Our MP should call out deal for what it re­ally is

Glo­ri­ous Glouces­ter­shire Mike Broome took this pic­ture of Long Pool at Coombe Hill Na­ture Re­serve

Gloucestershire Echo - - LETTERS & OPINION - Philip Cole Chair­man, Chel­tenham for Europe

✒ AN open let­ter to Alex Chalk MP.

Dear Alex, I re­fer to your views on the EU With­drawal Agree­ment which, need­less to say, the vast ma­jor­ity of your con­stituents will find un­ac­cept­able. I will ad­dress some of the points you make.

Firstly, you say ‘Even in Chel­tenham I am aware of in­creas­ingly heated pub­lic ex­changes be­tween those on dif­fer­ent sides of the ar­gu­ment - in­clud­ing in our own High Street.’ You should know that Chel­tenham for Europe has had very few in­stances of ‘heated ex­changes’ at our street stalls.

How­ever, re­cently, eggs were thrown at our stall by a man who is known to the po­lice (and who has been cau­tioned by them). I wrote to you about this as one of your staff ap­pears to have con­doned this be­hav­iour on Face­book. We are still wait­ing for your re­ply.

Se­condly, you say ‘The bleak truth there­fore is there is no way for­ward which will, at a stroke, re­solve this is­sue and heal our na­tion.’ At a stroke per­haps not, but if the peo­ple are al­lowed to have a say on Mrs May’s ‘deal’ then at least they will have been given a demo­cratic choice.

Thirdly, ‘a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum to re­verse the re­sult of the 2016 poll’ misses the point. In 2016 a wafer-thin ma­jor­ity of those who voted sup­ported the idea of leav­ing the EU. But in the light of the lies they were told dur­ing a cam­paign which was in some re­spects con­ducted il­le­gally, and pos­si­bly sub­ject to for­eign in­ter­fer­ence, it is not sur­pris­ing that the vote went as it did.

But it can­not be re­garded as ‘un­demo­cratic’ to of­fer the peo­ple a vote on the Prime Min­is­ter’s ‘deal,’ now that we know more about what it en­tails.

You go on to say ‘Mean­while, the CBI, fol­low­ing a sur­vey of its 900 mem­bers, states that it (May’s ‘deal’) avoids the “wreck­ing ball” of no deal, and adds that it would be “fool­ish” for Par­lia­ment to vote it down.’ As you must by now be aware, leaked memos from the CBI in­di­cate that quot­ing their sup­port is some­what disin­gen­u­ous.

To put it in lay­man’s terms, any type of Brexit – in­clud­ing Theresa May’s deal – will make us poorer. In fact, we would have done for things like the NHS, hous­ing or in­vest­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties. The blow to the pub­lic fi­nances will dwarf many times any cut in our mem­ber­ship fee. Philip Ham­mond ad­mit­ted that stay­ing in the EU would be “a bet­ter out­come for the econ­omy”, but in­sisted May’s deal was “very close” to the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of be­ing in the EU. That’s stretch­ing the truth. He’s re­fer­ring to cal­cu­la­tions based on May’s “Che­quers plan” - ditched after Tory re­bel­lions and fur­ther con­ces­sions to the EU. An­other sce­nario in the re­port more ac­cu­rately re­flects where May’s deal is likely to end up – with more reg­u­la­tory bar­ri­ers for our trade with the EU and tighter con­trols on the move­ment of EU work­ers.

That pre­dicts a 3.9% hit to our GDP in 15 years. In­de­pen­dent ex­perts have said that would equate to about £100 bil­lion a year by the 2030s (as against our cur­rent net con­tri­bu­tion to the EU of about £8bil­lion).

You go on to say ‘We will take back con­trol of our money, with no more vast an­nual sums paid to the EU. Fu­ture con­tri­bu­tions will be to en­able our par­tic­i­pa­tion in par­tic­u­lar ac­tiv­ity we judge to be in our na­tional in­ter­est.’

In fact, as the gov­ern­ment’s own anal­y­sis makes clear, we will be sub­stan­tially worse off. It is dis­hon­est to pre­tend that this is any­thing other than an ap­palling out­come.

You also say ‘We will leave the Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy and Com­mon Fish­eries Pol­icy. This will give us the free­dom to de­sign new poli­cies that work for our ru­ral and coastal com­mu­ni­ties.’

Such as…? Can you of­fer just one plau­si­ble pol­icy for those com­mu­ni­ties? Crash­ing out will de­stroy the Bri­tish fish­ing in­dus­try, as other coun­tries will im­pose mas­sive tar­iffs on im­ports of Bri­tish fish.

Our farm­ers stand to lose easy ac­cess to con­sumer mar­kets in Europe, while be­ing ex­posed to cheap food im­ports.

You claim that ‘Labour’s pol­icy of keep­ing the UK in a cus­toms union makes trade deals im­pos­si­ble…’what ev­i­dence do you have – any ev­i­dence will do - that if Brexit goes ahead the UK will sud­denly be­come mas­ter of the world’s econ­omy, able to strike deals with all and sundry?

You con­clude thus: ‘we should never for­get the iron rule of pol­i­tics: no sit­u­a­tion is so bad that it’s not pos­si­ble for politi­cians to make it worse.’

But no sit­u­a­tion is so bad that it’s not pos­si­ble for politi­cians to make it bet­ter – pro­vided they have the moral courage to act in the in­ter­ests of those they rep­re­sent.

As you must know, your con­stituents voted 57.2 per cent to re­main in the EU.

The lat­est re­search sug­gests that that num­ber has risen to 63.3 per cent and 67.4 per cent of your con­stituents (i.e. in­clud­ing some Leavers) would sup­port a Peo­ple’s Vote.

Alex, I don’t know if you have per­suaded your­self through the ar­gu­ments you present, but I don’t think they will con­vince many oth­ers.

In­stead, most of your frus­trated con­stituents would love to hear you speak up with the clar­ity of Jo John­son, to call out the deal for what it is and to have the courage to join the cam­paign for a Peo­ple’s Vote: to do the right thing.

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