The Tories can either deliver Brexit and benefit politically or delay it and never be trusted again

I’m not going to sugar the pill today. Instead I intend to raise some questions upon which I do not think many Conservative parliamentarians have reflected sufficiently. Questions like: Why should any of the 17.4 million Leave voters ever trust the Conservative Party again? Why should they take the Tories seriously as a pro-Leave entity at […]

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I’m not going to sugar the pill today. Instead I intend to raise some questions upon which I do not think many Conservative parliamentarians have reflected sufficiently. Questions like:

  • Why should any of the 17.4 million Leave voters ever trust the Conservative Party again? Why should they take the Tories seriously as a pro-Leave entity at all?
  • Why does a party that keeps Philip Hammond as Chancellor, Greg Clark as Business Secretary and Amber Rudd as an out-and-proud Cabinet champion of overturning Brexit via a second referendum, even expect to be trusted by Leave voters?
  • How come Conservative Campaign HQ and various party luminaries dare to tweet out criticism of Labour for wanting to rule out the so-called “No Deal” (WTO) Brexit, when people serving in senior government positions are publicly calling for the same?
  • Do they think us all idiots who will forget about them betraying their manifesto promises in government before our very eyes, just because many Labour people are doing so in opposition?

These are all questions currently running through the minds of Leave voters as the calendar whirls on towards 29th March.

Oh yes, 29th March. There is no dodging that one, my Conservative friends (and I do still have a few). This is the moment of truth for the Tories.

I would like the many Conservative readers of BrexitCentral to understand one thing: if, after all your Government’s unredeemed Brexit promises, after recklessly creating a hung parliament not formally bound by its predecessor’s commitments, after cravenly agreeing to the EU’s preferred sequencing of negotiations, after signing up to the indefinite Irish backstop, after your Prime Minister promised clean Brexit even as Olly Robbins was – on her instruction – getting down and dirty in Brussels, after not taking No Deal preparations seriously until the eleventh hour, after coming back to the Commons with a veritable “turd” of a deal that was always going to be heavily defeated, if after all that your party fails to take the UK out of the EU on 29th March, you will have been well and truly rumbled. The game will be up.

You may, of course, still be able to make a decent fist of it in the battle for the future votes of some middle-class, prosperous Remainers, who don’t like the look of Jeremy Corbyn much. You will, after all, be able to tell them: “We came through for you in the end. We ran Brexit into the ground. We demoralised the Leavers. We dithered the thing to death. We are a safe bet for people like you. So please vote for us.”

But what message will you have for the Leavers who form two-thirds of your potential electoral support? “Don’t worry, this is just a delay. We will still get there in the end. Honest.” Forget it. When the third anniversary of the biggest vote for anything ever passes with the UK still locked in the EU, we will all know. Corporate money will have won the day again.

The party that took us in without a mandate to do so will have kept us in without a mandate to do so. The party that chose a Remainer Prime Minister to replace a Remainer Prime Minister will have wilfully failed to seize the rich and exciting opportunities of the Brexit vote.

Even those many superb Tory Leave campaigners who have never flinched – the Steve Bakers and the Priti Patels – will rapidly lose credibility if they continue to urge people to vote for the party that oversaw the death of Brexit.

A giant political space will open up for something new to better serve the pro-Brexit millions. The unmerited luck you enjoyed when UKIP marched off the Brexit pitch last year will have run out. You will have Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party ready and waiting for you at the next round of European Parliamentary elections. The “next round” – what an appalling and sick betrayal of democracy that would be! They will swallow up your Thatcherite supporters.

You will have my rapidly-growing party, the SDP, offering a genuine pro-Brexit pitch to the many sensible Leave voters who do not wish to follow where UKIP has gone, but will not again vote for a Tory Party that has treated them like mugs. And I promise you, we will be ready and waiting for you – and for Labour too – in any Peterborough by-election held in the shadow of the great betrayal.

You will have UKIP there as well as an outlet for the terrible anger that some Leave voters will need to express. You will be blamed for the Yellow Vests that will likely cause economic disruption so major as to make any short-term adjustment issues associated with a WTO Brexit pale by comparison. You will go down in the political folklore of this country as the least trustworthy party there has ever been.

Or you could remember that you told us that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. You could remember that you set 29th March in law as Brexit day. You could decide to deliver, thereby forcing Messrs Hammond and Clark to undertake some awkward calls to a few corporate CEOs who thought they had the whip hand (it would take a heart of stone not to find that amusing).

