Anyone involved in business will have faced “deal fatigue” — that moment after years of hard-fought negotiations when there’s a real danger of taking pretty much anything in order to “move on” and get an agreement. Yet, equally, many will realise that there are times when stamina and grit are required to battle on because the consequences of not getting it right are colossal.
With the withdrawal agreement and the non-binding political declaration on the future relationship signed up to by EU leaders on Sunday ( European leaders sign off on UK’s Brexit deal, November 26), British business must not fall for the prime minister’s strategy of playing on Brexit fatigue and fears of “no deal”. Because, as Theresa May has now recognised, there is a third way: no Brexit. Public opinion is on the move, what Mrs May has brought back from Brussels has few supporters and there is a growing demand for a “people’s vote” with polling suggesting that if one was held Remain would win.
We don’t disagree that the withdrawal treaty delivers a modicum of certainty for the next couple of years and the much-maligned “backstop” provides the insurance that is demanded by business as well as Northern Ireland. But our eventual trading relationship is no clearer than two years ago — there will be years of further uncertainty on that. Indeed, frictionless trade doesn’t get a mention and there’s little to satisfy our service sector that their interests are going to be satisfied. So the only real certainty is that the withdrawal agreement delivers a “blindfold Brexit” which no one has voted for.
We will continue to do our best to persuade our parliamentary colleagues that the only way forward is a people’s vote and we will do this on the basis of putting our nation’s interests first and foremost. Be in no doubt: there is no majority for leaving without a deal in the House of Commons and there are a variety of ways parliament can impose its will to stop that.
As most people in business know, Brexit is a dreadful mistake and it is not undemocratic to argue that the British people are entitled to change their minds now we know what it looks like.
Our plea is for business men and women to place their private concerns at the heart of the public debate that the prime minister is trying to spark.
Frankly, we are all getting tired of the rows and chaos that bedevils Brexit but we must not give up making the case that this is not a done deal.