On the face of things, there are few connections between HS2 and Brexit. The new train line connecting the North of England and London and ultimately Europe is deeply unpopular amongst some people who see it as a costly exercise that will have little impact or benefit on their lives, and for others something that has the potential to blight the landscape they have come to love. In terms of HS2 although it will have a big impact on many citizens, there has been no opportunity to decide if it should go ahead, there has been no referendum on it, and no doubt had there been one, those most affected would have been upset if people in the extremities of the UK had been offered a vote with the same value as their own. However even though the MPs who have decided to go ahead with HS2 have not tested public opinion via a referendum, and even though they have decided it should go ahead, there are still many within Parliament who are deeply opposed to it who are willing to do a Dr Beeching on a line not yet constructed. However the need for these same MPs to debate the finer points of the route and the places where the trains will stop, the order in which the line will be constructed and whether there should be a HS3 which may even overtake HS2 is widely understood by all Parliamentarians as being of importance to Parliament and their role as strategic leaders.
Having said that HS2 would have made for a challenging project to decide by a referendum, had the British people been invited to do so, the options would have been something like
- Build a new train line connecting the North of England with the South of England
- Not make any changes to the transport infrastructure
If that had been the question and we had voted by a small margin to build the line, and then after resignations and a new Cabinet and a Summer off for bad behaviour, the Parliament had reassembled. The Opposition may well have said that they wanted to know where the track would go, where the stops would be and of course who gets to build the new track and what the cost would be. Just imagine if:
John Redwood stated:
“Business is right to chide politicians to be more precise and to reduce the worries they have. We need to rule out the need to negotiate over large areas where we need to [build the track]. You cannot negotiate [building a railway]. We need to resume decision making over our [transport infrastructure]. Saying these are not up for negotiations greatly simplifies the task.”
David Davis warned:
Of a blame HS2 festival, that Parliament must not be allowed to thwart the will of the people, that building HS2 was too important to allow Parliament to decide on the route.
Bernard Jenkin said:
This desire to debate the route of HS2 is simply an excuse to delay and disrupt the plans to build our way into a new future.
Theresa May stated:
We will not provide a running commentary on the plans for HS2, Parliament will get to approve the plans when the first train sets forth from London to somewhere up North
I can’t imagine this either, but then a £75Bn train scheme is so much more important than the leaving of the EU with a potential impact of several £Tn over the next few years. Thank goodness we are being led by wise people who understand their role and can see things from a broad vantage point.