Dear Members of Parliament,
Your three years of torturous work have brought you to an unwanted conclusion: that Brexit will not happen. The balance of opinion in Parliament is that, given the referendum, you should deliver Brexit. Your conclusion, then, is not because Brexit is undesirable, but in spite of it being desirable. You have not yet articulated this conclusion in clear language, a difficult step to take, but this is where your deliberations have come to. The European elections, pushing the country and Parliament deeper into division, should be the catalyst.
There are two ways to Brexit. One is that Britain leaves the EU on WTO terms. You have considered this very carefully, on several occasions, and decided it is not possible. Parliament is not going to vote to cut British people’s standard of living. This door is shut.
The other way is with a deal. Here, you have looked behind every leaf and turned over every stone, and found no avenue. The reason, not easily visible behind the Parliamentary fog, is that no deal is available – Mrs. May’s deal, Labour’s customs union, Norway plus, whatever – that does not mean Parliament demoting itself to a rule-taker. It is not possible for Britain’s ancient Parliament to commit to abiding by laws that Britain has had no share in making. This door cannot be opened.
In the process, serious costs have incurred to our political system. Britain’s constitution has been steadily deteriorating. The bond of trust between Parliament, people and government is broken. It is often argued that unless this or that is done, people will never trust Parliament again. Too late, ladies and gentlemen, the damage has already been done.
The second cost is that the Union of the United Kingdom is falling apart. Scottish nationalists, exploiting the constitutional void, are pressing for a second round on independence. As things stand, they will now win it – and the United Kingdom will be no more.
Parliament does not want to sit by and see the constitution break down, the country being ungoverned, and the union fall apart, but has not been able to arrest the downward spiral. That, Members of Parliament, you must now do. When the nation is deeply divided, it falls on Parliament to decide. When procrastination means more damage, it falls on Parliament to act.
Many of you, probably a majority, are coming to the view that if Parliament cannot decide on a Brexit solution, there should be a second referendum. Better that you untie the knot yourself; better for the country, better for the constitution, better for Parliament. Very difficult, of course, but much better.
The first step is to articulate the conclusion that Brexit has come to a dead end because it cannot happen. This will be painful but it has to be done. The more you wait, the deeper the damage and the more the pain.
The second step is to recognise that the country is in a crisis that politics as usual is unable to resolve. This we see before our eyes every day; the country is not being governed. A new party government under a new prime minister, and the paralysis persists. You should now form a temporary caretaker coalition government. This government, under the leadership of none of the party leaders and composed of middle of the road MPs from both sides, should be tasked with getting the wheels of government turning again, recalling Article 50, re-establishing relations with the EU, and preparing for a general election next year.
Yours respectfully, Professor Stein Ringen, King’s College London