We are now in the absolute endgame of the great Brexit debate, but still without any clarity as to where we are actually going. That we should be in such a position three years after the referendum, and literally on the day we are supposed to be leaving the EU two years after article 50 was triggered is a dreadful indictment on the shambles of a negotiation that has been led by Theresa May.
We have at the moment a half formed ‘deal’ that few support, which would propel us out of the EU with barely any idea of the type of institutions we would be working through in the future, other than to deny us decent customs or trade arrangements with the EU itself. We are facing the real prospect now of exiting the EU on a ‘no deal’ basis.
It is difficult to see that Theresa Mays ‘deal’ having been rejected twice, will get over the line even if bought back again, and yet she, and the government stubbornly refuse to countenance any plan, other than to plead for a short extension to article 50 ‘to tidy matters up’ on the assumption that this deal will go through. If it does not, as we have now heard from the EU an extension of only a couple of weeks, to April 12th to come up with something substantive which would enable further negotiations to take place and a longer extension to be agreed. If Theresa May does nothing new and just runs the clock down to the new date of April 12th we still face a real prospect of being ejected from the EU with no deal, with the dire consequences for the UKs trade and economy that it would represent.
That is why last week, I supported and actively participated in moves to get Parliament to have a say in what alternatives might be. I voted for Parliament, effectively to take over the process where the choice of which way to go next is taken out of Theresa Mays hands: Parliament can instruct the government on the course of action to take.
I supported this move also on the strict understanding that ‘no Deal ‘should not be an outcome on the table – as Parliament has already voted and agreed upon.
We’re halfway through this process right now: Parliament has now been given the opportunity to vote on a variety of possible outcomes: some contingent on other moves being made. My exact votes for the eight propositions in front of Parliament are recorded here, but broadly speaking I voted against the idea that a settlement looking like or actually being no deal should now pass, that if an inadequate deal is to pass, then the people of Great Britain should have the opportunity to ratify it or reject it through a confirmation vote:, that basic elements of a reasonable deal should include a customs union and close working with the EU single Market, and that , in an emergency situation where the UK looked to be within days of finally crashing out with no deal then the option of revoking article 50 and stopping the process should be considered.
These different propositions received different levels of support and at the time of writing are set to be discussed further next week.
I continue to oppose the catastrophe of the UK leaving the EU with no deal, and unless a far better deal can be agreed by parliament, continue to support the idea that there should be a further national public vote, in the light of all that we now know, on whether we want to leave with a bad deal or remain in the EU, where, all other considerations of sovereignty and similar matters apart, we have the best economic deal at the moment. As I have said before, if that vote pitches Theresa Mays disastrous non-deal as the means of leaving the EU against staying in the EU and reforming it from within, then I would support and vote for the latter.
Some time has passed since I last updated you about Brexit.
Events are moving fast on Brexit but I wanted to try and give you an update on where I stand.
According to the Brexit timetable, the UK will be leaving the EU on the 29th March this year, regardless of whether there is a ‘deal’ in place.
If we leave the EU with ‘no deal’ the government’s own figures show that the UK economy would be severely affected, falling 9% over fifteen years.
The ‘deal’ Theresa May offered to Parliament at the beginning of January failed to secure arrangements for keeping the UK close to the customs union or the single market, it failed to provide a satisfactory solution to a new trading relationship, and it failed on the Northern Ireland border.
During the envisaged transition period negotiations on these matters will continue whilst we take whatever rules are imposed on us by the EU in the meantime. Given that we will have already left the EU by this point our negotiating position will be so weak as to be non-existent.
This deal is so poor that I cannot seriously believe that many people, if they had known the outcome, would have voted for it as part of the referendum process. This is why I joined many of my parliamentary colleagues from all parties in rejecting it by a margin of 230 votes – a government defeat larger than any ever seen in the history of this British Parliament.
Regardless of this historic rejection, Theresa May continues to cling to the disastrous ‘red lines’ which made her deal so untenable. She is stubbornly sticking to her failed deal and running down the clock making a no deal Brexit more likely by the day. No Deal Brexit cannot be allowed to happen. It would be disastrous for the people of Southampton and the UK who are already struggling under this Conservative Government.
I have been working with many colleagues also across all parties, to stop this outcome and to press for the negotiation of an alternative deal that really does work in our national interest, but this would require an extension to the time limit for leaving the EU which I am working hard in Parliament to get secured.
After the motion of no confidence in the Government was defeated, ruling out a General Election and a clean slate for negotiations, we are stuck with deadlock and a Prime Minister who is running down the clock to a catastrophic unplanned exit. Theresa May is unable or unwilling to renegotiate putting the UK’s economy and security at risk.
I don’t think that anyone, whether they voted leave or remain supports that kind of outcome.
If neither Parliament nor the government can break the deadlock, then I think there will be no alternative but to put the final decision as to what we do back to the people in the form of a second referendum.
A second referendum will itself need an extension to Article 50, and if the choice at that point is to leave the EU with no deal or stay in and try to reform it from within I will certainly be supporting the option to stay.