MPs should reject this wretched deal
On Tuesday, we will discover if the courage of British MPs is a match for the courage of the British electorate. Assuming that the vote is not pulled by a desperate Government for whom the full scale of its catastrophic miscalculation is finally dawning, the House of Commons will be asked this week to endorse the Withdrawal Agreement and accompanying Political Declaration agreed by Theresa May with the EU last month. MPs should reject this wretched deal, if possible by a crushing, three-digit majority.
The establishment has used every trick to browbeat Parliament into nodding through the Agreement. But their warnings only reveal the depth of our political and economic elite’s declinism. The UK’s current trading relationships are perfect, they have decided, as if Europe was not a fading continent plagued by political unrest, an extreme democratic deficit, uncompetitive taxes and regulation, and a decadent belief that the world owes it a living. They suggest that nothing could be done to minimise the disruption of an alternative exit, as if the UK would passively accept whatever punishment the EU decided to mete out. They even consider it impossible that a better agreement could have been negotiated. In doing so, they betray the lack of ambition, the narrow legalistic thinking, the status quo bias, and, yes, the pro-EU mindset that has gripped the commanding heights of our political system.
The deal Mrs May has negotiated was not inevitable, but the result of mammoth incompetence, an obsession with ending free movement while sacrificing almost everything else, and a terror of real change. It is the very opposite of what the public voted for. Two years ago, the courage of the British people was clear: they saw through the disgracefully dishonest warnings of Project Fear and had faith in the potential of the country. The mandate they gave the politicians also could not have been clearer: a return to independent self-government. How can the Government pretend that its Withdrawal Agreement achieves that? It would leave the UK locked in the EU’s regulatory orbit, potentially stripped of any chance of attaining an independent trade policy due to the so-called backstop, split down the middle with a border in the Irish Sea, and humiliated as a compliant vassal state of Brussels with no way of unilaterally breaking free.
The Government says that, if this deal were to fail, there is a high risk of Brexit not happening. It’s time to call its bluff. The shenanigans of a small minority of Tories should not hold Brexit hostage. The reality is that their party, and much of the country, will not tolerate the cancellation of the greatest exercise in democratic accountability in British history. If MPs do try to stop Brexit from happening altogether, it would trigger a complete realignment of Westminster politics and probably force a general election. If a reinvigorated, truly pro-Brexit Tory Party were to win, as would be likely, the constitutional crisis, pitting voters against their representatives, would be resolved.
For all the talk about Norway Plus – a misnomer that would be even worse than Mrs May’s deal – a Canada-style relationship is the ideal alternative to the PM’s proposal, but it has been stymied by the refusal of EU leaders to consider technological solutions to the Irish border issue. One might hope that a ringing rejection of Mrs May’s agreement would leave the EU in no doubt that the UK will not accept a backstopshaped surrender. Will it compromise and realise that the machinations of politicians such as Ireland’s Leo Varadkar are incompatible with reaching a fair deal based on mutual respect?
And if Brussels puts EU theology ahead of pragmatism and refuses to budge? So be it. Unlike many of our political leaders, we do not believe that the UK lacks the capacity for independence. Even at this late stage, and despite the failure of the Government to prepare for a no-deal scenario, we have faith in the creativity and enterprise of the British people. There is time enough still to negotiate a managed exit on far looser terms if necessary. The British people set their politicians a test: we have voted to leave, now put the result into practice. Millions supported change, many of whom had never voted before or who had grown disillusioned with the political system. A stunning opportunity opened up for the Tories to harness the power of the Vote Leave message, to end the disconnect between Westminster and the rest of the UK, and to renew our politics and our country. Endorsing Mrs May’s deal would be to fail that test, and to throw away that opportunity. But will MPs realise it? If they do not, with faith in the democratic process already so brittle, they will be courting a political disaster of their own making.
The deal Mrs May has negotiated is the opposite of what the public voted for
We have voted to leave; now politicians must put the result into practice