Nicky Morgan: Brexit. Country before Party? It’s a false choice. The country needs the governing party to deliver.

The best outcome is for the Government and its partners to deliver the majority verdict of the referendum and of the last election.

Nicky Morgan is Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, a former Education Secretary, and MP for Loughborough.

What does the ‘national interest’ now demand of MPs?

We know that Brexit is an extraordinary political process, putting unusual strain on our party political system and our constitution. We also know that the stakes are getting higher, as March 29th gets closer.

Whatever one thinks about leaving the EU, it cannot be denied that it represents a fundamental change in relations with our nearest neighbours and our trading relationships with the world. Some people think that this change is long overdue, whilst others regret that it is happening at all. The issues are so important that the phrase ‘the national interest’ is being used more and more to argue that various matters relating to Brexit are or are not ‘in the national interest’.

I’ve no doubt that all MPs and Ministers believe that the Brexit path that they are treading is in this interest. Who goes into politics to act against it? And I’ve also no doubt that those who say they are putting Country before Party also sincerely believe that. Ultimately, I’ve no doubt that we all believe we should put country first, constituency second and party last (whatever the whips might say).

But given the very different Brexit scenarios and possible outcomes on offer, how can we all be right? Which option (or perhaps combination of options) can really be said to be in the national interest? Is this why it is easier to know what each of us is against in terms of Brexit than what each of us is in favour of? Is it easier to rule something out as being against the national interest, rather than to say confidently: ‘doing x is definitely in the national interest’?

After the first Meaningful Vote, and the inability of both main Party Leaders to seriously embrace proper cross-party talks, it became clear to me that everyone was going to have to compromise if we are to get a Withdrawal Agreement over the line. And that means we have to start to see that each of us might not have the only answer to what is in the national interest.

I’ve explained elsewhere why I agreed to be part of the ‘Malthouse Compromise’. And I’m now part of the Alternative Arrangements Working Group which spent over six hours with Steve Barclay last week, examining what the alternatives to the backstop might be, as demanded by the Brady amendment.

In the interests of finding that answer, let us then think what the national interest might demand. As Conservatives, we are surely in favour of a stable country with a well-functioning Government able to pass its Budget and its legislation. We want a system of representative democracy which retains the confidence of the electorate. We want to support businesses and entrepreneurs. We want a strong security and defence system. We want a strong economy, and a tax system which allows people to keep as much of the money they earn as possible subject to properly funding a welfare safety net and our public services. We support incremental change, not radical policy moves.

To me, all this would tend to suggest that the best outcome is that the Government remains in control of the Brexit process, and is able to deliver its biggest policy objective and necessary legislation with the support of a majority of its own MPs (and confidence and supply partners too) – thus fulfilling the majority verdict of the referendum and the last general election; implementing a policy which mitigates any economic damage caused by a big change in our trading relationships, and supporting businesses to carry on doing what they do,  and our security and defence forces to carry on doing what they do, too. This surely is what the national interest now demands of its MPs.

Blair’s Brexit redemption moment! Amen! Alleluia! (Just don’t mention the I – – q W – r.)

A first-time voter in 2022 will have been born in 2004, a year after the start of the conflict, and have no memory of weapons of mass destruction…

“Michael Chessum, who leads the Another Europe Is Possible campaign for a public vote, tweeted: “Oh great. I hear Tony Blair has been put up on the Today programme again as the voice of People’s Vote. Why don’t we all just give up and go home?””

That’s perhaps the most glorious quote from Buzzfeed’s piece on the splits and rifts within the People’s Vote campaign.  The former Prime Minister was at it again yesterday, making his pitch from the Leave voter-friendly location of Davos.  (For it is those voters who must be persuaded to change their minds.)

But why is Blair so keen to pop up so often?  Devotion to the cause of remaining in the EU is doubtless part of the explanation.  But ConservativeHome is told that there is more.

A first-time voter in 2022 will have been born in 2004, a year after the start of the Iraq conflict.  He or she will have no memory of it: weapons of mass destruction, dodgy dossiers, Robin Cook, yellow cake uranium, Chilcot – and all the rest of it.

A source who has worked with the former Prime Minister claimed that Blair has seen polling which suggests that Brexit offers him the elusive prospect of redemption.  Since these voters-to-be know nothing much about Iraq, they clock him, if at all, simply as an ageing politician differing from others only in skin tone.

In short, then, Brexit offers Blair, at long last, a chance to change the subject – at least among younger voters who don’t really know him.  Never underestimate a former Prime Minister’s belief that, one day, he can return to the front-line of politics.

Jonathan Clark: Representative democracy is retreating, direct democracy is advancing – and it’s MPs themselves who must “come to heel”

The object of the exercise is to absorb within a moderate, stable democratic practice a new element which, if unabsorbed, may have fatal effects. If the Swiss manage it, so can the British.

Jonathan Clark was a Fellow of Peterhouse; at Oxford, he was a Fellow of All Souls College; latterly he has been Visiting Professor at the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago, and Hall Distinguished Professor of British History at the University of Kansas. His latest book is a study of Thomas Paine.

