MPs must demolish this misconceived deal
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.