The reason is, that it’s irrelevant. He is trying to give effect to the result of the 2016 referendum, in a way which does least harm to our economy; at the same time he is recognizing that only another referendum can affirm or change the original Brexit referendum result. Politicians can only serve to carry out the decisions of the people when a referendum has been held.

The last three years have shown, among other things, that there is no generally-agreed interpretation of what Brexit involves In detail; that there is no achievable Brexit which does not involve economic self-harm, leaving us to a greater or lesser extent worse off, economically and in terms of international influence, than we are as members of the EU; and that there is no reliable parliamentary majority for Brexit (pace one recent vote supporting it in principle).

The Labour policy, in the light of these difficulties, is to seek to negotiate a treaty to leave the EU with as little economic self-harm as possible, and then to offer the electorate a referendum choice between that real, achievable, Brexit deal – or to recognise the benefits of what we currently have, and to remain in the EU.

It follows from the above that the party leaders’ views concerning the relative merits of the two possible outcomes are strictly irrelevant; moreover, in order for the least harmful Brexit deal to be achieved, it is necessary that our negotiators should do their best irrespective of their personal views, like the civil servants supporting them.

Nothing should prejudice the free choice of the people: but unlike in 2016, they will choose between actual, feasible Brexit or actually remaining as we are. There will no longer be future unknowns which can be called ‘Project Fear’. Perhaps once the Labour Brexit deal is on the table, and not before, leaders may declare whether they prefer it to staying in the EU – or they may not. It will not matter, as it will be the people’s choice.

Hugh Bryant

19th November 2019