The UK constitution is about to be hijacked. A coup will subvert the long-accepted constitution of the most successful democracy in the world. Parliamentary procedure will be distorted to block the decision of the electorate.

On the contrary, MPs will act properly to save the UK from a disastrous accident. Parliament is just doing what it is meant to do. Belatedly, it is reasserting itself against an over-mighty executive.

Which of these options is correct?

Historically, both of them are. The only thing we can say with certainty about the UK constitution is that it is always changing. Like human life itself, it never continueth in one stay. What is the constitution one day is not the constitution the next. Lawyers, who insist that there is just one right answer to constitutional problems (their own), are regularly overtaken by events. Such states as the USA and the EU, that appeal to founding documents depicted in their myths of origin as unchanging definitions of consensual wisdom, are deluding themselves even more than the UK does.

But MPs are equally upstaged by lawyers. The long term of UK parliamentary history has been a repeated story of members of the Lords and the Commons equally failing to see ‘it’ coming, and staging futile rearguard actions against developments whose very existence they deny. Catholic Emancipation, a logical consequence of Ireland’s population explosion; the repeal of the Corn Laws, a necessary response to the rise of manufacturing; female emancipation, a corollary of a falling birthrate; the list could go on and on. What, then, have today’s legislators failed to ‘get’?

One element has been material: the steady tilt of UK trade away from the EU and towards the world. A second has been the effects of mass immigration and of globalisation. A third has been the appreciable loss of sovereignty in the face of an expansionist multi-national organisation. Another has been technological, the rise of the internet and of the individual choice that it facilitates. The manifestation of all these has been accidental: the unplanned, unappreciated rise of the referendum as a constitutional practice. Once, representative democracy was the only democratic option for a large state. Now, direct democracy is far more feasible. It will become more feasible still.

Many MPs just fail to see it. Far from entering into a corrupt conspiracy to block a policy that conflicts with their self-interest, they express the high-minded constitutional orthodoxy of their youth. They insist that they owe their constituents their best judgement, not their blind obedience. This was, in its day, a theoretically noble and logistically inevitable practice. But all that has changed. A few MPs now implicitly and untheoretically accept the change, grasping at referenda as a way of solving their party-political fixes. Most do not.

Referenda would not solve party problems, since the tide is running the other way. The future lies less with representatives, more with direct voting, and, soon enough, with electronic voting. Many groups in society have found their roles increasingly taken over by electronic means, even expert and highly skilled groups; it may be that, over time, fewer and fewer elected politicians will be needed. How will representative democracy accommodate direct democracy? We hardly know. But it will have to do so.

MPs who demand a ‘second’ referendum on the EU should learn a little history: we have had two already, in 1975 and 2016. Before pinning their hopes of reversing the verdict of the second on a third, it would be wise for the UK to debate, and legislate, on just what referenda are, and what they can do.

The key questions are four in number. First, who can call a referendum? It would be pointless to leave this decision subject to prime ministerial fiat. Rather, they should be triggered (as debates in Parliament now are, in response to online petitions) when a certain number of signatures have been recorded.

Second, who sets the terms of the motion? This will be harder, and may demand the wisdom of an electoral commission. But how to reform the existing body to secure balance and prudence is a riddle indeed.

Third, how often can a referendum be called on the same issue? Parliament allows itself to change its mind week by week. The electorate can think again in general elections every five years. Should the decision of referenda stand unchallenged for a generation (for example, from 1975 to 2016) and, if so, exactly how many years should that be?

Fourth, and hardest, how will the result of a referendum be translated into statute? Little good will be done if a clear verdict is undone by Orwellian doublespeak, and if Parliament declares that it respects the verdict of a referendum only to do the opposite. That way revolution lies. The object of the exercise is, as with a mass electorate and women’s suffrage, to absorb within a moderate, stable democratic practice a new element which, if unabsorbed, may have fatal effects. If the Swiss manage it, so can the British.

There will be, and is, resistance. It is one of the ironies of history that, after a distinguished career of public service, the diplomat Lord Kerr will go down in history for just one fatal sentence: ‘we will huff and puff, but in the end we will have to come to heel’ at the command of the EU. But the world has changed from that of his youth. It is not the UK that will be the subject of irresistible pressure but Parliament itself. MPs will have to learn to ‘come to heel’ to the electorate, and in new and steadily changing ways.

What form, exactly, will these changes take? No-one can predict. But changes there will be, and it will not be the electorate that will be the defeated party if it considers that its clear verdict has been blocked.

No Deal can’t be “taken off the table”

The only way of ruling it out is to change the table itself: in other words, to abandon Brexit, or prepare to – as Remainers should admit.

“Is it not the case that four fifths of Members voted to trigger Article 50, and that in doing so, they consciously—or perhaps semi-consciously in some cases—accepted that no deal would be the default option if we did not leave with a deal? If hon. Members have now changed their mind, should they not be open about that and say that they now want a second referendum or to ditch Brexit altogether?”

ConservativeHome can’t improve on this lucid pointer, offered to the Commons yesterday by Nick Herbert, to why No Deal cannot be “taken off the table”.  Let’s follow the train of thought of those of those who deploy the phrase.  Were No Deal to be ruled out, it follows that the UK might remain in the EU, contrary to the referendum result, if no deal between the two negotiating parties can be agreed.

And it can only be ruled out by MPs voting to revoke the same Article – Article 50 – that they voted to deploy less than two years ago.  (It is sometimes claimed that the Government could unilaterally revoke the article, but this would be dubious legally and impracticable politically.)  Every single Conservative MP voted to move Article 50, bar Ken Clarke – yes, including Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry and all the rest of them.  So every Tory MP who votes for revocation, should the opportunity arise, will have to explain to their voters and Associations why they have changed their minds – in defiance, too, of the election manifesto on which they presumably stood.

You may counter that Herbert was only half-right – since not all those who want to take No Deal “off the table” want No Brexit.  Some, rather, want a different kind of Brexit to the one proposed in Theresa May’s deal – such as Norway Plus or Common Market 2.0 or whatever its supporters are calling it this morning.  Our columnist Henry Newman, writing on ConservativeHome today, says that the plan could “leave us as essentially as a non-voting member of the EU”.  Be that as it may, Norway Plus would none the less represent a form of Brexit – de jure if not de facto.  And it would be achieved via extension, not revocation.

But, if you think about it, extension would not actually take No Deal “off the table”.  It would merely set a new deadline for Brexit – and, therefore, leave open the possibility that Britain could still leave the EU with No Deal when it ends.  You may argue that the practical effect of extension would be to pave the way for revocation – and you might well be right: the proponents of Norway Plus, in the event of extension, risk losing out to the supporters of a Second Referendum.  None the less, the possibility of No Deal would still be there.  It would remain “on the table”.  Or, to put it another way, the table, like the proverbial can, would simply be kicked down the road.

Herbert concluded by asking his colleagues to agree that if they “want an orderly Brexit and to prevent no deal, is not the only course open to them to agree a deal?”  This now appears to be the direction that a big chunk of the European Research Group, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, is willing to take if (and it’s a very big if) meaningful change can be agreed to the Northern Ireland backstop.

At any rate, No Deal cannot be “taken off the table”.  As it was put recently, No Deal is the table – in other words, it’s a form of Brexit.  If MPs want to stop No Deal, they must take away the table they asked for – Brexit – and put another one its place: No Brexit.  They’re entitled to make the attempt, though such a move would dynamite what’s left of Theresa May’s negotiating strategy,and spit in the face of the verdict of the British people.   But can they please come clean about it?

Next, watch pro-Remain and pro-Soft Brexit Ministers push for the postponement of Brexit

Today, May is swinging towards her Party’s leavers. The logic of the Chancellor’s position, and that of his allies, is to block her – or try to.

This site’s reading of the Prime Minister’s Commons’ reaction to the record defeat of her deal was that she would none the less stick with it.  Our assessment of her intentions suggested that cross-party talks would lead nowhere, since opposition MPs would insist on Customs Union membership.  More broadly, they would push her further towards a Norway-type solution.  Either of these ideas would divide her own Party further – and the backbench rebellion against her deal is already the biggest Tory revolt of modern times.  Furthermore, roughly half the Cabinet is opposed to a softer Brexit.  More than half of Tory MPs take the same view.  So will most Party members.  She is now formally safe from a confidence vote for the best part of a year, but other ways of ousting a Conservative leader can be found in a crisis.

In these circumstances, May was always likely to cling to her Party rather than go cross-party – especially since support from Labour MPs is bound to be even less reliable than backing from the European Research Group.  In the last resort, dealing with Jacob Rees-Mogg is easier than dealing with Yvette Cooper.

We aren’t right about everything – far from it – but appear to have been correct in this case.  Cabinet members told ConservativeHome over the weekend that a core weakness in the Prime Minister’s position is that the EU doesn’t know what the Commons wants, and believes that she can’t persuade the House to back her in any event.  So she must now demonstrate that it will support the deal if the EU will agree to in exchange to amend the backstop.  That means relying on Tory MPs, the ERG included, to carry a vote to that effect, with the aid of the DUP.  There is excitable talk of a new Anglo-Irish treaty being proposed, based perhaps on the David Davis “reserve parachute” proposal, or something like it.

We suspect that May is more likely to propose a version of the so-called Murrison amendment, which proposed slapping an expiry date on the backstop.  Readers will remember that the Speaker refused to select it for debate last week.  The ERG is in emollient mood at present, and both it and other Brexiteers might swallow this plan. Whether the EU would do so too is rather more debatable, to put it mildly.

