When Theresa May’s deal with the EU was announced in November, the Daily Globe was sorely disappointed and recommended MPs vote it down. You can read our reasoning here. Unfortunately, to use the Prime Minister’s phrase, nothing has changed.
The bill that will be voted on by MPs today unfortunately has all the problems that we condemned back in November. The “backstop” is simply unacceptable to any sovereign nation because it would give the power to the EU, and only to the EU, about when the UK could leave the Customs Union. The “assurances” from Jean Claude Junker and Donald Tusk in their letter regarding the backstop were not legally binding and did not change the fact that it remains a central tenet of the UK-EU agreement. However, even if the backstop were to be addressed, the other problems highlighted by us back in November continue to make this agreement problematic.
There are those who say, including shamefully in the cabinet and the Prime Minister herself, that this bill being defeated could mean “No Brexit”. This is very unlikely for three reasons.
First, it is the law, passed by statute in 2018, by this same Parliament, that the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019. Overturning that fact would require a new act of Parliament that would need to receive royal assent before Brexit day. Government business has precedence over private members bill under Commons standing order 14. This article is helpful in explaining why Brexit on time is the government’s “default position”; as Liam Fox said yesterday.
Secondly, “No Brexit” is unlikely to happen because the Prime Minister is going to try and get her bill passed again, albeit with tweaks. This was confirmed by reports yesterday. Those who have followed Theresa May’s career should not be surprised that her “Plan B” is her Plan A. Her entire political success has come from surviving and persisting until she gets her way.
Finally, to abandon Brexit would be tantamount to political suicide for the Conservatives. The vast majority of Conservative supporters are Brexiteers, and the majority now favour a WTO Brexit. If the Conservatives were to betray their voters and renege on promises to not only leave the Single Market and Customs Union, but that “No Deal is better than a bad deal“ its supporters would abandon it en masse – including this publication. Such a move would bring a result to the Tories like its Canadian counterparts in 1993 (as Brent Cameron discussed yesterday), but also likely much more cynical groups gaining power – from the far-left Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party to an insurgent far-right party gaining hold – as has been seen through continental Europe.
The key now for Brexiteers is to hold their nerve and run down the clock. Ideally, when Theresa May returns to Europe to modify her deal she will follow the four point plan of Boris Johnson of keeping the good bits of the agreement and agreeing to work towards a Canada style future trade deal with the EU. But we won’t hold our breath. If a WTO Brexit happens than so be it – Britain will gain its complete independence to set its own course on trade, immigration, and will get immediately more of its own money. There may be some short term disruptions, but realistically, as the Spectator cover piece from last week shows, it will not be a calamity. Rather, it could be a huge boon.
The time for MPs to be brave is now. Vote down the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement.