Go back to your homes and prepare to vote – Cox's codpiece has left Brexit exposed and a second referendum is now inevitable
Here was I thinking old Coxy was a tame old mutt who’d do anything for a chocolate drop. Instead he has lit a fire under our Final Say campaign
The codpiece has spoken. Barked, even. Geoffrey Cox, our voluble, Rumpole-esque attorney general, has killed Brexit. We should, for a moment, pause and reflect how lucky we are to have a politico-legal system that can allow for such independence of mind and thought and action.
And here was I thinking that old Coxy was just a tame old mutt who’d do anything for a chocolate drop. The knighthood may not be in the post.
What next? In quick order, the now foregone conclusion of tonight’s meaningful vote, then “no deal” will be ruled out, and an extension to Article 50 approved by the commons.
That’s this week’s emergency surgery dealt with. We might then move on to a series of “indicative" votes in the Commons to determine what MPs want. I suspect, like most of these exercises, it would reveal more about what they do not want than what they actually desire.
Let us face facts again. Parliament is deadlocked and has been for months, if not ever since the referendum of 2016 (if anyone cared to probe). Parliament, in other words cannot legislate, and the government cannot get its business through the Commons. Political crisis. Leadership crisis. Brexit crisis – all in one triple-layered sherry trifle of a mess.
The answer hoves into view once again: a Final Say referendum on the Brexit deal.
Which Brexit deal, though? There is one already that can be placed before the public. It happens that, as we have all forgotten, the UK-EU negotiations were actually completed successfully on 25 November last year. The British prime minister and the heads of 27 other EU governments all agreed on a UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. That has recently been tweaked.
The latest “package” of four components – Withdrawal Agreement, Political Declaration, Interpretative Instrument and Unilateral Declaration – is one that the government and cabinet agree on, and can be put to the people in a referendum, with the option of Remain as the fall-back.
As an alternative we could request from the EU more time – another 21 months, say, on which to negotiate a comprehensive package that also includes the future trade deal. That would fulfil the promise of the likes of David Davis, who as Brexit Secretary said that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. We would then know the entirety of the future relationship with the EU, and not just the divorce bit. That again would be a package requiring democratic assent, because the Commons probably wouldn’t be able to agree on that one either.
So, one way or another, a second referendum is inevitable. It is a practical imperative now as the only route left out of this situation. A general election won’t cut it because we’d probably end up with another hung parliament; people will vote on issues other than the EU; the arguments would not be resolved. A new prime minister would face precisely the same schism in the Tory party and divisions in the Commons.
A Final Say vote is also a moral imperative. It is not a betrayal of the 2016 referendum to have another referendum where people can vote for Brexit again if they want. Democracy cannot be “killed” by more democracy. There’s a march on 23 March to remind everyone as much. See you there.