The Prime Minister’s scheme therefore shortens the odds on No Deal – since it revives her game of chicken, eats up more Parliamentary time, and leaves No Deal as the default setting as March 29 approaches.  Philip Hammond and the rest of the Cabinet Remainers and Soft Brexiteers know this.  The next move, as the Prime Minister prepares to make a Commons statement today, is theirs.  First, they must brief that it will fail and that cross-party talks must be revived, perhaps under the Lidington-Gove-Smith troika.  This is already starting to happen.  Second, there will doubtless be further talk of mass Ministerial resignations, featuring Richard Harrington and others.  Third, they will brief in favour of free votes on the battery of pro-Customs Union, Norway Plus and Second Referendum proposals due next week.

Finally, they will throw their weight behind the extension of Article 50.  Hammond hinted at precisely such a development during the phone conversation between senior Ministers and big business leaders last week.  This is where the Wesminster Village conversation will go as the mood in parts of the rest of the country hardens in favour of No Deal.

The minor parties in the Commons mostly back extension already.  So do the band of Soft Brexit Labour MPs among whom Yvette Cooper is prominent.  So do Dominic Grieve and Nick Boles and assorted other Conservative Second Referendum or Norway Plus or Customs Union supporters.  They can rely on the Speaker’s aid.  Jeremy Corbyn will be very reluctant to nod assent.  Backing extension would mean legitimising claims of Brexit betrayal in Labour’s midlands and northern heartlands.  But it is hard to see where else he can go.  He is opposed to a second referendum.  Much of his own party outside London is resistant to it.  All his eggs are in the basket of Labour’s fantasy renegotiation.  What little credibility it has left will soon vanish if he does not back a later deadline for it.  That requires supporting extension.

Which leaves the Prime Minister.  The logic of her chicken game requires a firm deadline – in order to bluff MPs into supporting her deal rather than risk No Deal or No Brexit.  This explains why she has been resistant to extension when the idea has been pushed by Lidington and others.

None the less, in the last resort, a bid for extension without a clear outcome in sight would represent kicking the can down the road again, or trying to.  And we all know that May isn’t averse to doing that.  Menaced by Remainer resignations and a No Deal deadline, it is conceivable that she would throw what weight she has left behind extension.  If a Grieve or Cooper or other Bill is successful, she could argue there is no alternative.

But let the fledgling extension consensus be warned: to put back the date of Article 50 would revive both the hard right, in the democratic form of Nigel Farage, and perhaps the far right, in its various undemocratic guises.  All would claim that extension was but a milestone on the road to revocation.  And they might well be recorrect.

Today, the Prime Minister is swinging towards her Party’s Leavers.  Tomorrow, it could be back towards its Remainers.  From one perspective, it is all a great, mad, glorious game – chess crossed with chicken crossed with the wild card of the Speaker, as we’ve said before.  It would be fabulous entertainment were most of the country not heartily sick of it – and the honouring of the biggest electoral verdict in our country’s history at stake.

Chloe Westley: Ageist abuse – and the bigot Remain campaigners who rejoice at the prospect of older voters dying off

The suffrage movement fought for those of all backgrounds to have the vote. This cannot be called into question for the sake of political gain.

Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

For the last two and a half years, Leave voters have been called every name under the sun. Racist, xenophobic, fascist, far right, uneducated – and many more too horrid to list on this website. Those on the Remain side have experienced abuse as well, which I’ve seen online, and I do my best to call all this out whenever I can. Social media has brought out the worst in us.

The key difference I have observed is that the insults directed at Leave voters have invariably originated from those in positions of power. For most Leave voters, their only means of having their voice heard is by the ballot box. But celebrities, politicians and journalists use their huge platforms to discredit and demean Leave voters in a variety of ways.

This was endurable on the condition that the eventually these attacks would end. It was assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that Britain was on track to leave the EU and eventually those hurling insults would come to accept this new reality and move on with their lives.

But the bullying has intensified. And the latest victim of this vile abuse and blame, the group that is under the most attack from pro-EU groups, are the elderly.

Last week the singer Jamelia echoed calls for the elderly to be banned from the democratic process, because they would not “experience the consequences of that vote” and have “had 50 – 60 years of voting”. Shortly afterwards, a Remain campaign website called ‘Deatherendum’ was brought to my attention on twitter. The website displayed an ongoing tracker of the estimated number of Leave voters who had died since the referendum in 2016, next to an image of a skull and cross bone. The site has subsequently been deleted, but a visual is still available here.

I’ve heard this argument before. This isn’t a fringe opinion or a few loons on twitter. Politicians such as Nick Clegg also suggested there should be a second referendum because of demographic changes, and there are now Remain youth groups dedicated to provoking the resentment of older voters who have ‘stolen their future’.

It’s an awfully simplistic argument, based on loose calculations and estimates, and reliant on the false premise that, as young people become of voting age over time, these now middle-aged voters don’t change their views. And these arguments weren’t made about any previous referendums or elections. It’s just desperate and divisive rhetoric, endorsed by politicians and journalists who should know better.

