MPs must de­mol­ish this mis­con­ceived deal

The Sunday Telegraph - - Letters to the editor -

Those say­ing that Mrs May’s deal is the only one on the ta­ble are fraud­u­lently lim­it­ing this great coun­try’s op­tions

To up­hold the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum, there is only one thing in all good con­science that they can do on Tuesday

Not only should MPs vote against the With­drawal Agree­ment on Tuesday, but they must vote against it in large enough num­bers to kill it dead, oth­er­wise Theresa May will just keep bring­ing it back to the Com­mons un­til she gets her way.

Her sup­port­ers say that the only al­ter­na­tive to her deal is the re­ver­sal of Brexit – a des­per­ate bid to scare pro-Leave MPs into vot­ing it through. But this is just not true. There are other op­tions – and, yes, that in­cludes no deal, where progress on the prepa­ra­tions is fi­nally be­ing made, if be­lat­edly – and be­sides, if a treaty is a bad treaty then MPs are duty-bound to vote it down. Be in no doubt: this is an ap­palling, mis­con­ceived deal that would leave us trapped in the EU’s or­bit, un­able to gov­ern our­selves prop­erly and still ar­gu­ing about Brexit for years to come.

The most glar­ing er­ror in the deal is the so-called back­stop pro­to­col, which could kick in if the UK and EU fail to ne­go­ti­ate a new trade deal by De­cem­ber 2020 (highly likely, given the mess both sides have made of the with­drawal ne­go­ti­a­tions). The back­stop would di­vide North­ern Ire­land from the main­land and com­pel both to fol­low EU rules over which they would have no say. There is no uni­lat­eral mech­a­nism for Bri­tain to leave; we would be even more stuck than we cur­rently are as full EU mem­bers. The pro­to­col is so good for the EU, and so ru­inous for Bri­tain, that there’s no rea­son why the EU would want to ne­go­ti­ate a trade deal on bet­ter terms. Here is Brus­sels’ chance to force us to ap­ply Euro­pean-dic­tated tar­iffs to im­ports from out­side the EU, turn­ing the UK into a cap­tive mar­ket for its goods while mak­ing it nigh im­pos­si­ble to con­clude mean­ing­ful trade deals with the rest of the world. Bri­tain would be chained to con­ti­nen­tal rules on ev­ery­thing from em­ploy­ment to the en­vi­ron­ment, which is a shame­less be­trayal of the prom­ise that Brexit will give us back con­trol.

Bri­tain also voted to re­assert the au­thor­ity of its courts and that, too, is un­der threat: the With­drawal Agree­ment forces the UK to give “di­rect ef­fect” to pro­vi­sions of the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice. Sup­pos­edly in­de­pen­dent ar­bi­tra­tion be­tween Bri­tain and the EU will ac­tu­ally be sub­ject to bind­ing rul­ings by the ECJ when­ever the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of an EU law is in­volved.

Brus­sels clearly wants to hu­mil­i­ate us. Why? Be­cause Brexit has stymied its goal to cre­ate an in­te­grated con­ti­nent, plans that are nev­er­the­less forg­ing ahead. France and Ger­many are plan­ning to merge bor­ders, economies and de­fence poli­cies, to cre­ate a model, no doubt, for a fu­ture Euro­pean uni­tary state. The EU needs Bri­tain tied to this project, will­ingly or oth­er­wise. Last week, Sir Richard Dearlove, for­mer head of MI6, pointed out that the Agree­ment’s prom­ise of a “new, deep and spe­cial relationship” with the EU on se­cu­rity and de­fence would di­vert us from our tra­di­tional, Nato-fo­cused strat­egy and prob­a­bly ren­der us a rule-taker not just on trade but “in­tel­li­gence, space, fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions and the Euro­pean De­fence Agency”.

The peo­ple voted for Brexit, and Brexit can work if the Gov­ern­ment tears up the Agree­ment and re­turns to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble hon­estly pre­pared to walk away with­out a com­pre­hen­sive deal – and the tech­ni­cal, le­gal po­si­tion re­mains that Bri­tain is sched­uled to leave on March 29 re­gard­less of the fate of the Agree­ment. A no-deal sce­nario would be dif­fi­cult and sub­op­ti­mal, but it would also be man­age­able, de­spite apoc­a­lyp­tic pre­dic­tions en­cour­aged by the Gov­ern­ment. The deputy mayor of Calais has in­sisted that lor­ries will run smoothly across the chan­nel: Calais is seeking to em­ploy at least 200 ex­tra cus­toms of­fi­cials and has hired 200 ve­teri­nary in­spec­tors. At Dover, Bri­tain has just 41 cus­toms of­fi­cers and agents and only nine an­i­mal in­spec­tors. To speed up the con­struc­tion of in­fra­struc­ture, France has in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion to cut red tape on plan­ning and build­ing – some­thing that would be very wel­come in Bri­tain.

Those say­ing that Mrs May’s deal is the only one on the ta­ble are fraud­u­lently lim­it­ing this great coun­try’s op­tions to a Brexit so light it is barely Brexit at all (the Gov­ern­ment’s cur­rent po­si­tion) or a re­ver­sal of Brexit to keep us within the EU (the ef­fec­tive po­si­tion of the Re­main­ers, in­clud­ing the Tory rebels). Both op­tions frus­trate the will of the peo­ple, and MPs have to con­sider the po­lit­i­cal back­lash. If an MP’s goal is to de­lay or stop Brexit, let them be open about it and face the con­se­quences at the bal­lot box. If, how­ever, an MP is gen­uinely com­mit­ted to up­hold­ing the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum, then on Tuesday there is only one thing in all good con­science that they can do: vote down Mrs May’s deal.

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