Leadership and Brexit Options

In just two weeks’ time we will have a new Prime Minister. I have supported Jeremy Hunt from the beginning of the contest. I believe he has the qualities of leadership which are needed at an exceptionally challenging time for our country.

As a successful entrepreneur he understands the importance of turbocharging the economy, and I know that many local businesses will like his idea of taking 90 per cent of high street firms out of business rates altogether.

He has also focused on boosting defence spending, increasing schools funding in return for a long-term plan to abolish illiteracy, and transforming social care for older people.

But it’s important to remember that the only reason it will be possible for the next PM to increase spending is that the Chancellor has carefully set-aside a large sum to ensure that Britain can withstand a potential economic shock if we leave the EU without a deal.

Both candidates say that they will try to renegotiate with the EU, while keeping a ‘no-deal’ option open. But time will be very tight, and changing the PM will not change the Parliamentary arithmetic.

This is why I think it’s a serious mistake for Boris to back himself into a corner by setting an arbitrary deadline of leaving on 31 October “do or die”, because if the House of Commons refuses, once again, to leave without a deal, he will have only three options left.

One would be to suspend Parliament. That, as Sir John Major has said, would be a constitutional outrage that would bring the Queen into politics.

The second option would be to call another referendum. As I have said before, I think we should implement the result of the referendum we’ve already had, and I worry that a second vote would perpetuate division, especially if it resulted in another narrow result.

The third option would be to call a general election. Who knows what would happen in such circumstances.

I still believe we must honour the referendum result and deliver Brexit. The wise route will be to secure a better deal with the EU so that we can leave in an orderly manner as soon as possible. That would avoid the risks of ‘no-deal’, and release funding to share between spending on priority areas, such as local schools, and tax reductions to boost economic growth.