The representatives of the ‘Our Future Our Choice (OFOC)’ group are perfectly civil and and respectful, but their message is spiteful. Their messaging, and indeed the whole purpose of their group, is to imply that young people’s voices matter more, and that it is their future, not anyone else’s. This questioning of universal suffrage and the implication that certain groups should be disenfranchised from the democratic process has no place in modern Britain.

To those older voters who have to put up with these messages from young people on TV and radio, I can only apologise. These spokespeople do not speak on behalf of my whole generation. However you voted in the referendum, Remain or Leave, your right to vote should be respected, and your contribution to this country valued.

We cannot stand by and allow ageism to become an acceptable form of bigotry. We cannot stand by and allow a small group of anti-democrat groups to call into question the validity of someone’s right to vote based on protected characteristics. The suffrage movement fought for those of all backgrounds to have the vote – regardless of their salary, land ownership and gender. This cannot be called into question for the sake of political gain.

If Remain strategists think it’s appropriate to call for the removal of universal suffrage, or to celebrate the deaths of political opponents, then where does this end? What lengths will these people go to in order to defend the European project? If these campaigners feel it is appropriate to abandon respect for the elderly, respect for democracy, and delight in the misery and death of others, they can no longer claim to fight on the side of decency.

Steve Double: May has misread the mood of the country over free movement. Now is the time to drop hostile rhetoric.

There is a now a window of opportunity for a better, more sensible and cross-party debate than the one we had in the referendum campaign.

Steve Double is MP for St Austell and Newquay.

Since the nation voted for Brexit in June 2016, our resolve to respect the results of the referendum by leaving the EU and the European Single Market has been unwavering. Talk of a second referendum has dominated the airwaves lately, but there is scarcely any evidence this would deliver a decisive result – the kind that some politicians are seeking in order to rethink Brexit – were we to have another vote tomorrow. If anything has changed, it is the way the British public views migration – its importance and its impact on our economy and communities.

Bringing an end to freedom of movement, one of the four indivisible and fundamental freedoms of the EU, has been a priority for the Prime Minister in her negotiations. Migration ranked highly among the reasons for the people’s vote to leave the EU. “We have no control over migrants coming in”, “open borders has not worked”, “they are putting a strain on local infrastructure and services” – these were the concerns many of my colleagues and I heard time and again on the doorstep and at town hall meetings, and the more-than-unexpected results of the referendum spoke volume about the extent that these concerns were felt across the country.

While it is certainly true that leaving the EU presents us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a fairer and more effective migration system that meets our needs and returns control of migration policy from Brussels to London, Number Ten would be misguided if they thought nothing has changed. Public attitudes have changed in profound ways and these changes have taken place on three levels.,

First, the Brexit vote has given rise to a more positive view of migration. Fewer people think that there are too many migrants in the UK, as Britons increasingly recognise the benefits that migrants bring to the country and are assured by the government’s commitment that there will be a reduction in migration levels.

Recent evidence from the National Conversation on Immigration has shown that our citizens are ‘balancers’, on the whole, who see the gains and pressures of migration when weighing up its impact. They appreciate the skills they bring in, the jobs shortages they fill and their contribution towards public finances. They understand that there are realistic trade-offs when it comes to controlling migration and know what is at stake for British businesses. There is also a broad consensus for a fair and humane migration system that places the welfare of families and individuals at its heart: The vast majority of us are ashamed of the treatment of the Windrush generation and none of us want to see administrative failures and incompetence lead to a repeat of the scandal.

While it is true that controlling migration remains to be an issue of concern for Leave voters, it is no longer the case that migration is seen by the public as the most salient issue. Two weeks before the nation went to the polling booths to decide our future with the EU, a YouGov Most Important Issues poll found that 56 per of those surveyed saw “Immigration & Asylum” as the most frequently-cited issue facing the nation – more than 10 points ahead of any other issues including the Economy, NHS and Public Health, Defence and Terrorism. This figure was most recently recorded at 29 per cent.

Third, with employment rates hitting record levels and virtual full employment across many sectors, businesses have raised legitimate concerns that they do not want an oversimplified approach to migration which will leave them worse off with fewer workers. Removing the numerical cap on Tier 2 skilled workers visas would be a good start, but any salary-based threshold must be driven by evidence and not imposed arbitrarily.

Furthermore, the importance of certain lower-wage roles for our economy and society needs to be adequately considered. In my constituency of St Austell and Newquay in mid-Cornwall, for instance, the seasonal nature of our visitor economy as well as fish stocks, fruits and vegetables mean that a flexible and dynamic migration system for temporary low-skilled labourers will be absolutely crucial to ensuring the continued success of the Cornish economy.

It appears quite clear that the approach from Number Ten has been that as long as we stop free movement people will view that as delivering on the referendum. However, regaining sovereignty over our own laws and trade has instead become a more important issue. The notion of ‘control over our own borders’ has moved away from a debate around migration to one focused on the so-called backstop and the integrity of the union.

