“Let’s get Brexit done?” Don’t be daft! We’re only at the start of the journey

Campaigners from the Suffolk EU Alliance at last Saturday's march in London. Picture: PHILIP GOUGH

Campaigners from the Suffolk EU Alliance at last Saturday's march in London. Picture: PHILIP GOUGH - Credit: Archant

Over recent weeks, I’ve tried to keep this column as Brexit-free as possible – but there really is only one political show in town at the moment and I’m starting to think the issue could have a serious impact on Suffolk politics.

MPs still have not decided on the UK's fate in Europe. Picture: PA Wire

MPs still have not decided on the UK's fate in Europe. Picture: PA Wire - Credit: PA

In case any of you were in any doubt, or had missed my columns over the last three years, I voted remain in 2016. If there were a second referendum I'd vote remain again. My personal belief is that we won't get a better deal outside the EU than we get in it.

And I philosophically like the idea of a United Europe. I remember at the time of the 1975 referendum talking to wartime veterans who told me it was much better to be in a European club than fighting each other on the continent.

However I remain unconvinced that a second referendum would solve anything - it could well end up another 52-48 vote (either way) which would be enough to leave the country totally split for even more years.

I understand why people went on a march for a People's Vote at the weekend - and after all the issues with the Extinction Rebellion mobs over the last couple of weeks it was good to see the Metropolitan Police praising them for the way the demonstration was organised and executed.

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But I'm afraid I don't really see that it is going to achieve much.

And it was disappointing that at the end of the day that some headbangers - from both remain and leave camps - decided to behave so badly that Jacob Rees Mogg and Diane Abbott needed police escorts to accompany them as they left the Palace of Westminster.

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After all the shenanigans and parliamentary devices of the last few weeks, I'm really at a loss to see a way out to anything like a clear way through the current situation.

To my mind, the current position we are in shows up all the problems faced by holding a referendum on a hideously complex subject (trying to unpick 43 years of treaties and common laws) by asking an apparently simple question.

I think I'm probably better informed on the actual state of the debate and the way parliament works than the average person - given my job, understanding how government works is a requisite skill!

But I cannot keep up with all the complex devices being employed by MPs from all sides of the debate - and I'm not sure all their colleagues are really able to understand what is happening.

Meanwhile the message that is getting through to many members of the public is that if the current deal goes through then Brexit is sorted - the government can move on to something else.

That's not true at all. Once we leave (with a transition period or without) we start the process of having trade talks with other states or groups of states. And what will be the first trading bloc we look to for special trade deals? Probably the one that starts 25 miles from the White Cliffs of Dover or at the border in Northern Ireland!

And those talks could be long and tortuous - and determine the future of the jobs of millions of people in the UK and EU.

National newspaper columnist Helen Lewis got it right when she said to Andrew Marr on Sunday of people who say they want an end to the Brexit debate: "It's like saying 'I want to get childbirth done so I can get back to lots of sleep and reading lots of novels'."

But the "Just get it done" desire is gaining ground among voters who don't follow the minutiae of the Brexit debate - and that could be very bad news for Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin.

I've always felt that if Brexit wasn't the main issue, he would have a very good chance of retaining the seat in a general election.

However if an election is held with the UK's status still up for debate - looking increasingly likely at the moment - I think he will have great difficulty seeing off a Conservative campaign which is putting the "Get Brexit Done" message top, second, third and probably fourth on all its election literature.

I never trust opinion polls before the start of an election campaign (and I view them with scepticism once its started) but it does seem that the Tories are sweeping up the pro-Brexit votes while anti-Brexit voters are split between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

So will we be leaving the EU this time next week? Will we have any form of deal? I honestly don't know.

What I do know is that the last four years - ever since the referendum first came on to the political radar - has poisoned British politics.

It has polarised views. It has created a really, really nasty atmosphere. It has legitimised racism at one end of the spectrum - and has legitimised a type of intellectually snobbery that suggests anyone who voted leave didn't really know what they were doing at the other.

Whatever happens now, British politics will never recover from the venom injected into it by this divisive subject (not in my lifetime anyway) and as a result society is now more mean-spirited, unpleasant and frankly dysfunctional than it was before David Cameron opened Pandora's Box in 2016.

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