The Conservative Party have cast the country into chaos as ministers jump ship and hard-line Brexiteers threaten Theresa May’s leadership as they claim to represent the will of the people. On Thursday, Conservative MPs began to criticise May’s Brexit deal on the basis that it wasn’t what the people voted for. This is abundantly wrong.
Vote Leave was the official campaign for the leave vote, so let’s look at their promises to see what the people voted for and compare them to May’s Brexit deal. On Vote Leave’s official website, the organisation promises:
We will be able to save £350m a week and spend the money on priorities such as the NHS, schools, and housing.
We’ll be in charge of our own borders.
We can control immigration.
We’ll be free to trade with the whole world.
We can make our own laws.
To compare, here are the key points from May’s Brexit Deal:
An Irish Border Backstop and the creation of a single customs territory between the EU and the UK which includes all goods apart from fishery products. This agreement will be in place until 2020.
The end of freedom of movement. However, visa free travel to EU countries will continue and the rights of existing EU citizens in the UK have been guaranteed.
A transitional period which will end by December 2020. This period can be extended, but during this period the UK will remain apart of the Customs union and Single Market.
Although the figure for the NHS, schools and housing has been scrutinised and ridiculed, Theresa May has delivered upon the crucial promises from the Vote Leave campaign.
Immigration has been acknowledged to have been a key factor in the vote to leave the EU and ending freedom of movement delivers upon this promise. Although the UK will remain in a single customs territory with the EU for a transitional period of time, this can be re-negotiated and therefore May has ‘taken back control’ of Britain’s borders.
Avid supporters of Brexit will be seething at the thought of a future trade deal with the EU, however, we are not bound to only trade with the EU. A trade deal does not stop the UK from exploring additional trade deals elsewhere but, as neighbours, we should also be trading with the rest of Europe.
Furthermore, after leaving the EU, the UK will not have to adopt EU directives. Therefore, May has delivered on this promise. Overall, the evidence here suggests that Theresa May has indeed delivered a Brexit deal which the country voted for.
So why then have ministers, including Dominic Raab and Esther McVey, resigned on the basis that this the deal is not what the country voted for? Also, why have MPs such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Peter Bone claimed that this not the deal the country voted for when she has delivered upon Vote Leave’s promises.
The referendum and the issue of the European Question will be remembered as the expansion of a Conservative conflict into the public realm. Conservatives do not have a consensus on a Brexit Deal and never have. Indeed, factions within the party are trying to push their ideological agenda onto the public and claiming it’s what they voted for.
Resigning ministers are trying to save their careers from association with an unpopular Brexit deal as the hard-line Brexiteers try to take control of not only the Tory party but of the Brexit agenda and the narrative surrounding it. The Conservative Party has cast the country into chaos by airing its dirty laundry in public.
We must continue with Brexit for the sake of democracy and for the integrity of referenda. However, for the sake of the country, we cannot allow the Conservative’s caucus of hard-line Eurosceptics to claim to represent the will of the people. The prime minister must put her proposal to a general election or step aside and allow her challengers to put their proposal to the people against Labour’s Brexit plan.