You could take us properly out of the EU and be the most likely political beneficiary of a great wave of patriotic support.

It is not well remembered that in the run-up to the Falklands War, as the task force was on its way to the South Atlantic, several senior ministers tried to convince Margaret Thatcher to back down and sign up to something they were badging as “pooled sovereignty”. Perhaps, if the proposals had ever come to fruition, there would have been an “Argentine backstop” involved somewhere along the line. But thanks to a Prime Minister who actually believed in her country, they didn’t. And I recall that the Conservative Party won three further consecutive terms in office.

The people who voted on 23rd June 2016 to leave the European Union expect to leave the European Union on 29th March 2019. Indeed, as supporters of the cause that won the referendum whose result you promised to implement, they demand it. That is hardly unreasonable. They have waited long enough. It is not just Brexit that is running out of time. It is the Conservative Party too.

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20 December 2018 – today’s press releases

Today is topped and tailed by Brexit, hardly unusual, but there is also some good stuff responding to today’s events… Rival Brexit plans reveal Govt without a course Govt must act to prevent deaths on our streets Govt must end ‘wild west’ drone market Lib Dems: Public health cuts demonstrate Tories’ duplicity Alun Cairns Must […]

Today is topped and tailed by Brexit, hardly unusual, but there is also some good stuff responding to today’s events…

  • Rival Brexit plans reveal Govt without a course
  • Govt must act to prevent deaths on our streets
  • Govt must end ‘wild west’ drone market
  • Lib Dems: Public health cuts demonstrate Tories’ duplicity
  • Alun Cairns Must Resign if UK Government Back No Deal – Welsh Lib Dems

Rival Brexit plans reveal Govt without a course

Responding to rival Brexit plans set out by Amber Rudd and Andrea Leadsom, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has said:

While people at home over Christmas will be worried about Brexit uncertainty, these rival plans reveal a Conservative Government without a course.

Theresa May is looking more and more like Captain Bligh. Her mutinous crew have lost faith in her. We even have Andrea Leadsom so lost at sea that she is speaking irresponsible gibberish about an impossible ‘managed no deal’.

Amber Rudd has land in sight by accepting a People’s Vote is ‘plausible’. Not only that, Liberal Democrats know it is the only way to break the parliamentary deadlock. It is time all parties got on board.

Govt must act to prevent deaths on our streets

Responding to Government figures that nearly 600 homeless people died on the streets last year, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

These deaths are absolutely tragic. As a wealthy country, we simply cannot accept people dying on our streets.

The Conservative Government’s failure to look after these individuals is a shameful dereliction of duty. Conservative Ministers must recognise the urgent need to build more social homes. The Liberal Democrats want to see 50,000 social houses to be built every year, rising to 100,000 as soon as possible.

These figures also bring into sharp focus how homelessness services for mental health and substance abuse desperately need more funding.

The housing crisis is a human crisis. It is depriving people of a roof over their head with devastating consequences. The time for warm words and little action has long gone.

Govt must end ‘wild west’ drone market

The Liberal Democrats have demanded the Conservative Government end the ‘wild west’ drone market and tighten up laws on who can own drones following the disruption caused at Gatwick today.

Speaking after securing an urgent question in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Jenny Randerson said the incident at Gatwick “illustrated the frightening ease with which drone vessels can inflict massive damage to our safety, our security and our economy”.

The Liberal Democrat peer urged the Government to set out plans for “proper controls on drones early in 2019”. In response, the Minister accepted the Government must “absolutely introduce new laws” but failed to set out in detail what that would mean and when.

Following the exchange, Jenny Randerson said:

The failure of Conservative Ministers, despite ample opportunity, to implement tighter regulation on drones has allowed an irresponsible act this morning to cause disruption to thousands of people trying to get home for Christmas.

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of drones will be bought as Christmas presents. There is a greater risk to aircraft and public safety than ever before. The rules are ultimately too lax.

Liberal Democrats demand better. Conservative Ministers must end wild west drone market, not least by starting with a compulsory registration of drones and compulsory training for all users.

Lib Dems: Public health cuts demonstrate Tories’ duplicity

Responding to the Government’s statement that confirms the reduction of money for public health by £85 million for the year 2019-20, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

It is outrageous that after months of the Conservatives claiming they care about health and the NHS, they have today have confirmed a further reduction in funding for public health.

This just goes to demonstrate the Tories duplicity, promising one thing and doing another. The Conservatives must stop following warm words and policies with insufficient funding.

