This article was first published in the Mail on Sunday, 9 July 2017.
Parliament exists to reflect and enact the will of the people – not to subvert it. But amid the heat of high summer, it looks very much as if a plot is underway at Westminster. A plot to stymie the clear, unequivocal wish of the British people to leave the EU, as expressed in last year’s referendum.
And it is, I very much regret to say, a plot that may yet succeed if MPs who truly respect that referendum result allow this conspiracy to proceed. It is also a plot that would cause immeasurable damage to the Conservative Party for a generation, if not for ever.
Now, this may come as a shock to some of my fellow Brexiteers. They may, naively, think that as Theresa May has already invoked Article 50 – the legal trigger beginning the Brexit process – the leaving process is irreversible. We either reach an acceptable deal by March 30th 2019, as I hope and expect, or we don’t. Either way, we’re out – based on legally-prescribed EU procedure – on a fixed date in just under two years’ time.
Game, set and match as the Wimbledon umpires say.
But fanatically pro-EU MPs, both Labour and, I regret to say, misguided Tory ones too, have hatched a cunning plot.
Yes, we will leave the EU at that appointed time but on such ludicrously pro-Brussels terms, that we might as well have stayed exactly where we were.
Still in the Single Market, with all the free movement of people that entails? Tick.
Still locked inside the Customs Union and unable to take advantage of a host of new free-trade deals with the rest of the world? Tick.
Still subject partly or wholly to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice? Tick.
And perhaps most damagingly of all, still having to send billions of British tax-payers’ pounds to Brussels each year? Tick again.
In other words, we will have left but not left. Just like the Hotel California, as rock group Eagles put it. We can check out but we can never leave.
Of course, this deceit on the British people won’t be done in an instant. It will be done over the next 18 months, slowly and gradually. We will be told that this vital interest means we must stay in the Single Market. Or this essential cause means the Customs Union must still apply.
But eventually, the Remainers in both the Commons and the House of Lords – or Referendum Reversers as they are now known – will have successfully pulled the wool over voters and defied the expressed wish of the nation.
Such a subversion of last year’s clear referendum result would shatter the credibility of my party for decades to come. How could we ever promise to honour any election pledge ever again? Who would believe us?
The consequence would be political chaos and, who knows, the sight of Jeremy Corbyn marching into Downing Street at the head of a hard Left Labour government, with all its dire consequences for the country.
But even worse, by overturning the referendum result, we will have rendered the solemn expression of the nation’s wishes null and void. Meaningless. At a stroke, we will have plunged a dagger into democracy’s heart.
Of course, such is the zeal of the Reversers for clinging to Brussels’ apron strings, that such a treason against the British people will be worth it. A price worth paying, in their terms.
As I said, some of my Brexiteer colleagues will find this scenario absurd. Utterly implausible. But its very implausibility is what may bring it to pass unless right-minded MPs are alerted to the danger now.
It is a prospect too nightmarish to contemplate. We must wake up now if we are to prevent it.