BRACE YOURSELF FOR A NO DEAL BREXIT
Publicity blitz will advise on health care and travel
MINISTERS are to dramatically speed up preparations for a nodeal Brexit as the crunch Commons vote on Theresa May’s EU withdrawal plan looms, a senior frontbencher reveals today.
Writing exclusively for the Daily Express, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, below, says a health and travel publicity blitz urging people to be ready for a sudden break with Brussels will be launched next week. He also warns MPs the Prime Minister’s plan is “the only workable deal that delivers on the democratic choice of the British people”.
His forthright message comes as Westminster is braced for parliamentary hostility over Brexit to resume next week before the so-called “meaningful vote” due in the week beginning January 14.
“We are preparing for
all scenarios,” the Cabinet minister says. And he adds: “As 2019 begins, we will accelerate our no-deal planning further.”
Mr Barclay’s article today is expected to be seen as a fresh warning to Brussels of the need for further concessions in the row over the “backstop” border mechanism.
UK negotiators are understood to have quietly resumed talks with EU counterparts in recent days, in the push to win assurances “with legal force” that the backstop will not keep us trapped indefinitely in a customs union with Brussels.
Mr Barclay says that, with the Commons still bitterly divided, the Government will take further steps in the coming days to ensure the country is prepared for failure to reach a deal with Brussels.
He writes: “There is obviously division in Parliament over the PM’s Brexit deal.
“It’s not a perfect deal. But it’s the only workable deal that delivers on the democratic choice of the British people. And it’s the best way to avoid no deal.
“As we return to Parliament, MPs must consider the alternative.”
The Exit Secretary says new Government measures to prepare for a no deal will include:
New information from the Department of Transport, which sets out its plans for ensuring that flights are not disrupted;
Updated guidance from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory
‘My colleagues in Parliament must put national interest first’
Agency on guaranteeing medical standards;
New advice from the Home Office on the need for UK citizens planning travel to Europe on checking their passports are up to date;
A public information campaign to be launched next week on radio and social media to raise awareness about the need to be ready for a nodeal Brexit.
In an appeal to MPs to unite behind Mrs May’s Brexit plans, Mr Barclay adds: “People did not vote for the disruption and uncertainty of no deal.
“The pace and intensity of the work we are doing reflects the potential scale of this disruption to people and businesses across the UK.
“No deal will be far more likely if MPs reject the PM’s Brexit deal later this month.
“My colleagues in Parliament must put the national interest first and vote for this deal so we can get on with delivering Brexit and building the UK’s prosperous future as an outward-looking global trading nation, outside the EU.”
Another Cabinet minister yesterday insisted the Prime Minister could “find a way” to win the “meaningful vote” on her Brexit plans later this month.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Eurosceptic Tory MPs could get “absolutely everything we want” by backing her deal.
Speaking during a visit to Singapore, he said: “We have a clear opportunity to leave the EU on March 29.
“It has the vast majority of things that people wanted, not absolutely everything.
“The question is, can we turn this into something that gives us absolutely everything we wanted, and I believe we can.
“There will be some tough negotiations to follow in the years ahead but I think getting this clearer language on the backstop will help to get it through Parliament.”
Mr Hunt also warned of “devastating social consequences” if a second EU referendum was triggered. And he confirmed the Government was continuing its bid to change details of the backstop within the Withdrawal Agreement.
He said: “Theresa May has been very clear this isn’t just about words, but about text which has legal force.
“She has also been very straightforward about this – the EU has agreed the backstop is temporary and that’s a word they have agreed.
“So what we’re saying, very simply, is we’re not asking for anything new but we are asking you to define what temporary means so we can have confidence we’re not going to be trapped in the customs union for ever against the wishes of the British people.”
But Eurosceptic Tory MPs who vehemently oppose Mrs May’s plans last night refused to back down.
Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Tory backbench European Research Group, said there was “no sign at all” that the tide of opinion in the Commons was turning.
He said: “I think it was based on the false premise that when at home in our constituencies, people would tell us to back the deal.
“Instead, as far as I can tell, the message is, stand firm against a bad deal.”
Fellow Tory MP Sir Bill Cash said: “My new year’s resolution – not to vote for the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement this January.
“Parliament exists to make our laws. This agreement lets the 27 EU countries impose laws on the UK as never before in our history – behind closed doors with no transcript and no UK at the meeting.”
SO THE Government is strengthening preparations for a no-deal Brexit: good. The EU has clearly been trying to take advantage of us in every conceivable way on the grounds that they would not believe we would really leave without a deal: it is time to show them we would do just that. No doubt they are also aware of the fact that £39billion is at stake: if there’s no deal, there’s no divorce payment. That should focus the collective EU mind.
As for MPs, they must finally understand that the Prime Minister was being serious when she said it was her deal, no deal or no Brexit. That last option would be unpalatable to the people who voted Leave all those many long months ago. Is it too much to ask that MPs finally get on with the job?