April 11, 2018 8.33 am This story is over 67 months old

George Smid: When leaving does not make sense

For bad things to happen it is enough if good people do nothing.

The housing market is booming. The mortgage interest rate is low. And your growing family could do with a bit more space. You decide to move.

After a year you find the move is more complicated than you thought – and the house of your dreams still not in sight. Worse, the interest rate is going up, house prices are falling. It will be difficult to sell your current house now. Also, the cost of the removal is going up and up.

Your partner is having his doubts now, your child does not want to leave her friends. You and your child are still keen to move but not in ‘this place’ without transport, or ‘that place’ with a failing school, or to the house all of you liked but needed too much work on it.

Should you leave or should you stay? The family is divided half and half on that issue. The options are: 1) sell the house even if you have nowhere to move and hope for the best; 2) put a limit on the house hunting of one year and only move if you find another house; 3) not to leave, remain, and build an extension to get the extra space you crave for.

How many people you know would go for option one? Risking homelessness? 

Out of their own volition none. Under the circumstances leaving does not make sense.

The family decides to stay put and build an extension. (These days most families extend their house in preference to moving.)

Moving house is a parallel to Brexit. The difference is that with Brexit we will move, we will leave the European Union, even if it does not make sense.

When Brexit ‘happened’ (and there is no better word for it) it was far from conscious decision. We just felt we were constrained in our current house and thought it would be nice to have a bit more space.

Immediately post-referendum the Leavers mobilised the troops to browbeat the public and the parliament into believing that the referendum did not mean Norway, Switzerland or Iceland but rather a complete withdrawal with some suitably attractive ‘opt-ins’.

Last year showed such a deal is not possible. David Davis, our ‘master of negotiations’, who wrote a book on the art of negotiations but somehow did not manage to put it in practice, just accepted what was on offer. For all practical purposes we are staying in the EU until the end of 2020. There should have been an uproar from hard Brexiters.

The Leavers are remarkably quiet and smug. They have a good reason to be. All the Leavers need to do is to do nothing. And the hardest, cliff edge, no-return Brexit will happen by default. 

To stop that we must have a meaningful vote in the parliament. A meaningful vote must have ‘staying in’ as one of the options. Otherwise it is either hard Brexit or hard Brexit. If the choice is only between a soft and hard Brexit the Brexiters have enough votes to torpedo the ‘soft’ option. If the parliament does not approve the ‘soft deal’ there is no time to negotiate a new one – over the cliff edge we go.

But remember we are leaving the EU not because we would hate the Irish, Italians, or Icelanders. We voted to leave EU because of NHS, housing, schooling, social non-services, low wages, immigration. We voted to move because we wanted that extra bit of space.

So, should we leave or should we stay?

Leaving the EU will not solve the resentment why people voted to leave. ‘The easiest trade agreement in history’ will not happen. Irish border will happen. The Leave campaign lied. NHS, housing, schooling, higher wages, potholes on the road, immigration – nothing will improve as a result of us leaving the EU. 

Hence why Parliament should follow the family’s decision: stay in and extend the space. 

And my God extend it we can. If the past turmoil showed us anything, it is that all of the issues of the referendum campaign can be solved within the EU. We can negotiate own overseas trade – Germany’s trade with China is five times that of the UK. We can control immigration – it is the free movement of labour, not people. We can control our waters. We can invest in our NHS whilst an EU member. If we want blue passports we don’t need to leave the EU to get one.

And more: think Bombardier, think steel and aluminium tariffs, think Skripal poisoning. 

‘Leave EU’ has to work out how we leave the EU and betray the referendum. The duty of Remainers is to provide answers how we can stay in the EU and fulfil the referendum.

It is now for the Remainers to become active, promoting alternatives and mobilise the public opinions. If the public opinion changes, the MPs will follow. The discussion about how we can Remain in the EU is as important as the discussion how we can Leave EU.

If you wish to know about Brexit options please come to the venues organised by Lincolnshire European Movement on April 10 in Holbeach and May 25 in Spalding. 

As the saying goes: for bad things to happen it is enough if good people do nothing. Get involved.

George Smid is chair of the European Movement East Midlands.