No, it’s merely the opinion of the Prime Minister. Cabinet decision-making has been suspended.
In a thoughtful article in yesterday’s Telegraph, the redoubtable Kate Hoey MP argues that since collective Cabinet Responsibility has been set aside for the referendum, there can be no “government policy” one way or the other. We merely have the personal opinion of the Prime Minister and some of his ministerial colleagues to go on. This is a subtle constitutional point, and I don’t want to venture an opinion. But it is scandalous that Cameron has got the Civil Service to campaign, in effect, on one side of this great issue. We The People see our taxes and our resources devoted to an attempt to deny us independence and democracy. Shameful.
Better deal? Second referendum?
The Rt. Hon. William Hague – the former eurosceptic – writes a thoughtful article in yesterday’s Telegraph, asking “What are the chances of a better deal after voting Out? Zero”.
He’s right. And utterly wrong.
Various people have discussed the possibility of pursuing further negotiations with the EU after a Leave vote. But Hague is insisting that this is impossible. Of course his message really means: “Understand that Brexit is a one-way street – there’s no way back. Be afraid – be very afraid”. Personally, after voting to leave, there’s no way I’d want to come back. But some regard an initial “Leave” vote as a mere negotiating tactic. Dominic Cummings of Vote Leave has suggested it.
The EU institutions are following the Hague line, in a clear attempt to frighten the undecided by stressing the finality of the decision, and thus to ensure a “Stay” outcome. But the precedents are all against them. Again and again, when EU member-states vote the “wrong” way, Brussels insists they vote again, until they get the right answer. I’ve heard this described as “biased finality”. If you vote the “right” way, there’s no way you’ll ever get a second vote.
My fear is not that we won’t have a way back. Rather, I fear that after a “Leave” vote, we’ll be pressed to change our minds. We’ll find Cameron saying “Clearly my deal was not good enough for the British people. I’ve listened. I’ve got the message. I accept that now. So I’ll go and get a better deal”. And we must not underestimate what a huge blow Brexit will be to Brussels. Whatever they say now, I have no doubt that they’ll try every subterfuge and blandishment to persuade us to change our minds, and to get a second referendum.
People sometimes ask me what will be the point of UKIP after a “Leave” vote. Clearly our first task will be to keep the government honest, and to insist that Leave means Leave.
But there will certainly be new negotiations after a Leave vote. Not to find a way to keep us in the EU, but to agree the terms on which we leave, and the terms on which we subsequently trade with the rump-EU. And as I have argued in this column on previous days, there will be overwhelming economic and industrial pressure on the European Commission to reach a timely and favourable trade deal.
So I’m sorry, William, but you’re wrong. The chances of a better deal with the EU after a Leave vote are not zero. They are 100%. And it won’t be EU membership – of any kind. It’ll be a free Trade Agreement, pure and simple.
Roger Helmer MEP East Midlands UKIP