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
✒ 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.