It is never easy to follow the detail of parliamentary process, but the big picture at the end of this week is clear.
The government twice agreed a basis for Parliament to have a “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal, and twice it reneged on the agreement.
On Wednesday the Prime Minister reached agreement with the Tory rebels and then said that no promises had been made. On Thursday the Solicitor General agreed the terms of an amendment, and then changed the text following the agreement.
Leaving aside questions of good faith, the important point at issue is whether MPs hold the government to account, or whether the 2016 referendum allows ministers to claim they answer to a higher authority. The right answer is clear – parliament must assert its authority.
One by one, as they focus on the consequences of leaving the single market and the customs union, ministers are concluding that if Britain were to leave the EU it would need the closest future possible relationship. That is hardly a great insight, but it is only reconcilable with Brexit if we accept the status of a vassal state – an arrangement under which we accept rules made in Brussels but lose any opportunity to influence them.
If we leave the EU we can do so in one of two ways; we can rely on our sovereignty and accept new barriers to our trading and other relationships with our closest partners, or we can avoid new barriers and become a vassal state.
The “have cake and eat it” option is being exposed for what it always was – a fantasy. Those who advocate Brexit must make a choice and there is virtually no-one is prepared to defend either option.
In the coming months it will become increasingly clear that it doesn’t matter which way people voted in 2016; among “Leavers” and “Remainers” alike there is a developing majority which rejects the future which ministers offer.
Reduced status, reduced rights, reduced prospects. It is a Bad Deal.
Which is why the European Movement has joined with others in the campaign for a People’s Vote.
We don’t have to accept our fate. There is no inevitability. And it is certainly not justified by the 2016 referendum.
At this stage the key is for Parliament to insist on its right to defend our interests at the end of the negotiations. Ministers cannot be allowed to claim that the referendum exempts them from the requirement to submit themselves to Parliament; they are accountable to Parliament and it is for Parliament to reassert that principle.
Having done so, it will then be for Parliament to insist that the decision must be made by a People’s Vote.
The next key action is the People’s Vote March at Westminster next Saturday 23rd June.
Please come and help us reclaim our future.
Chair of European Movement UK and former Conservative Minister