In a situation where damage to our social and political fabric has now become even more of a threat than the actual issue which has divided the country for too many years, the question of “damage limitation” becomes paramount. But making a profoundly important decision simply because one is frustrated by the length of debate solves nothing. Nevertheless, it has become clear that constant deadline threats have become part of the tension-escalating process.
Revoking an ill-considered decision (that of invoking Article 50) would remove these deadlines, yet not pre-empt a later decision - or a compromise - over time. Part of the merit of democracy is that it allows people to change their minds: - “to throw the rascals out” as we often have, and that’s why we have regular elections.
Referenda are no different; after over three years, people may indeed change their minds! For one thing, it’s a different electorate than in June, 20l6 – and the demographics are a factor, with a cohort of new, younger voters registering and a million or more senior ones departed from the rolls to meet their maker.
Of course a “Peoples’ Vote” alone will not end the debate, or solve the issue – even less an election, and both could be socially divisive and damaging. Of all the options an immediate Parliamentary Revocation is far better than further extensions. This is simply because it allows all options to be debated calmly without “cliff-edges” and ultimatums; more talk of “surrenders” and “defeats”.
We undeniably know more than we did in 20l6, even if the divisions are as deep – even deeper. But a parliamentary decision to revoke now is just that – it is not a public nationwide civil confrontation stoked by media and ideologues.
As Ken Clarke has shrewdly pointed out, numerous time in the Commons, it does not prevent a new parliament from eventually applying again to leave the EU - with a proposal ,or to promote a programme of reforms in the EU - or with prior concessions (as David Cameron sought) in order for us to remain in.
Above all, it would allow the domestic social programme of reforms so desperately needed to proceed now as the priority: if there is to be a compromise, and a healing process, it means that when an election or second referendum, or both, occur, a qualified withdrawal or qualified remain can be couched in terms of the political consensus – not pandering to extremes.