The Queen’s Call on the Need for Common Ground

by Simon Allison

The Queen’s call this week for the country to find “common ground” has widely been interpreted as a comment on the current Brexit mess. Some commentators have decided it is an unwelcome hint to row in behind Theresa May’s deal and have gone out of their way to tell the Queen to mind her own business.

Simon Allison, Chairman of Conservatives for a People’s Vote

I respectfully disagree.  The Royal Family isn’t left with a very substantial role in the unwritten British constitution but it does still have the right “to encourage and to warn”.  Above all, the Queen is a symbol of the unity of our country, rising above the fray, in sharp contrast to the shabby politicking of Donald Trump.

Looking out over her Disunited Kingdom, Her Majesty has every reason to feel concern.

The 2016 Referendum was highly divisive.  It was won by only a narrow margin by the side which lied, cheated on the rules and was run by admirers of the country’s #1 enemy, Vladimir Putin, who may well have intervened in the campaign both financially and in more hidden ways.

Since then, the divisions have widened and the wound isn’t healing.  Voters in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all say they believe that Brexit makes their nations more likely to abandon the UK.  Brexit thus threatens the viability of the Realm over which the Queen reigns. The government’s negotiations have been a disaster and it has suffered the biggest defeat in Parliament by any ruling administration, ever. That’s not just a minor inconvenience, as Theresa May seems to think, but a catastrophe, with the clock ticking down to a train Wrexit.

So, the Queen’s comment is relevant, timely and correct.  We need to find a way to get through this without descending into acrimony or violence, in word and deed.  The latter is not necessarily a given, with several Tory MPs now under police guard after receiving credible death threats and some Leave-advocates actively using the threat of mass violence in order to threaten the Commons.

But what did the Queen really mean by “common ground”?  As with most coded royal comments it is ambiguous enough to be widely open to interpretation.  The royals are well advised and politically cautious, so the idea that she is really calling on MPs to unite around the most heavily defeated proposal in British history is, well, a bit far-fetched.

The Queen has seen a lot of changes in her life and has had to swing with the punches. Flexibility is what’s kept the Family in place for hundreds of years; a very visible difference from the tunnel-visioned occupant of No 10 who keeps on going regardless of whether anyone wants her to.

If we are to find Common Ground, it isn’t around Theresa May’s deal.  So, where is it?  As with all these problems, it is easiest to focus on eliminating the moving pieces.  We know that the vast majority of MPs (probably 85% or more) and around 70% of the population (as well as the virtual entirely of British business) don’t want the No Deal Wrexit.  A similar proportion don’t like the messy compromises and vassal state-us of the May deal.  Neither of these can possibly form the basis for Common Ground..If we are to find Common Ground, it isn’t around Theresa May’s deal.  So, where is it?  As with all these problems, it is easiest to focus on eliminating the moving pieces.  We know that the vast majority of MPs (probably 85% or more) and around 70% of the population (as well as the virtual entirely of British business) don’t want the No Deal Wrexit.  A similar proportion don’t like the messy compromises and vassal state-us of the May deal.  Neither of these can possibly form the basis for Common Ground.

That leaves us with several other options:  Canada+ (essentially, full third-party status with regards to the EU – though that will not resolve the Irish border problem); Norway+ (essentially an EEA/EFTA solution which doesn’t solve the vassal state issue) and staying in the EU.

The problem is that none of these commands a majority in Parliament either.  Canada is unlikely to do so at any time soon with nearly all of Labour, a significant portion of the Conservative Party and all the other MPs except the DUP against it.  Norway has some momentum, but is unlikely to win support in the country given that it keeps free movement (a bugbear for many of those who want to quit the EU), doesn’t give us the (dubious) benefit of freedom to sign trade deals on our own; and takes away a major benefit of membership, the ability to frame the rules under which the EU works.

Staying in the EU, in contrast, does have majority support in the country and has done in the polls for a year or more. It also enjoys a majority in Parliament, though the implacable opposition of the May-byn axis is preventing that being heard.

So we are stuck.  That’s why more and more MPs are falling behind the idea of a Final Say referendum which could bring closure to the grief-ridden process upon which we have embarked.

And it’s not actually that complicated. Parliament can decide which of the multi-coloured dream-coat options for Brexit it supports – Norway, Canada or the Wrexit of no deal at all.  It can put that to the country in a ballot versus the option of staying in.

For sure, both sides would accept the result because both sides would see that the people have voted, unlike in 2016, based on informed consent.

