Could parliament get a deal to avoid a disastrous ‘no deal’ Brexit? | Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg: ‘We have to get the choice of no deal off the table. So, what can we do in August?’ Photograph: Mark Riley/Getty Images

Nick Clegg: We may not like the response to my letter to all MPs but in any political debate you’ve got to find a way of making a points of difference that people are going to respond to. In particular, the main two parties remain locked in a cycle of “no deal is better than no deal”. There isn’t a deal at all. Everybody knows that.

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So how do you address that? Clearly, the House of Commons must be well aware that it cannot, by itself, guarantee that a deal will be reached. As the PM has said, it would be folly for MPs to make this vote a choice between no deal and no deal. But does that mean they should shy away from it in August? No.

This is our chance to deliver on the commitment we gave to voters in 2016 to hold a referendum on the final Brexit deal, so if parliament chooses not to vote on it, then it will fall to the public to decide the people’s decision. I don’t believe that’s right, or that it’s the case that nobody will really want to vote on Brexit. This is your chance to respond.

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But more importantly, I would say to MPs, don’t despair. This is your one last chance. Don’t concede to a minority of no deal sceptics and chokers and even unelected undemocratic shills, the self-serving zealots and honourable colleagues who can’t be relied on to deliver what is best for the country.

We have to get the choice of no deal off the table. So, what can we do in August? Perhaps there is a way to keep the EU from imposing tariffs on our trade that would be so damaging for our business communities.

On the economy, we should act now to put our house in order. The IMF’s latest update predicts GDP growth of 1.8% and under 1% in 2018 and 2019, which is not enough for people to get ahead and maintain their standard of living. The IMF also warns that Brexit uncertainty has reduced the willingness of businesses to invest. We must change that.

Let’s also get the Brexit negotiations right in the negotiations in August so they can be reviewed in September. We must keep the lines of communication open with Brussels. Then we should work together in the autumn to see if a revised deal can be struck.

Those of us who campaigned for Brexit also promised the British people we would deliver a clean break. But we should have taken a long, hard look at what “taking back control” would really mean.

We need to take charge of our own decision-making. If we don’t believe Britain will be able to succeed and thrive on our own and that we should leave the EU, why should we believe that Brexit has to fail? What’s the point of the Brexit process if our decision on whether or not to leave has so little to do with the reality we will face outside the EU?

Negotiating a new deal is a skill that is not taught in classrooms in Britain. We need to find a way of putting the technicalities into perspective and making the case that we are in a strong position to build a strong global trade relationship after we leave the EU.

We need to bring our own self-interest to bear on the EU. The question is – are the EU’s interests, and the EU’s legal process, the interests of us, the UK? We should question whether there are ways we can leverage the ways the EU deals with its own citizens.

I take no pleasure in the fact that more MPs, joined by union leaders and campaign groups, have also signed my letter. But we are coming together to make sure that this vote on Brexit will not be as painful and divisive as it looks like it will be.

• Nick Clegg is former deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats

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