A welcome dose of Brexit pragmatism
AFTER all the bluster, posturing and name-calling, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox injected a dose of much-needed realism into the Brexit debate yesterday.
In a masterful Commons performance, the distinguished barrister and prominent Brexiteer deconstructed the Prime Minister’s deal with brutal candour.
No, it’s not perfect. Yes, it carries calculated risks. No, he was not comfortable with the Northern Ireland backstop, or the fact that it could not be unilaterally terminated. And yes, there is a chance that the UK could remain in the customs union beyond December 31, 2020, if a trade deal can’t be finalised by then.
But for all the compromises, this was the best deal available and he felt he must accept it. With good faith and ‘the best endeavours’ of both sides, it could pave the way to an orderly withdrawal from the EU, he said. If others could come up with a better plan, they should present it.
Like any other divorce, Brexit stirs high emotions. But instead of the sound and fury that has so exasperated the ordinary public, Mr Cox called for ‘ wisdom, forbearance and measured evaluation’.
The fact is, it’s in no-one’s interests for the UK to be entrapped permanently in a customs limbo – and may well be against EU law. So why on earth should it happen?
True, this was not the full, detailed Government legal advice demanded by MPs. But it was a thorough and honest assessment of all the legal issues in play.
How petty and self- serving then, that opposition parties are still insisting – against all convention – that the full advice should be published, and calling for contempt proceedings that could see Mr Cox expelled from the Commons.
Sadly, Speaker John Bercow sided with the calls last night and a debate and vote by MPs will be held today. Had he believed in fairness, he would have had nothing to do with it.