People have the power on Trump and Brexit. But will we use it?

by Jonathan Todd

“Ultimately,” as Edward Luce wrote in the Financial Times recently, “the American people will decide Mr Trump’s fate.”

Impeachment depends upon majorities in both houses of Congress. Which the Democrats do not have. But might after November’s mid-terms.

If Republican voters rally to an embattled Trump, they might retain both houses. Conversely, if the stench of corruption emanating from Trump drives an anti-Trump vote, the Democrats would triumph.

Beto O’Rourke, seeking to unseat Ted Cruz to become the first Democratic Senator for Texas in 25 years, describes the election as, “the most important of our lives”.

Like all Democrats, however, he is riding against the headwind of an economy enjoying (at least in the short-term) the sugar rush of Trump’s tax cuts. In which case, recovering one of the two houses might be a reasonable Democrat performance. Albeit this would leave them requiring Republican votes to impeach Trump.

These votes would only be forthcoming if Republicans deduced they would be in their interests. This would depend upon another people’s verdict: polling on Trump and impeachment.

While unpopular with the rest of America, Trump remains viscerally popular with his base. This is an advantage that he enjoys over President Nixon in the early 1970s, creating a firewall against elected Republicans turning against him.

Robert Mueller is methodically diligent, but the questions that hang over Trump are more political than legal.

The only certainty in the Brexit process is a legal one: unless Article 50 is successfully withdrawn or extended, the UK will exit the EU on 29 March 2019. But Brexit, too, is more political than legal.

The prime minister will go to Brussels and attempt to complete a deal – which is 80% done but which struggles over the Irish border. This deal will then be put to the Commons. Who will be given a choice: May’s deal or no deal.

Is that – as promised – a meaningful vote?

The government will insist so. Those harbouring hopes of keeping the UK in the EU will insist not.

There are numerous Tory MPs that are dissatisfied with May’s deal, both those who resigned from government over it and those keener on keeping the UK in the EU, and if they were to join forces with the opposition parties to vote down this deal, we would enter unchartered territory.

Despite the reassurances from Dominic Rabb from within government and Jacob Rees Mogg from without, are the government serious about driving over the no deal cliff? Or bluffing to try to drive support behind May’s deal?

As no deal suits neither the UK nor the rest of Europe, perhaps an extension to Article 50 might be sought if May fails to secure a deal with the EU or has any such deal defeated in the Commons?

The EU would be more likely to grant an extension if accompanied by a process for arriving at a longer-term resolution of the UK’s relationship with the EU, which a People’s Vote might provide.

While the structure of any referendum would need careful consideration and would be fiercely contested, a referendum seems both more likely to resolve matters and less likely to result in a Corbyn government than a general election, meaning that a majority in the Commons may come to see another referendum as the least bad way forward.

They are more likely to do so, however, if public opinion clearly communicates: opposition in any circumstances to no deal; support both for a People’s Vote and for staying in the EU.

Politicians are looking for a way out of the hole dug for them by the referendum of May 2016. With its undeliverable promises. And certainty that any variant of Brexit will make poorer a country, with its overstretched public services, that can barely afford its way of life. But, despite the lies, dirty money and dodgy data, they still defer to that verdict.

Only a different one will provide politicians with a pro-EU licence, but most of them will withhold seeking this till public opinion is sufficiently behind a People’s Vote and a future for the UK in the EU.

The fate of Brexit, therefore, is as much in the hands of the British people, as that of Trump is in the hands of the American people.

The more rocks Mueller looks under and the more calamitous Brexit becomes, the more public opinion might be felt. Equally, for many, fidelity to Trump/Brexit seems entrenched – a badge of identity.

“Americans are,” as John McCain reminded them in his farewell address and they might recall in their mid-term votes and views on Trump’s impeachment, “citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil.”

The UK has never really proclaimed anything so stirring. But we’ve usually found a way to do greater good than harm. The past two years have made clear that we won’t continue to do so if the clown car of Theresa May’s government is not turned around and put on a different trajectory by public opinion.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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4 Responses to “People have the power on Trump and Brexit. But will we use it?”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Why would another referendum stop a Corbyn government? If the million robins chance the public votes no , the Tories would be finished , itll increase the libdem vote
    The idea that nidearates on the back benches think they’ll keep their seats in their leave areas if the canvass ,no’ in a future referendum
    Now Corbyn the brexiter worried about monentum remainers having followed the ‘Brexiters are racist’ banter cant accept their leader is letting brexit happen all be it , pretending not too
    Yet some of the suburb Momentum members want another referendum not caring what the swing voters want, yet their leaders at momentum HQ aren’t canvassung for it as they kind Corbyn wants power and keeping the WC brexitwrscup north is essential

    Brexit is happening labour need votes of brexiters and the remainders gave no where else to go, they’ll see a split in their votes that will see Northern seats go Tory, and the ones who live in London May have their own followings but momentum aren’t likely to canvass against blairites in London seats if the mp stood as a pro remainer as the momentum likes of Owen Jones are remainer a too

  2. Anne says:

    Impeachment of Trump will be difficult – probably the best approach for the American people is to allow Trump to run his term, but for the Democrats to focus on the mid terms and to look for leaders to oppose Trump in the Presidential elections.
    For ourselves I feel we would be much further forward in the polls with a different leader – JC seems to get him selves embroidered into situations, often of his own making, but we are where we are. Meanwhile, we have an absolutely awful Tory government – truly awful.
    What is the best way forward- an election or a vote on the Brexit deal?
    The person with the most pragmatic approach to Brexit is Keir Starmer – one of the very few politicians who talks any sense.

  3. Tafia says:

    The anticipated attempt by elements of the Labour Party to force a second EU referendum on Corbyn during their coming party conference as party policy is being resisted within the more pragmatic parts of the Labour Party because an awful lot of the Labour voters they need to keep hold of and an awful lot of the voters they need to win over in order to win a General Election not only voted Leave, but would vote tory if pushed to decide between leaving and a second referendum

    35% of Labour voters voted Leave and research shows that most of them would not vote Labour in a General Election if it tried to overturn or succeeded in overturning the result, with many switching to the Tories. (As a point of interest, 61% of Tory voters, 36% of SNP voters, 33% of Plaid voters, 32% of LD voters, 20% of Green voters and 70% of floating voters also voted Leave.)

    Corbyn is acutely aware of the fact that to win a General Election with a majority, he needs another 4 million votes and alienating people who support Leave will cripple his chances and almost certainly guarentee a Tory majority in the backlash.

  4. John P Reid says:

    Well said Tafia

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