Poor decisions and strategic errors from the very top of Government have defined the Brexit process

There are very few people who are willing to argue publicly that Brexit has been a smooth and easy process. Nor are many likely to say that it has gone the way that most Brexiteers anticipated. Over the course of the past three years there has been a series of poor decisions and strategic errors […]

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There are very few people who are willing to argue publicly that Brexit has been a smooth and easy process. Nor are many likely to say that it has gone the way that most Brexiteers anticipated. Over the course of the past three years there has been a series of poor decisions and strategic errors in the handling of Brexit. These events have left the UK with an appalling Withdrawal Agreement and a Government without authority or credibility.

Trying the same thing and expecting a different result is often quoted as the definition of insanity, and yet this is now the position of the Government. The Prime Minister intends to bring her Withdrawal Agreement back to the Commons for a third time; but it will not go through Parliament. It suffered the worst government defeat of all time, by 230 votes, and then the fourth worst, by 149 votes.

These were record government defeats and still, the Prime Minister insists upon a third Meaningful Vote even though “nothing has changed”.

This is a ridiculous position for the UK Government to be in, but it is hardly a surprise. The awful Withdrawal Agreement is the result of a Prime Minister making a litany of blunders in her handling of Brexit and refusing to accept that she, like most Remainers, has not understood Brexit. There is a reason that there are so few Brexiteers still in government.

The first sign of the current crisis was the disastrous 2017 general election. All anyone will truly remember from her campaign was her ability to trot out the same meaningless phrases of “Brexit means Brexit” and “strong and stable” despite the clear evidence that nobody believed in her or her position. Naturally, this played out with her blowing record poll leads and the first Conservative majority for almost 20 years.

It demonstrated to the EU her inability to articulate a clear, sensible Brexit policy that could unite the UK and Parliament.

This electoral and parliamentary weakness was then compounded by her decision to give in to the EU’s demands on the progress of negotiations against the advice of the Brexit Secretary at the time, David Davis.

This concession to the EU handed complete control of the agenda to the EU and set the tone for the future of the negotiations. This put the UK in the ludicrous position of being unable to negotiate future arrangements at the same time as its withdrawal, despite the inextricable nature of the future arrangements and the withdrawal.

Theresa May has had little to no control over her Cabinet and ministers, let alone her parliamentary party. Fundamentally, she is too weak to exert any measure of meaningful influence.

Theresa May recognised this weakness, which is why she sought to balance her Cabinet between Remainers and Brexiteers, to assuage both sides of her party and to prevent a split. However, this has been an awful mistake as it has allowed Remainers to hijack the Brexit narrative and push the Prime Minister away from delivering a true Brexit.

Moreover, this strategy has been ineffective as the Conservative Party is now more divided than ever between Brexiteers and Remainers. Theresa May should have backed the Brexiteers in her Cabinet and, by doing so, challenged Remainers to respect the referendum and manifesto or to rebel against the party line. I suspect that, when pushed, most Remainers would have fallen behind the sensible policies put forward by leading Brexiteers like Canada+ or MaxFac.

Moreover, it is mostly Brexiteers who have resigned, whilst high-profile Remainers have stayed within government. This is a telling indicator of both Theresa May’s weakness and the failure of her Brexit proposals.

There are two possible reasons that Remainers are not resigning: perhaps it is because they can snipe against Brexit with impunity or maybe because they know that the proposed Withdrawal Agreement could see us inextricably trussed to the EU – Remain by any other name.

Another issue with prominent Remainers in Cabinet has been the refusal to allow adequate preparation for No Deal. There have been several reports of the Chancellor withholding allocated funding for preparations for a move to WTO terms. The Chancellor is also ultimately responsible for the endless stream of economic propaganda about Brexit, a continuation of the discredited pre-referendum Project Fear – which has been proven so drastically wrong.

Of course, we must not forget that some of the problems in the Brexit process started before the referendum took place. It is a shameful indictment of David Cameron and his Government that they arrogantly refused to allow the Civil Service to start planning for potential Brexit options.

They disregarded the possibility that they could lose the referendum. After all, how could they? The Remain campaign heavily outspent the Leave campaign and had the benefit of official government messaging such as the Government’s leaflet, which cost taxpayers £9 million.

This Government is caught in a seemingly endless cycle of errors, mistakes and poor decisions with each new loop inexorably bringing the Government further away from the lofty heights that Theresa May once promised. But this crisis is one of her own making and the signs were there: we should have seen this coming.

