Time’s up. Our MPs may be tempted to think that the two-week extension from the EU leaves it open to them to negotiate further about Britain’s future with the EU; it doesn’t. There are only three options left. One of them expires next Friday, another expires two weeks after that.
The three options that are available are
- May’s deal – the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU, which the EU still hopes to be agreed;
- no deal, which despite the MPs’ rejection in principle is the legal default, and
- revocation of the article 50 notice. The legal option to do this expires at the end of next Friday. (The latest communique from the EU suggests that they would be open to revocation for two weeks after that – but they have not said either that revocation would be on the same terms as Britain’s existing membership, or that there will be no cost.)
The options that are no longer eligible available include
- a second referendum, because there is no time to hold it;
- Norway plus, Canada Plus, or any other trade-plus-cooperation type of deal – any of them will take months to negotiate;
- Labour’s plan for a renegotiated settlement – no renegotiation is actually on offer, and we are out of time.
It’s time to get real. Given that there are only three options, parliamentarians have to make a choice. Two of those three options have already been rejected by the House of Commons. Agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement is still possible, but it has been rejected twice by a huge majority, it is unbalanced, and it is incomplete: and it leaves unresolved problems that will take years to negotiate.
The truth is that there is only one eligible option left: revocation. Yesterday, I drew attention to a parliamentary petition which has put revocation back on the political agenda. It has, as they say, “gone viral”. By this morning there were well over 2.5 million signatures on it, despite the site’s continual crashing and the lack of any pointers to it. Andrew Adonis has said he will move revocation in the Lords on Monday. It is our best, and possibly our only, hope.