I can­not back ‘Charge of the Light Bri­gade’ deal

The Sunday Telegraph - - Countdown To Brexit - By An­drew Mitchell

In the 30 years since I was first elected to Parliament, Tues­day’s vote is the most dif­fi­cult choice I’ve faced. All my in­stincts as a for­mer chief whip – and as a Gov­ern­ment whip dur­ing the Maas­tricht de­bates in the Nineties – are to sup­port my party and Gov­ern­ment. I know all too well the dam­age done to the Con­ser­va­tive Party by the ex­plo­sive fault lines on Europe. It has de­stroyed the last three Con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ters.

I ad­mire our Prime Minister and her stead­fast de­ter­mi­na­tion to de­liver her deal. Hav­ing served with her for seven and a half years in Cabi­net and shadow cabi­net, I know well her in­tegrity, de­ter­mi­na­tion and prin­ci­ple, and I re­spect her.

But as I spoke to the sixth form re­cently at Bishop Walsh School in my con­stituency, I re­alised I can­not sup­port this deal. It is nei­ther in the in­ter­est of those young peo­ple, nor of Sut­ton Cold­field, nor of our coun­try.

First of all, I do not un­der­stand what led our Prime Minister to bring back a deal she knows she can­not get through the House of Com­mons.

Fur­ther­more, to try to do so will not only de­stroy the whip­ping sys­tem for the rest of this Parliament (a se­ri­ous mat­ter for any mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment) but has all the ap­pear­ance of turn­ing con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion on its head.

It is the Gov­ern­ment that is ac­count­able to Parliament, not the other way around. This strat­egy ap­pears to have as its in­spi­ra­tion the Charge of the Light Bri­gade.

Se­condly, this deal does the re­v­erse of what it says on the tin. Far from set­tling mat­ters over Europe, it per­pet­u­ates the deep di­vi­sions that have en­gulfed our coun­try. In­deed it en­shrines them. This deal would leave us as a rule taker. That will sat­isfy nei­ther side. It en­sures that those who be­lieve we should re­main in the EU will cam­paign to be­come a rule maker once again, and those who voted to leave will feel we have not done so.

They will feel the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum has not been re­spected. It is the worst of all worlds.

Thirdly, by giv­ing way on the back­stop, the deal will de­liver the like­li­hood that North­ern Ire­land will be treated dif­fer­ently from Great Bri­tain. This is a red line that the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party has al­ways made clear can­not be crossed if they are to sus­tain the Gov­ern­ment with con­fi­dence and sup­ply. As Ar­lene Fos­ter told the an­nual din­ner of the Sut­ton Cold­field Con­ser­va­tives last week, this threat to North­ern Ire­land is greater than hav­ing Jeremy Cor­byn in Down­ing Street.

And this is all be­fore we start our ne­go­ti­a­tions for our new re­la­tion­ship with Europe. We would be in a fun­da­men­tally weak and sub­servient po­si­tion.

This week it is Parliament that will take back con­trol. We have mixed oil and wa­ter by im­pos­ing on our Par­lia­men­tary sys­tem a ref­er­en­dum re­sult. And, of course, Parliament must re­spect that. It is now for the House of Com­mons to de­cide how to agree on the best way ahead in the na­tional in­ter­est. I have made my de­ci­sion.

An­drew Mitchell is MP for Sut­ton Cold­field, and for­mer Cabi­net mem­ber (2010-2012) and chief whip

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