The Prime Minister has misread the mood of the country by overemphasising and prioritising the stopping of free movement of people. The draft Withdrawal Agreement has not captured the shift in public mood with regards to migration, and fails to keep our commitment to regain sovereignty to the UK – a precondition to any true Brexit that delivers on the result of the referendum.

In a rare admission of fault, the Prime Minister told MPs recently that she was wrong to have referred to EU citizens as “queue jumpers”. Though she might have been able to get away with that kind of language in 2016, the British people have since moved on and have come to better appreciate what is at stake in the migration debate and migration’s impact on our country.

Despite the many irreconcilable differences that exist between Remainers and Leavers over Brexit, there is a now a window of opportunity for a better, more sensible and cross-party debate around migration than the one we had in the referendum campaign. The public wants us as politicians to lead the way in improving the quality and quantity of discussions on migration.

It is absolutely right that as we leave the EU we do take back control of our borders. But having control over our own migration policy is not the same as stopping all migration. We should be able to manage migration in a way that suits our own economic and social needs and concerns whilst having a compassionate approach to those fleeing war, persecution and oppression. We should also be able to better ensure we have the infrastructure and services to meet any increase in population and protect those communities who have in the past felt overwhelmed by migration.

With the Immigration White Paper now published, the time is now to drop this hostile rhetoric against those who come legally to our country to contribute in our workplaces and communities, and begin a more mature and measured conversation around how we can put together a post-Brexit migration system that works for everyone.

Nick Hargrave: In an age of post-truth politics, moderate politicians must prepare to work across party lines

I have reluctantly concluded that there needs to be greater regulation of the veracity of claims made by registered participants in political campaigns.

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street special adviser, where he worked under both David Cameron and Theresa May. He now works at Portland, the communications consultancy.

It’s a common trope that we live in an age of post-truth politics. It increasingly appears that politicians have impunity to say things that are either demonstrably false or – more often in the UK at least – promise a future that is not supported by a rational reading of the evidence at hand.

The EU referendum and the subsequent process after serve as good exhibits for the prosecution. The Leave side of the fence is probably the more egregious with the £350 million red bus, the promises that a free trade deal with the EU would be the easiest such undertaking ever and – most pressingly now – denunciations of those who suggest that a ‘No Deal’ Brexit would come with a cost.

The Remain side of the divide is not without fault either though; lest we forget the ‘punishment budget’ that never happened, the pre-referendum modelling on the impact of the vote that ludicrously assumed no policy response from the Bank of England – not to mention every piece of bad economic news now being held up as a ‘told you so’ with no examination of whether the real cause is Brexit or not.

We should not of course  hark back to a mythical golden era where those with power dispassionately handed down truth to the people. From the hagiographical Anglo Saxon Chronicle in the ninth century to the 1945 General Election campaign, where our wartime hero, Winston Churchill, said that a British Gestapo would be needed to implement Labour’s policies – politicians of the day have always presented their interpretation of the truth to try and win support.

It is all a matter of degrees. But nonetheless it does feel like something has changed for the worse in politics in recent years. Certainly since the extension of the franchise in the nineteenth century, I do not think there has been a period in modern British history where politicians pay such scant regard to objective evidence and where the general public are willing to suspend disbelief in response.

The causes for this are well-rehearsed enough; the explosion of the internet in the past 20 years that has given the charlatan and the populist an unvetted voice and forced ‘moderate’ politicians to engage in an arms race to catch up; a declining trust in traditional sources of authority because of the profound economic effects of the financial crisis, globalisation and automation; the exponential growth of data, meaning that it’s easier to build a surface argument no matter how flimsy; a news cycle that moves so quickly that the best and speediest rebuttal in the world still comes too late; an increasing divide on values which means people shut out information that they don’t want to hear.

Less well tested is how we might rectify the situation.

There are two options. We can accept that, short of banning the internet and censoring political discourse, there is very little we can do. We are at the mercy of events and will have to accept a mid twenty-first century characterised by demagogues winning elections and referendums, chaotic policy making, a gradual erosion of the global rules-based order – with evidence only coming back into vogue after a series of shocks and recessions that lead us to see the error of our ways.

There is another school of thought though, which I much prefer – if only because the alternative is unlikely to be peaceful or economically stable. While there is no silver bullet, there are certainly things we can and should do to raise the standard of political debate in this country.
First, we need better politicians who the public are willing to trust in a face-off with the charlatans of the hour. Part of this is about getting people who have genuinely achieved things outside of Westminster into the Commons, and speak with gravitas and knowledge of what the real world is like. We could frankly do with more Andy Streets and Geoffrey Cox’s going into the frontline.

But there is more to it than that. We should also be honest that self-defined moderate politicians of this era stick to the line too much, and are obsessed with repeating back what they think people want to hear. As someone who spent several years in the bowels of Downing Street and Conservative Campaign HQ, raised on a diet of Clinton 1992 and Blair 1997 as model campaigns, this has been a humbling and gradual realisation. Most effective public policy is difficult and involves trade-offs; campaigning is very different to governing.

