Last June the people gave their verdict in a vote that attracted the highest turnout for a quarter of a century. More people voted for Brexit than for anything in British democratic history, ever.
So even though the Supreme Court judges have, as many predicted, ruled that Ministers need an Act of Parliament before they fire the Article 50 starting gun for leaving the EU, we can’t let that stop us, or slow us down, from delivering the referendum decision. Ministers should start fast-track legislation to deliver an Act within days, to get things underway.
The draft Act should be short and sweet, so renegade Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs or Peers can’t hold it hostage with amendments to delay or frustrate the process. Assuming it is, then with any luck the Bill should sail through Parliament. The Lib Dems are, I’m afraid, irreconcilably determined to ignore the referendum result, but almost everyone else has decided they believe in democracy first and foremost, and are willing to support Brexit no matter which side they were on before June 23rd last year. Jeremy Corbyn says the Labour Party will respect the referendum decision, and MPs have already voted to trigger Article 50 by the end of March by 461 votes to 89 – a thumping majority by any standards.
The only question mark hangs over the House of Lords but, given the scale of that Commons vote, they’d be mad to defy such a clear view from the democratically-elected Chamber.
Of course there are different views on what an EU exit should look like. Brexit gives us a big, broad opportunity; a moment when we can and should think more deeply about other, fundamental issues for the UK’s future, which we haven’t needed to confront during the 40 years we’ve spent under the EU’s umbrella. The Prime Minister’s speech last week started that process, by outlining why we have to leave the single market if we’re going to escape from the clutches of EU judges.
But she also painted a brightly-coloured, attractive picture of an alternative world where an open and international Britain trades freely with Europe and the rest of the world instead. Refining and developing her vision will take time and effort, which is precisely why I set up my All Party Group on Best Brexit, so we can move on from the bad blood and divisions of ‘Leave’ versus ‘Remain’, and start to think constructively about a shared future where we cut out the political slogans and start establishing what the UK’s Best Brexit will look like. Not on the basis of ideology, or tribal purity, but based on what delivers the most jobs, security and wealth for the UK as a whole.
It’s the only way we will heal our divided society, and bring the country back together too.