‘Stop this par­lia­men­tary jig­gery-pok­ery – by pre­par­ing for no deal now we are likely to get a good deal. This is the time to be brave’

To­mor­row, MPS need to ig­nore fears of a das­tardly con­spir­acy in Par­lia­ment and say no to the PM’S plan

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - BORIS JOHN­SON

To­mor­row night, MPS must make a his­toric choice. They can ei­ther vote for the present With­drawal Agree­ment, with all its ap­palling de­fects – or they can in­sist on some­thing bet­ter. I can­not fore­see what they will de­cide, or in what num­bers. But I can see that this is pre­cisely the same wretched text that was in the process of re­ceiv­ing such a spec­tac­u­lar rasp­berry be­fore Christ­mas.

It still means a chronic and de­lib­er­ate threat to the Union with North­ern Ire­land. It still means that, un­less we are pre­pared to do the un­think­able and aban­don North­ern Ire­land, we will re­main locked in the EU cus­toms union and large parts of the sin­gle mar­ket.

This deal would still make it im­pos­si­ble to do big free‑trade deals – as the US am­bas­sador has cor­rectly pointed out. It would pre­vent us from en­gag­ing in the kind of reg­u­la­tory di­ver­gence – con­trol of our own laws – that peo­ple voted for.

And since not a dot or a comma of this deal has changed in the past month, it still means that we are set to hand over £39 bil­lion for noth­ing, and with no guar­an­tees about our fu­ture re­la­tion­ship.

This deal is still the worst of both worlds, by which we some­how leave the EU but end up be­ing run by the EU. It is still a com­plete stinker, and so no – I can’t tell ex­actly what will hap­pen on Tues­day. But I can­not be­lieve that it has much of a chance of get­ting past the House of Com­mons.

As this re­al­ity has dawned on the sup­port­ers of the PM’S deal, they have started to change tack. They have come up with a last des­per­ate scare story, de­signed to chivvy MPS through the lob­bies. After spend­ing much of the last few weeks warn­ing of the per­ils of “no deal”, they have been dis­mayed to note that, if any­thing, their warn­ings have for­ti­fied the pub­lic – and MPS – in their de­ter­mi­na­tion not to be fright­ened.

Six weeks ago, the idea of leav­ing with­out a deal was widely held to be ec­cen­tric. Not any more.

To­day, the prepa­ra­tions are go­ing ahead full tilt, and one by one the myths and pho­bias are be­ing de­mol­ished – not least by help­ful in­ter­ven­tions such as that from Jean‑marc Puissesseau of the port of Calais. For months, we have been told that new checks at Calais would mean crip­pling de­lays for British hauliers, cost­ing the econ­omy bil­lions. Au con­traire, said M Puissesseau to the BBC: “There will not be any de­lay. The trucks will be pass­ing as they are do­ing to­day.”

It is in the face of this out­break of com­mon sense that the scare­mon­gers have changed their story. Through­out the past 48 hours, they have been ring­ing MPS and warn­ing that un­less they vote for the PM’S deal, the risk is not a no‑deal Brexit – the risk is that there will be no Brexit at all! There is a ter­ri­ble plot afoot, we are told, in­volv­ing the Speaker of the House of Com­mons and var­i­ous MPS. They have a Blofel­dian plan to seize con­trol of the par­lia­men­tary process.

If I un­der­stand it cor­rectly, the Gov­ern­ment is to be de­prived of its his­toric abil­ity, un­der stand­ing or­der 14, to de­ter­mine par­lia­men­tary busi­ness. This power will some­how be handed to a junta of Re­main‑ back­ing MPS, who will pro­pose var­i­ous mea­sures to block Brexit.

The whole das­tardly con­spir­acy was ap­par­ently un­cov­ered by the Chief Whip, who was in­no­cently ty­ing his shoelaces in the cloak­room when he heard the ring­leaders brag­ging of their plot – like Jim, the nar­ra­tor of Trea­sure Is­land, who over­hears the con­spir­acy of the pi­rates while hid­ing in an ap­ple bar­rel.

I sup­pose we must all con­grat­u­late the Chief on keep­ing his nerve and get­ting away un­de­tected – but if you ask me what I think of this plot, and in­deed of the risk that Par­lia­ment will some­how thwart Brexit, I am afraid I think it is all non­sense.

It must not, can­not and will not hap­pen. To any­one who has fol­lowed the Com­mons de­bate in the last few days it is clear that MPS do not have the an­swer, be­cause they sim­ply can­not agree on what to do next. There is no con­sen­sus for the so‑called Nor­way op­tion, not least be­cause in some ways this is ac­tu­ally in­fe­rior to the deal on the ta­ble. The UK would be even more of a rule‑taker, would have to make sub­stan­tial pay­ments, would have to ac­cept free move­ment – and the prob­lem of the North­ern Ir­ish back­stop would per­sist.

Few MPS re­ally want a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, with all the hor­rors and re­sent­ments that would en­tail. The PM has rightly set her face against it, just as she will not risk pub­lic fury by ex­tend­ing Ar­ti­cle 50.

But even if MPS were col­lec­tively of one mind, and even if they had de­cided that the 2016 ref­er­en­dum should be sim­ply set aside – as John Ma­jor bizarrely sug­gested yes­ter­day – they would be tak­ing a huge risk in try­ing so nakedly to thwart the will of the peo­ple.

The House of Com­mons voted by 544 to 53 in favour of the Ref­er­en­dum Bill in 2015. All Tory and Labour MPS cam­paigned on man­i­festos that promised, in 2017, to im­ple­ment the re­sult – which, in case you have for­got­ten, was that Leave won with a ma­jor­ity of more than a mil­lion.

If they now en­gage in lu­di­crous par­lia­men­tary jig­gery‑pok­ery, end­lessly tabling amend­ments de­signed to frus­trate Brexit, they will risk a very se­ri­ous back­lash in­deed. The an­swer is not to leave it to Par­lia­ment; the an­swer is for the ex­ec­u­tive to do its job, as some of us have been ad­vis­ing for months: to ac­cept that the deal is dead, and to move on.

If the PM is de­feated on Tues­day, she should come to the House and an­nounce:

(1) that the UK and EU will keep the sen­si­ble bits of the deal, no­tably on cit­i­zens;

(2) that the back­stop is com­ing out;

(3) that we are go­ing to use the im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­riod to ne­go­ti­ate a Canada‑style free‑trade deal, and with­hold half the £39 bil­lion un­til we get it; and

(4) that we are go­ing to in­ten­sify prepa­ra­tions for no deal – in the knowl­edge that it is by pre­par­ing for no deal that we are likely to get a very good deal.

There is time. If we are brave, we have noth­ing to fear; and I fear the con­se­quences of no Brexit far more than I fear no deal.

To­mor­row, we must have the courage to vote down this lam­en­ta­ble deal and kill it off once and for all.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.