It is clear than many MPs – including not a few on the Tory benches – are more than a little restless about their role in agreeing the Brexit terms and process. And given the High Court challenge over whether the Government has the right to invoke Article 50 without the consent of parliament, that restlessness isn’t limited to MPs. It was stated by the government lawyers during that court hearing that the government’s position is that MPs are very likely to have a vote about the final terms.
What’s a lot less clear to me though is what MPs would actually be voting on, at either stage. It’s true, as many have argued, that a majority of the UK electorate has voted to depart this particular station, but the electorate wasn’t given any opportunity to select the destination. Whilst people are reading the referendum result as support for their own particular interpretation, the simplistic nature of the question asked means that none of us can really be certain.
But the problem with a parliamentary vote at the end of the negotiation process is that that, too, is likely to end up being a binary choice, and not necessarily of the sort that people are expecting.
I suspect that it will not be a choice between Brexit on ‘these’ terms or no Brexit (with the latter requiring, morally if not legally, a further referendum, and therefore being dependent on a clear indication of a change in public opinion). That would be messy and politically difficult, but would at least give an opportunity for a rethink in the cold light of day with all the implications clear. If people then chose to support it, no-one would be able to argue that they hadn’t had the consequences spelled out to them.But MPs are more likjely to be given a choice between Brexit on whatever terms the government has negotiated by that point and Brexit by simply walking away with no deal of any sort. MPs may find that the choice for which they are lobbying so hard will turn out to be one of the Hobson’s variety.