Liberal Democrats are clear about the critical importance of public health. It is time the Government listened and prioritised public health by halting these cuts to funding and reinvest the money previously cut.

Alun Cairns Must Resign if UK Government Back No Deal – Welsh Lib Dems

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds has written to Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns urging him to resign from the Cabinet and resign the Conservative Party whip if a no deal Brexit becomes UK Government policy.

The letter was sent after Justice Secretary David Gauke claimed “that several Cabinet members could resign if no deal became the government’s policy” and Conservative MPs Nick Boles, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston said they would resign the Conservative Party whip if a no deal Brexit became party policy.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

Everyone but the most extreme Brexiteers knows a no deal Brexit would be a disaster. The Bank of England and the Government’s own figures show that a no deal Brexit would cause the Welsh economy to shrink by 9.5%. It’s deeply concerning the UK Government still appears to be treating a no deal Brexit as a serious option.

I was reassured to hear David Gauke claim that Cabinet Members will resign if a no deal Brexit becomes UK Government policy. I’ve written to Alun Cairns to ask if he will be one of them and whether he will join MPs Nick Boles, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston in resigning the Conservative Party whip.

I urge the Secretary of State to resign from the Cabinet and the Conservative Party if a no deal Brexit does become UK Government policy. This is the only way to show he opposes a no deal Brexit, that Wales opposes a no deal Brexit and to avoid facilitating this disastrous outcome.

Parliament cannot simply ‘block No Deal’ as some are claiming – it’s the default option

The hardcore Remainers who are determined to thwart Brexit – a democratic decision taken by over 33 million people after a six-month campaign and which resulted in a clear decision and the biggest electoral mandate in our history – seem to believe that if they keep saying things which are palpably untrue on enough occasions, […]

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The hardcore Remainers who are determined to thwart Brexit – a democratic decision taken by over 33 million people after a six-month campaign and which resulted in a clear decision and the biggest electoral mandate in our history – seem to believe that if they keep saying things which are palpably untrue on enough occasions, then they become facts.

One of those “factoids” which is the subject of received wisdom by people like Hilary Benn, Amber Rudd and Sir Keir Starmer who should know better is that Parliament can “block No Deal”. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Humpty Dumpty tells the eponymous heroine that “words mean what I want them to mean”. Remoaners take a similar view, irrespective of the facts.

It isn’t so. Nor is it possible to surmise how the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer can plausibly make the case that there is a good chance of a “No Brexit”.

It was for the very reason that David Davis and I knew that Remainer refuseniks would use every low and disreputable parliamentary trick in the book to disavow the settled will of the electorate in 2016, that during the Committee Stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill earlier this year, DExEU ministers insisted that the exact date of our departure from the European Union (11pm on 29th March 2019) should be enshrined in primary legislation, clearly on the face of the Act.

We ensured that the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 was the first clause of the then Bill too. Likewise, Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union is explicit that all the treaties of the European Union will cease to have effect in respect of a departing Member State at the conclusion of a two-year period – and this is enshrined now as an international treaty obligation.

Furthermore, the idea of attaching a plethora of so-called “Christmas tree” amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration is otiose too. As has been confirmed in evidence to parliamentary select committees by Sir David Natzler, the principal constitutional advisor to the House of Commons and its Chief Clerk, such legislative tricks are effectively giant Early Day Motions – parliamentary wallpaper which would have no statutory effect.

Put simply, if Parliament wishes to have a second referendum or set aside Article 50, then MPs will have to find time to legislate for such an outcome and before 29th March 2019. No deal is therefore the de facto backstop, to coin a phrase. We don’t particularly want it, but it’s a guarantee that the will of the people will be adhered to.

In short, you cannot wish away the EU Referendum Act 2015, the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 and the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 on a whim. It is simply anathema to our unwritten constitutional settlement. Similarly, MPs cannot press for an early general election without removing the legislative lock of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which is why the Prime Minister’s implied threat that voting down her capitulation deal will inevitably result in an early general election is baseless.

Who knew that the heroes of Brexit might very well be Ms Gina Miler and Dominic Grieve QC MP? Their doughty fight for proper parliamentary scrutiny and oversight of the legislative Brexit process has, in a counter-intuitive manner, protected the outcome from evisceration by the Establishment and other vested interests such as foreign multinationals, Whitehall mandarins and the liberal media, all of which hate the freely made and reasoned decision of the British people in 2016.

