If the conjecture surrounding Boris Johnson’s new cabinet eventually turns out to be true, the UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October without a deal. I was initially opposed to a people’s vote. This was primarily down to my aversion to referenda and to my personal opinion that to vote again would create further upheaval. In spite of this, in the run-up to the election of our new Prime Minister, I changed my mind.
In 2016, although the benefits of the ultimate outcome of Brexit were made unequivocally clear, the means of reaching those benefits were not. On both sides of the equation, no plan was drawn up. No one knew how we were going to leave, how long it would take, or what it would entail. It is absolutely arguable that we still don’t. The UK is so deeply entrenched in its relationship with the EU; this divorce will take years to finalise. Yet, somehow, we have a matter of months. If there is to be a move to take the final decision to the people, there is no time to spare, those with the platform to act must not be complacent.
Increasingly, there has been talk of an anti no-deal alliance. A cross-party group of MPs all ready to take down the newly instated government and save the UK from the looming prospect of a no-deal Brexit. We’ve seen some of the alleged key players in this group resign from their posts, in a moment of defiance against the Prime Minister who would gladly see us whisked from the EU without a leg to stand on. Ministerial resignations alone are powerful. Regardless, when they coincide with a bloodbath come cabinet reshuffle, they are simply not enough.
The most movement within the anti no-deal faction has come from the Liberal Democrats. By choosing Jo Swinson as their leader, the party has fielded a worthy opposition to Boris Johnson. Many of the reasons for Johnson’s success stem from his apparent refreshing, anti-establishment, straight-talking persona. If we are to characterise the former Etonian and Bullingdon club veteran as refreshing, then surely Swinson is even more so. The first woman to lead her party, the first person to bring a baby into the chamber, and a politician with a penchant for bright colours and statement earrings – she certainly does not fit the established mould. Formerly a minister in the coalition, Swinson is unafraid of owning her party’s mistakes in government: a real straight talker.
Swinson’s mission is clear: stop Brexit by any means possible. On Friday, less than 48 hours after the official appointment of Johnson to his current office, Swinson called upon the opposition to table a motion of no-confidence in Johnson’s government. Her vociferous pursuit of her party’s current raison d’être is admirable. Yet, the Liberal Democrats alone – no matter how determined their leader is – are not enough to stop no-deal in its tracks. Swinson is no longer in government (and has not been for the past four years), her party is not the official opposition, and with only 12 MPs, their representation in the house lies thin on the ground.
That is why those who have the authority, the levy, or the platform to act must begin to act now. Unfortunately, parliament is in recess until 3 September – but that should not put a spanner in the works of MPs banding together to amass an action plan. If the likes of David Gauke, Phillip Hammond and Rory Stewart are as passionate as they say they are, then, like Swinson, they must be willing to be consistent in their affirmation that they will put conviction before career. Time is seemingly of the essence and cooperation is required if no-deal is to be thwarted. The talk of a meaningful vote offered to the public on the final deal is old news. The reality of one would be pioneering. Those in the two major parties cannot afford to leave it to those with a smaller mandate to take the stand; collaboration is the only way forward.