Why are People’s Vote supporters celebrating the defeat of a European agreement?
The European Commission’s reaction to the latest failure of the Withdrawal Agreement, published on Facebook, is noteworthy,
‘We regret the negative vote in the House of Commons. A “no-deal” scenario on 12 April is now a likely scenario.’
This is unsurprising. The Withdrawal Agreement is a joint treaty of the UK and EU; it was drafted by the European Commission and agreed by heads of member state governments in the European Council.
As I have written before, there is tension between the People’s Vote campaign’s declared support for European integration and the campaign’s opposition to an agreement concluded by the European public authorities. This is akin to a dilemma long faced by Northern Irish Loyalists; when the entity to which you are loyal acts in a fashion contrary to your perceived interests, do you remain loyal in these particular circumstances?
It is true that Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, expressed support for the People’s Vote campaign this week. Tusk nonetheless represents the intergovernmentalist wing of the European public authorities; federalists in the European Commission have long been suspicious of the European Council. Tusk’s comments were also not made by the European Council as an institution.
The European Commission hence regrets the defeat of its agreement in the Commons. My impression is that the Commission is keen to complete Brexit, so as to reduce uncertainty and move ahead with a more federalist agenda.
I don’t think that the position of the People’s Vote campaign is unambiguously Eurosceptic; current circumstances are unique. There is nonetheless a key tension; People’s Vote supporters need to reflect upon it.