Sometimes, it takes guts and imagination to do a hard thing. That’s the takeaway from a suggestion recently put forward on how to stop Brexit, itself a deeply contentious issue, and by some accounts, one that is no longer desirable or viable.
All that some of the more moderate anti-Brexiteers now want is a deal with the EU. They don’t want Britain to crash out of Europe on Halloween.
Even so, there are some who still dream of stopping Brexit altogether. The Lib Dems indeed.
And some commentators.
Recently, a rather tortuous comparison was drawn between Italy and Britain. Both have a fixed term parliament. Both have powerful politicians – former deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini in Italy and prime minister Boris Johnson in Britain – who desperately want elections. Both are hamstrung by the law. In Italy, parties other than Salvini’s Lega have been able to cobble together a government. And that’s what some commentators say should happen in Britain.
The FT’s Europe commentator, Wolfgang Münchau, argues that both Mr Salvini and Mr Johnson misjudged their ability to force elections. And that Britain could, like Italy, have a national unity government “if Mr Johnson were to resign as prime minister to avoid having to write a Brexit-extension letter”.
Such a government’s initial mandate would be to ask for an extension, and then bring about elections. But, writes Mr Munchau, “its participants may change their mind when they realise that they have nothing to gain from a vote. So what starts out as a stopgap administration could stay in power all the way until 2022, when the next election is due.”
A key point in all of this is the need to remove hardliners’ ability to exercise executive power. Some say that Mr Johnson – just like Mr Salvini when he was in office – must be replaced asap because legislative steps to block a no-deal Brexit may not fully work.
In other words, executive power is the only antidote to political or policy extremism.