Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP
Two years ago, a few days before the vote to begin the Article 50 process, I warned that triggering it without a plan would go down in history as one of the most devastating acts of negligence since the Charge of the Light Brigade. The vanity and incompetence that I warned of then has now caused the worst breakdown of Westminster politics in my lifetime. And it’s far from over.
The leaders of the two biggest parties both ignored our warnings and short-sightedly whipped their MPs to take a leap into the Brexit abyss. Both parties were clouded by an obsession with chasing the Leave vote above all else and couldn’t see the contradictions in their promises.
If the situation weren’t so serious, I would perhaps say ‘I told you so’ and celebrate the implosion of the British state. After all, the end of the United Kingdom now seems all but inevitable, with Irish Unity and Scottish independence more realistic than ever.
But there is nothing to celebrate in this chaos. Wales’s economy is already suffering due to the uncertainty, and every possible outcome will see Wales worse off as opposed to remaining in the EU.
Brexit has shown us that the Westminster system is incapable to deal with questions of this magnitude. Its archaic traditions and arcane procedures belong to an era where Britain could bully its way to get what it wanted on the international stage; not to the modern age, where cooperation and compromise are a requirement for good governance.
Along with vanity and incompetence, the Prime Minister embodies the worst of all the traits that define Westminster politics – exceptionalism, intransigence and arrogance.
It is the British exceptionalism that runs through the veins of the Westminster political system that drove her into believing that the EU would bend the rules of the Single Market just for Britain, despite the EU making clear from the outset that this was simply not an option.
Theresa May’s obstinacy has led her to bring back that awful deal time and time again, failing to accept that is dead in the water.
Uninterested in seeking compromise with colleagues from different parties throughout this process, arrogantly the Prime Minister has ploughed on. Two years ago, before Article 50 was the hottest topic in town, we told the Prime Minister that her red lines would lead us to this impasse.
This wasn’t thanks to a crystal ball, just basic logic.
Any opposition party could only dream of such an inept government to be its adversary. Yet, the leader of the Labour Party has shown exactly the same traits that are symptomatic of the Westminster state of mind.
He has refused to show leadership on the defining question of the age. His ideological opposition to full Single Market membership makes his red lines just as rigid as the Prime Minister’s. And grown-up politics is what we need, but is as far as from what we can expect from Mr Corbyn. Just a couple of weeks ago, he recently couldn’t bring himself to be in the same room as an MP who had left his party and so walked out of a cross-party meeting.
And even up to this very late stage of the game he still shares the same fantasy that derives from British exceptionalism – that the EU would somehow allow good old Blighty to cherry-pick at the fundamentals of the Single Market through retaining full access without accepting freedom of movement.
In following this path, he has let down millions of EU citizens, whose livelihoods in the UK are still in limbo.
Both Corbyn and May have taken the people of Wales for fools, but after the most chaotic March in memory, they are the ultimate April fools.
Through this chaos, Plaid Cymru has been working with Members from across the House to find a way to solve this crisis.
For example, since January, we have been arguing for a voting system in the House of Commons that could find a positive outcome around which MPs could unite. Alternative Voting is one way of achieving that ambition, where Members would rank the options before them in order of preference, thereby knocking off the least popular options until the House arrives at a conclusion.
Westminster now must take a moment of reflection. It is not a coincidence that both main leaders are incapable of solving this parliamentary headache, as it is the structures and culture of Westminster that has led us to this chaos.
We must now take it back to the people. Let us have a People’s Vote.
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