There is no better illustration of this than the current mess we have reached in the implementation of Brexit where our political leaders were not honest about the compromises needed to give practical effect to the referendum result. The temptation to boil political communications down to a form of cereal marketing will always be there. But I suspect that future leaders who level that there are no moral absolutes or easy answers will do better than is commonly supposed; the electorate are many things but they are not stupid.

Second, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that there needs to be greater regulation of the veracity of claims made by registered participants in political campaigns. There are important free speech considerations here and unregistered mendacious participants will still slip through the cracks online. But a more developed regulatory regime would nonetheless remind mainstream politicians that they should not stoop to this level.   One could, for example, trial a role for the Advertising Standards Authority – who currently cannot adjudicate complaints and impose sanctions on electoral material – in an upcoming campaign in the UK.

Finally, and perhaps a little uncomfortably, we have to get better at working on difficult issues across traditional party lines. If we are constantly saying the other side have nothing good to impart then there are consequences. The electorate do not know who to believe. They think everyone is as bad as each other. The door is opened to those who take the easy way out and propose mythical ‘unicorns’ rather than evidence-based solutions. Cross-party coalitions on issues such as fixing social care, an honest conversation about the right balance of tax and spend to fund twenty-first century public services – or dare I say it implementing a version of Brexit that respects the narrow mandate of the referendum – would lend credibility to viewpoints because they don’t look politically driven.

Some will of course cry ‘establishment stitch-up’ and ‘Westminster cartel at its best’. It will be the responsibility of the moderate politicians of the future to demonstrate that evidence, and developed understanding of the issues at hand, remain the most reliable route to improved living standards and a better tomorrow.

Not yet angry – but patriotic and bewildered. Fear of betrayal is the dominant emotion at the Leave Means Leave rally

Farage urged everyone to prepare for a second referendum, and concluded: “Next time, as far as I’m concerned, it’s no more Mr Nice Guy.”

An orderly queue formed last night outside Methodist Central Hall for the Leave Means Leave rally. As we entered we were handed small Union Jacks to wave during speeches by Kate Hoey, Rocco Forte, Iain Duncan Smith, Tim Martin, Nigel Farage and Esther McVey.

The Labour people who gave out Union Jacks to the crowd which applauded Tony Blair’s entry into Downing Street in 1997 were onto something. Here is a delightful way to demonstrate patriotism.

But last night’s crowd, about 2,000 strong, rather than celebrating victory, were anxiously hoping to avert defeat.

The mood of these Brexit supporters has not yet turned angry. It is one of bewildered patriotism. For although they won the referendum, they now question whether they can trust the very politicians to whom they decided to return power.

As the man sitting next to me put it:

“I just don’t think it’s right that we have to concede a second referendum. People had a choice. They voted as they did. I think it’s right for the country to leave the EU, personally.”

He is 45 years old, has a job in insurance, and had never attended such a rally before. His tone was modest, almost apologetic, yet conveyed a sense of incredulity at the outrageous injustice which may be about to be perpetrated.

All six speakers wrestled with the paradox of a Parliament most of whose members yearn to avert Brexit, even though it gives more power to Parliament. Hoey, a Labour MP since 1989, warned that “the great betrayal has begun” and is now “moving apace”.

Richard Tice, the clean-cut Englishman, somehow reminiscent of an American evangelist, who runs Leave Means Leave and introduced the speakers, insisted “we can begin to smell” the betrayal. He urged people to chant “Let’s go WTO”.

Forte, who spoke as a businessman, said “I have not known such defeatism…by the ruling class…since the Seventies” [applause]. He described the elite’s lack of belief in the British people as  “almost treasonable”.

A heckler interrupted at this point by shouting very loudly. He was quite near to me, but I could not make out what he was saying. Forte, being somewhat inexperienced as a public speaker, fell silent, and members of the crowd started shouting “Out, out, out”.

Tice poured oil on troubled waters by saying, “We respect the right of free speech and we urge them to do the same”, for apparently there was more than one protester. The heckler near to me was ushered from the hall and someone shouted after him “At least you can leave”, which produced rueful laughter.

Duncan Smith started with some jokes, including the funny story he told when interviewed by ConservativeHome in 2013, and went on to talk of “this enormous Establishment plot” to tell us “we are a miserable little nation” and “a hopeless little island”.

He added that Parliament “doesn’t represent the British people any more”. But he and the minority of MPs who think like him “will not rest” until Britain is “fully free once again”.

Tim Martin, founder and Chairman of the Wetherspoon pub chain, bore as he came on stage a fleeting but disconcerting resemblance to the satirist Craig Brown.

Martin’s main message was “don’t believe Project Fear”. He recalled that car manufacturers said “they’d all f*ck off to the continent” if Britain didn’t join the euro.

And he reported that “if you really want to annoy people”, you should “try going into a pub in Sunderland” and asking people there if it was true they “didn’t understand” what they were voting for in the referendum.