It is not a perfect solution – but we are with Her Majesty – let us come together, as we always do, and find common ground through the ballot box.

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Simon Allison is the chairman of Conservatives for a People’s Vote. This is an edited version of an article published on the Citizens For Britain website.

Open Letter: Conservatives urge MPs to ask the Public for Informed Consent on Brexit

We, the undersigned councillors, officers and representatives of Conservative grassroots organisations, past and present, have grave concerns about the direction our country is headed due to Brexit.

More than two and a half years since the EU referendum, Brexit continues to overshadow all other policy matters. Despite tireless work by the PM and civil service, the promised effortless transition to life outside the EU is not even on the horizon.

As March 29 rapidly approaches, any consensus over what should replace the current arrangement we have with our European neighbours remains elusive. The proposed deal by HMG is rejected both by Eurosceptics as well as those who wish to retain a leading role for the UK in the EU.
The prospect of crashing out of the EU with a reckless No Deal Brexit is clearly against the national interest.

We believe that there has to be another choice. We urge MPs to back the increasing calls for informed consent to be sought from the people, so Britain can either reaffirm its decision to leave the EU with a clearly defined vision for the future, or pull back from a course that could be highly detrimental to the country we all love.

As Conservatives this is not our preferred course of action. As believers in representative democracy we are generally not well disposed to the use of plebiscites and believe that the 2016 referendum was
extremely damaging, worsening divisions rather than settling them. The policy of leaving the EU at all costs obscures the underlying issues which led to the vote. Instead of addressing those issues we are in danger of exacerbating them by continuing on the present course.

Since June 2016 Britons have learned a lot about what is at stake in leaving the EU. Opinion has shifted significantly as people see the damage not just to our economy, but to social cohesion, security and our health service.

We ask you to put it back to the British people one more time.

Signatories

1. Cllr Paul Bettison – Leader, Bracknell Forest Borough Council, Berkshire
2. Cllr Richard Cherry – District and Town Councillor, Burgess Hill, Mid Sussex
3. Cllr Christine Cherry – Town Councillor, St Andrews, Burgess Hill, Mid Sussex
4. Cllr Luke Clancy – Croydon Council, London
5. Cllr Matt Clare – Eltham South, Greenwich
6. Cllr Charlie Davis – Eltham North, Greenwich
7. Cllr Samantha England – Sprowston South East and Deputy Chair Political, Norwich North, Norfolk
8. Cllr Julian Gren, North Ward, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
9. Cllr Peter Heydon – Executive Member Transformation & Finance, Bracknell Forest Council, Berkshire
10. Cllr John Keeling MBE – Breage, Germoe and Sithney, Cornwall
11. Cllr Stephanos Ioannou – Southgate, Enfield, London
12. Cllr Hannah Lerego – East Ward, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
13. Cllr Roger Mace – Deputy Leader of Conservative Group, Lancaster City Council, fmr Council Leader 2007-2009, Lancashire
14. Cllr Paul Messenger – Kent County Council, Ramsgate Division, Kent
15. Cllr Richard Micklewright – Ravensthorpe, Daventry, Northamptonshire
16. Cllr Tracy Moore – Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Kent
17. Cllr Peter Rawlinson – South Northamptonshire Council, Northamptonshire
18. Cllr Daniel Sargeant – Finchampstead North,  Wokingham, Berkshire
19. Cllr Adam Sykes – Clatterbridge, Wirral, Merseyside
20. Paul Verity, District Council Candidate, St Albans, Hertfordshire
21. Julian Tanner – Chair, Brentford & Isleworth Conservatives, London
22.James Terras – fmr Chair, Selkirk Conservatives Club, Selkirk, Scotland
23. Daian Akand – fmr Deputy Chaie, Young Conservatives Bermondsey & Old Southwark, London
24. Harry Bower – Student representative and fmr committee member, Oxford Brookes Conservative Association, Oxfordshire
25. Emmanuel Jannsen – Chairman, King’s College London Conservative Association, London
26. Tom Hulme – Political Secretary, Lincoln University Conservative Society, Lincolnshire
27. Liam Pem – Chair, Young Conservatives Lambeth, London
28.Charley Jarrett – Executive Council Member, LGBT Conservatives, London
29. Nicolas Maclean – fmr councillor, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea 1979-90, Political Assistant to Rt Hon Margaret Thatcher MP, 1975-90
30. Rob Stanton – Former Mayor of Wokingham, Berkshire
31. Mohammed Amin, Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, signing in a personal capacity