Brexit – can we put together a cross-party negotiating team?

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June 13, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith

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Theresa May went to the country to ask for a mandate for her vision of Brexit. Despite the referendum ballot paper saying only ‘remain’ or ‘leave’, she had decided the will of the people was to withdraw from the single market and the customs union, and to somehow cap net migration at under 100,000. Having asked for that mandate, she wasn’t given it. Therefore she may be back in power, but she lacks the authority and the legitimacy to represent the country on her own.

Instead, a way forward is for the Government to lead the negotiations, which are scheduled to start on June 19th,  but to put together a ‘sounding board’ consisting of senior parliamentarians from across the political parties as well as adding senior figures from agriculture and business, whose fortunes these decisions affect the most.

Alistair Burt, a Tory MP who was once a Foreign Office minister, has suggested that such a cross-party convention would “demonstrate to the EU that what had seemed a weakened position, with the loss of a majority, had been transformed into a stronger position, in which a sense of national endeavour was shown in the degree of agreement for its position. Doing this would enable the government to move forward with its timetable, with a sense of backing from public and parliament.”

Burt was given support by Yvette Cooper, a Labour MP, who said that “this is the biggest issue for our country for a generation and if the deal is going to be sustainable it needs cross-party support and a broad consensus behind it….you need to include people with different ideas to get the best deal and widest support.” Cooper talked of how impossible it will be to drive through the many bills needed to achieve Brexit. She added: “We should set up a small cross-party commission to conduct the negotiations, and have a clear and transparent process to build consensus behind the final deal.”

The question is, will our current politicians be able to understand that Brexit is not an issue in which narrow political positioning is appropriate. For instance, imagine if the Brexit negotiations were agreed and then carried out by David Davis, Sir Keir Starmer, Nick Clegg and Angus Robertson. The latter two lost their seats so must be available to represent groups in the UK who need to have input. Imagine those four coming to an agreement on what is possible going forward then being able to say to the EU that whatever they are asking for can definitely be delivered by Parliament, which Theresa May cannot say right now.

Brexit provides a political challenge different from any in the UK’s history. It is the biggest political challenge since the Second World War. Can our Parliamentarians put aside their differences and work together? We need them to try.

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