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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > March 2017 > Take back control

Take back control

We’re being asked to pre-commit to a pig-in-a-poke Brexit. Here’s how we can retain a free hand

The marriage metaphor is apt. We have not yet taken even the first formal step. But already the decision to begin divorce proceedings with the European Union is clogged with past resentments, fears for the future, and the steady ambivalence that characterised the marriage. It was a finely balanced decision in June—and it remains a finely balanced decision now. The polls on support for “Leave” and “Remain” have barely shifted. But there is now pretty broad agreement that the time has come to trigger the separation.

So how do we make progress? The Remainers of 2016, and I am one, must start by putting aside expedient analyses of what the result of the referendum meant. It is true that it did not bind our parliament in law. But to make this point in isolation is to sidestep the democratic imperative of the result. We voted on whether to leave, and we collectively voted to leave. The fact this did not technically bind parliament does not imply that parliament can properly ignore it. And it is for this reason that I believe our parliament was in principle right to vote to trigger Article 50. And why, to answer a rather sharp question put to me by Al Jazeera, if I’d been an MP in a strongly “Remain” constituency, I hope I would nevertheless have had the courage to vote to do the same.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s March issue: Sam Tanenhaus, George Magnus and Dahlia Lithwick examine the state of America after Donald Trump’s first couple of weeks. Tanenhaus looks at the situation faced by the American press, Magnus looks at the state of global trade and Lithwick inspects the diminishing right to choice women face over abortion. Anne Perkins explores the rise of Theresa May through the political ranks and David Edmonds looks at how empathy affects our decision making. Also in this issue: Jay Elwes on Trump’s relationship with America’s intelligence agencies, Anita Charlesworth on the state of the NHS and Nick Cohen on what is done in the name of “the people” by politicians
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