Next week could see the finale of the Brexit pantomime that has blighted our national life for two years. The House of Commons could pass the Withdrawal Agreement (Deal) on Tuesday 12th March. It could.
If it does, then the UK would leave the EU on 29th March (or shortly thereafter) with a transition arrangement for nearly two years during which time all businesses and other sectors can get used to the new arrangements. Everything that needs to be resolved in terms of our departure is covered in the Deal. During the transition period a new Free Trade agreement with the EU can be negotiated, using the framework already negotiated as its guidelines. We would then have two months of heavy legislation to make the final leaving arrangements. After which the Parliament could start talking about and legislating for other important matters which require attention.
In other words, if the Deal is passed we could quickly return to a sense of normality and run the country properly.
If the Deal is not passed on 12th March, the next day we will vote on whether to have a No-Deal exit or not. This would be heavily defeated. Then on 14thParliament would be asked to vote on a 3-month delay to Brexit whilst we tried to sort out a new way forward. The EU have made it clear that they would only consent to a delay if there was a legitimate reason.
I see no advantage in delay. What would change? It is likely that the way out of this logjam would be some kind of compromise that the Deal would pass subject to it being approved in a confirmatory referendum, which would probably ask: the Deal or remain? Anecdotally, that might lead to support for the Deal, but we have to remember that one million voters have died of old age since 2016 and 1.2 million young people have joined the electoral register. If it is true that the vast majority of younger voters would prefer to remain, I think any fresh referendum might surprise people.
If there is no Brexit, our politics will be scarred for a decade or more.
So when we wake up on Tuesday March 12th, we will be staring at a dramatic crossroads. One way leads to a return to sensible democratic politics – the other into completely unknown territory but likely to include much chaos.
I will be voting for the Deal.