It becomes ever clearer that both major parties in the UK are irreconcilably split on Brexit. It is the worst peacetime political crisis of for over a century.
What is the answer?
It is to move , for a time, beyond party politics, just as happened with the worst wartime crisis?
We are approaching a moment when we may need a national government. Or if that is not possible, a consensus- building process to help the government we have elected to find its way through conflict.
It is meaningless to discuss, as pundits are doing now, how Labour should vote or how the Conservatives should vote as a bloc in Parliament.
The search should be on for the compromise that would be broadly acceptable to 60 to 70 per cent of the electorate.
Sophisticated polling and surveying of the electorate would pose the real dilemmas – the costs and benefits of freedom of movement, the impact on jobs and investment and growth of different options, how much government money might be saved now and in the longer term.
An all-party group would be formed of all those who accept Michael Gove’s assertion that politics is about compromise. Knowing that together its membership added up to over 60 per cent of MPs it would proceed in its search for a consensus on what that compromise looked like. It would be chaired by politicians whose views on the solution differed but whose commitment to compromise was robust.
It would be in dialogue with major voices across the country- manufacturing, services, the NHS, consumer bodies, trade unions, environmental activists, students, women’s groups. Wherever practical it would put in the same room individuals from different backgrounds . An ambitious citizens jury. A major exercise in listening and understanding the views of others.
The all party group would develop the negotiating guidance and be a sounding board for the PM. The PM could be confident that if her solution wasn’t rejected outright by this group, it would not be rejected by the majority of citizens of the country either.
No need for another referendum. No opportunistic confidence vote denuding the country of anyone to negotiate for us.
Perhaps there would need to be a very limited extension of the negotiating period – say 4 months maximum.
And then, once agreement on our future relationship with the EU was reached in this spirit of compromise, there could be a return to normal party politics- unless in the meantime the country decided some of these arrangements to find consensus could continue to be used for other purposes It might be helpful in generating all party agreement on a long term approach to wealth creation, or to funding and organising health and social care.
As John Stuart Mill once put it; ‘He who does not understand another’s point of view, does not understand his own’.