Without Ms Miller’s Supreme Court case demolishing a central tenet of the Royal Prerogative and establishing the imperative of Parliament legislating for the invocation of Article 50 (and one reasonably assumes its revocation by statute too) and Mr Grieve’s insistence on a meaningful vote in both Commons and Lords, Brexit could have been destroyed by the untrammelled use of Royal Prerogative by Theresa May.

The good sense of the British people to humble her for her hubris and arrogance at the 2017 General Election, which resulted in an avoidable hung Parliament, likewise meant that eurosceptic Conservative MPs and the Democratic Unionist Party have curtailed the chances of her signing an even more disastrous deal with Brussels and have put her on notice of a calamitous parliamentary rout in several weeks’ time unless she reconsiders her policy. Imagine Mrs May with a landslide majority and the full powers of Royal Prerogative!

Therefore, the real choice soon to be made by Members of Parliament across the political spectrum, in pragmatic terms, is not between the Prime Minister’s terrible punishment deal and a No Deal or World Trade Organisation trading deal; but in fact between the latter and an improved deal with the European Union, in respect of both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration. How many Conservative MPs truly believe that they must take the thinnest of gruel offered to them by Mrs May, because apparently the British people just “want to get on with it”? A deal signed off by the European Union Council of Ministers in just 38 minutes yesterday; a deal even rubbished by the EU-compliant CBI?

The key date for MPs to ponder is 21st January 2019 when the Prime Minister is obliged under the Withdrawal Act to come before Parliament and thereafter lay a neutral motion before the House on why a deal has or has not been agreed with the EU. That is the true deadline for securing a much better deal which honours the decision of the British people to take back control of their borders, laws and money at the referendum.

At that stage, I fully expect the Establishment and, in particular, Speaker Bercow to conspire to block Brexit as a final throw of the die, by seeking to allow the Standing Orders of the Commons to, in some way, be set aside so that the Commons could pass an affirmative resolution to extend Article 50 or rescind it. Such tactics will fail but would nevertheless have a terrible impact on the faith and trust people have in our parliamentary democracy and be corrosive to the implied contract made with the British people in 2016 when politicians promised the poll would settle the European issue for a generation. It would also give rise to anger and resentment and the rise of extremists on both the Left and Right. And, not the least, it would cleft the Conservative Party in two.

The stakes could not be higher. Conservative MPs will need to think about how history will judge them. I believe that most, when pushed, would rather the short term pain of a No Deal rather than suffer the purgatory of being effectively an EU colony and the strong likelihood of another 25-year Tory civil war over Europe.

The Prime Minister has consistently shown herself unwilling to compromise with her own parliamentary colleagues and, as such, must expect her them in extremis to be brutal in putting the country and party’s interests before her own short-term and receding prospects, in the next few weeks. It appears the only way out of what will soon be an unprecedented existential crisis.

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Steve Barclay named new Brexit Secretary

Following the resignation of Dominic Raab over the draft Withdrawal Agreement, Theresa May has just appointed the relatively unknown middle-ranking minister Steve Barclay as the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Elected Conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire at the 2010 General Election, he spent most of his first term in Parliament […]

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Following the resignation of Dominic Raab over the draft Withdrawal Agreement, Theresa May has just appointed the relatively unknown middle-ranking minister Steve Barclay as the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

Elected Conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire at the 2010 General Election, he spent most of his first term in Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee. After the 2015 General Election he was appointed to the Whips’ Office, where he served for two years before a brief stint as Economic Secretary to the Treasury between June 2017 and January 2018, since when he has been a Minister at the Department for Health and Social Care.

At the 2016 referendum, he backed Leave, declaring in a tweet on referendum day:

“Let’s believe in Britain not Brussels. It is time to have confidence in our country and take back control.” 

Indeed, by my reckoning, he was the only whip to declare for Leave at the referendum, when all others backed the Remain campaign.

Meanwhile, replacing Suella Braverman as a junior minister at DExEU is Leave-backing Kwasi Kwarteng, who has been MP for Spelthorne in Surrey since 2010 and who has been Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, for the last 18 months.

In other reshuffle news, Amber Rudd returns to Government as Work and Pensions Secretary in place of Esther McVey; arch-Remainer Stephen Hammond takes Barclay’s job at the Department for Health; and European Research Group officer John Penrose (who actually voted Remain) fills the vacancy at the Northern Ireland Office created by Shailesh Vara’s resignation. 

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