This produced laughter of the usual good-natured yet rueful kind.

Farage received the most enthusiastic welcome of anyone: a standing ovation before he had said a word.

He walked to and fro across the front of the stage, his amplified voice painfully loud as he warned that “we tonight here in Westminster are in the heart of enemy territory”, for “our political class” never respected the referendum result “from day one”.

Theresa May’s deal with the EU “looked more like a surrender document” [applause], and was the culmination of “50 years of lies from the British Establishment”.

He fears the whole referendum battle will have to be fought all over again, urged everyone to prepare for it, and concluded: “Next time, as far as I’m concerned, it’s no more Mr Nice Guy.”

One could not help suspecting that as in the first referendum campaign, Farage being nasty could have an off-putting effect on those voters who do not already agree with him.

McVey delivered an apologia for her time in government: “We thought we could trust our MPs.” On realising last November that the Prime Minister’s deal failed to honour the referendum result, she resigned.

And that was that. The event lasted two hours, felt decorous and respectable, and can be watched on Youtube. The audience was almost entirely white, but mixed by age and sex. It wanted to feel reassured that Brexit is going to turn out fine, but none of the six speakers could set at rest the fear that Parliament is about to refuse to do what the people have voted for.

The drawback of upholding an old-fashioned belief in parliamentary sovereignty turns out to be that a majority of MPs would much rather we had remained in the EU.

Simon Allison: Parliament is deadlocked. Only the British people can now deliver a final say on May’s deal.

It would be swift, fair and democratic solution to this sorry saga, allowing us to get back to meeting the challenges that helped fuelled the Brexit vote in the first place.

Simon Allison is founding member of Right to Vote, author of Brexit – a Betrayal of Conservatism? and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

Right to Vote, a new grouping of Conservative MPs and grassroots activists who are calling for the voters to be given a Final Say over the Brexit process, was launched this week. We’ve called it Right to Vote because we think that voting on the final outcome of the EU talks is the right thing for people to do and indeed, something that they should – and must – have a right to do.

There’s no question that people are bored to tears with hearing about Brexit, and sick and tired of politicians on all sides telling them half-truths about it – and in some cases, blatant untruths. To make matters worse, the people paid to solve the country’s problems, our MPs, have managed to get themselves into a state of total gridlock, in many cases just scoring political points while time ticks away on saving our future.

What people actually want is for our MPs to set out a clear way forward for the country. That means telling them the truth, however unpalatable and difficult that may be. In fact, if you look at the times when the Conservative Party has defied the odds to win elections, in 1979, 1992 and 2015, our success has been based on levelling with the people of the United Kingdom.

So: let’s face facts. The Prime Minister’s Brexit deal is dead. She is calling on MPs to unite around a new solution, but there’s no Commons majority for any form of Brexit – not for the Prime Minister’s deal, not for ‘no deal’ and not for a Norway-style arrangement. While many moderate Conservative MPs like the idea of a compromise based around some form of Customs Union or EEA/EFTA solution, they miss the fact that the reasons why the public didn’t swing behind Mrs May’s deal are the same reasons that they wouldn’t back that kind of compromise.

It would still leave us as a rule-taker not a rule-maker, leavs us paying £39 million without any guarantees about the final deal and we’d have to go on bended knee to persuade such global powerhouses as Norway and Liechtenstein to let us in. The whole thing would frankly be a humiliation for a world power like the UK. From a Party perspective, it opens up the prospect of internal war without end around the contents of a final trade deal, almost certainly dominating this Parliament and most probably ensuring a crushing defeat – even to Jeremy Corbyn – in 2022.

Instead, giving people a Final Say is a swift, fair and democratic solution to this sorry saga, allowing us to get back to meeting the challenges that in part fuelled the Brexit vote in the first place.

If you believe some on the Party’s far right, this makes us traitors and saboteurs, unrepresentative of true conservatism; many of the Conservative MPs supporting a Final Say are receiving threats of deselection by their constituency associations. But we must not confuse the anguish of hardened activists with the underlying views of the voters. Indeed, across all the seats that elected Conservative MPs at the last election, new research suggests that an average of 55.8 per cent of voters support a new public vote.

Indeed, if the Conservative Party is going to return to its election-winning positioning as the party of common sense, there are two key facts which it must recognise. First, that the Brexit side of this discussion, after nearly three years, can’t decide what Brexit means, making it somewhat difficult to implement and, second, that as of today Remain leads Leave by 12 per cent in the polls.

Against that background, to deny the electorate a say and, instead, delivering a Brexit that does not command their support would be a betrayal of the United Kingdom and a suicide mission for the Conservative Party. The right path for our country also happens to be right path for our Party.  We, as Conservatives, ought to lead the way in trusting the people with this – not to be forced in to doing so because there is nowhere else to turn.

The Right to Vote campaign has one clear aim: to secure a Final Say vote. This is about breaking the deadlock in Parliament. This is about securing consent for the next chapter in our great country. It is time to trust the people and let them really take back control.