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Thursday 4 April 2019

Last night, the pro-Remain House of Commons legally bound the government to a long extension of Article 50, opening up the prospect of a long renegotiation along Single Market lines (open borders anyone?) or a second referendum, which Philip Hammond heinously described as a “credible proposition”.

The fact Yvette Cooper managed to get her private member’s bill debated and passed in a single day and against the government – unprecedented in living memory – shows how obsessively Pro-EU and unrepresentative our lawmakers are. And to think, most of them were elected on manifestos pledging to restore British sovereignty.

Theresa May is now required to return to the Commons next week to propose a motion to extend Article 50. Today’s press seem to forget we have already done so, we should have left last week.

Given that Cooper’s bill only passed by a single vote (see which Tories defied the government below), May has a certain amount of latitude to propose a short extension over a long one, a pitch she will repeat a few days later at an emergency European Council summit.

But that’s no reprieve. As argued in yesterday’s Brexit Brunch, the Corbyn-May negotiation towards an even worse deal to break the deadlock is likely to be complicated. Jeremy Corbyn’s preference, the Customs Union is not an off the shelf option, but an ill-considered means of transitioning countries like Turkey into the European Union. It offers access to the EU goods market, but does not apply the three other “freedoms” and therefore contradicts Brussels’ mantra of indivisible access to the Single Market. Britain can certainly join the Customs Union or a re-packaged version of it, needless to say an extremely bad option, but the EU will drag it out, and so will Mr Corbyn. May will therefore probably have to ask for a long extension even without Cooper’s bill. If she doesn’t, the Commons has the power to amend the motion tabled by the prime minister, making it much longer.

Hammond’s intervention is more significant. Up and until now, the Remain campaign looked to be solely geared towards May-esque can kicking until some opportunity or other would enable a second referendum. But another ballot on EU membership is now being presented as a means of breaking the deadlock in parliament. The Remain campaign would turn out anti-establishment rhetoric against us, even though they are the establishment and we fight for the grassroots: “the Commons is corrupt, the only way to solve this mess is by taking the vote back to the people.” Scandalous.

May has failed dismally in trying to get Labour MPs to back her deal. They like the impasse, partly, it has to be said, because it weakens the Tories, but they also overwhelmingly favour a repeat of the 2016 vote. Six pro-Remain Conservative MPs voted against the deal last Friday, they want a second referendum to “solve” the problem too.

Hammond has sought to damage Brexit at every turn so it is easy to forget that he once warned against a second referendum.

At the outset of May’s quest to get parliamentary approval for her deal in December, the chancellor counselled, a second referendum would “fuel a narrative of betrayal”, which it indeed has, simply because it is a betrayal. To now label that option as credible is a spineless turnaround. His approval for an option, which is completely unacceptable on so many levels, hints at an epic capitulation by the government at some point in the not too distant future that will plunge this nation’s current political crisis into absolute chaos.

Corbyn is succumbing to the same slide. He yesterday claimed he’d insisted on a second referendum in his talks at Number 10, but only as a last resort. If May agrees to the Labour leader’s terms, it won’t be necessary.

If we didn’t have the measure of Corbyn, we could put that down as a smart tactic, keeping the Eurofanatics in his party at bay while he pursues his own objective. But we do have his measure, as do his MPs. They will surely twist the knife as these negotiations progress, knowing that Brussels would dearly love the UK to hold another referendum. And on the back of Cooper’s amendment, the pathway is open for Britain’s leader to plead for more time in order to hold another vote.

But if you think all is lost, think again. In this time of great cynicism, it is easy to forget that many ordinary people who voted Remain are decent Britons scared into voting to stay in the EU by David Cameron’s sinister and well-funded tactics. They don’t want to see their nation humiliated by revoking Article 50.

That sentiment is shared by Piers Morgan. No ordinary man, and extremely unpopular with many, nevertheless he makes a fantastic case for becoming a reformed Leaver in the Spectator, having voted Remain.

“I would be so furious at a second referendum happening at all. What’s going on now is a disgrace: a House of Commons packed with Remainer MPs trying everything in its power to reverse the 2016 result or dilute Brexit so much that it ceases to resemble anything that Leavers voted for. I find this assault on our democracy far more sinister than anything that might befall us in the event of a no-deal,” writes Morgan. Spot on.