a referendum in such circumstances.  By Cameron's account,  even Boris Johnson believed Remain would win. 

So, the assumption was that "it would be alright on the night."   Only when panic set in did the then Prime Minister give a shambolic account of the economic consequences.   Few gave any principled reasons for staying.  Few argued the benefits of EU membership.   It was as if the case had been conceded.  

Only after the result did people mobilise to remain.  It became a cause; and Remainers and Brexiters got out their spades and started digging in, entrenching so that compromise would be impossible.  Then, the result of the 2017 general election made parliamentary arithmetic difficult for both sides.   That arithmetic required politicians to compromise and work together just as they started to dig in. 

If Boris Johnson is unwilling to negotiate a deal, then he should be removed, and a caretaker government installed to ensure that time is available for that process, and a general election should be held to elect a parliament representative of the current electorate. 

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