Photocredit:  ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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We must keep faith with our promise to voters that we would leave the EU now

Tying the UK to the EU’s single market and customs union with Labour votes would devastate trust in the Government and in politics more broadly. 58% of the population, who expected control of the UK’s law making to be returned to the UK when we leave the EU according to an Ipsos-MORI poll this week, […]

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Tying the UK to the EU’s single market and customs union with Labour votes would devastate trust in the Government and in politics more broadly. 58% of the population, who expected control of the UK’s law making to be returned to the UK when we leave the EU according to an Ipsos-MORI poll this week, would find their politicians had failed to deliver it.

Conservative voters would find their Government which stood on a General Election manifesto of leaving the single market and customs union had connived with the man they had demonised to deliver the exact opposite. Labour voters would question why their representatives had gone against their manifesto to help a government to which they are normally opposed.

The course of European politics over recent years has shown that such loss of trust in mainstream parties has allowed other types of politics to replace them. I want the Conservative Party to be a broad church and to have a constructive and balanced relationship with the EU and its European member states, but also to be a party that is trusted and successful. That is why I have been so keen to point out the dangers of the Government’s current course which in my belief really risks its reputation in these matters, and to get us pointed in the right direction.

It is worth therefore drilling into the detail of what is meant, and what are the practical and technical consequences, of the well worn phrases we have heard so much in rhetorical debate over the last three years, especially in advance seemingly of yet more votes on them.

Just as the EEA “single market” agreement was conceived as an ante-room for European community membership for the EFTA countries, Turkey’s “customs union” with the EU was established as part of its pre-accession integration process.

Comment on the EU’s regulations in the EEA’s case, and the EU’s tariffs and preferential trade access to their market in Turkey’s case, may be allowed, but they have no practical way to avoid adopting the rules in these matters which in the end the EU makes for them.

The EU and EEA countries have no appetite to reform these processes in a liberalising direction to accommodate the UK’s wishes were it to have similar arrangements, or indeed to make a special case of the UK. Free movement of people, and rules made by others even if inappropriate, for example for our world leading financial centre in the City of London, would not be things we could resist.

Yet at least in extremis the EEA countries and Turkey could leave those arrangements with notice. The UK would not be allowed to leave such arrangements without falling into a “backstop” for Northern Ireland or the whole UK however, because these arrangements for the UK would not be allowed by the EU without signing up to the permanent Northern Ireland backstop element of the Withdrawal Agreement. EU officials would have achieved their aim of making Northern Ireland the “price” for the UK leaving the EU, even in name only.

EEA and customs union arrangements in any case moreover do not make for “frictionless trade”. The CBI mantra about them which sounds nice and which Remain supporting Cabinet ministers have allowed to be drilled into their heads, is misleading. EEA and or customs union still require border formalities of export declarations, and in the customs union case additional physical movement certificates to prove origin or duty paid on all consignments.

The UK if it implements the Withdrawal Agreement will have agreed that in the “backstop” these physical movement certificates to administer its customs union would be required on every transaction between Great Britain and the EU, and Great Britain and Northern Ireland – perhaps 200 million a year.

In contrast, a free trade agreement such as that offered the UK by Donald Tusk last March, and an agreement to ease administrative processes for trade such as that suggested in our Alternative Arrangements Working Group, could be at least as effectively “frictionless”, would be a normal balanced relationship between jurisdictions with independence of action, and would not prejudice the constitutional integrity of our union or stability of relations in the island of Ireland.

Let’s therefore not do something the people of the UK on both sides of politics would regard as a defeat, the likes of which had never been seen in peace time.

Let’s instead offer a balanced, independent relationship of free trade, cooperation and respect for each other’s citizens, with standstill arrangements to allow more time for each side to prepare should the EU want them, but be prepared to negotiate this from outside the EU.

Dedicated civil servants on both sides of the Channel have in fact applied huge resource to readiness and most businesses have made their plans and prepared, as the Bank of England highlighted this week. We should redouble our efforts to help people transition quickly to new processes, especially those whom the messages have not reached, and support them through any short term disruption.  

But we must keep faith with those we promised we would leave the EU now. The future opportunities of the freedom we will gain by doing so are real. But we must seize them now, when countries around the world are lining up to help with them, and not let them slip out if our hands.

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Labour’s anti-Brexit agenda and talking down Britain have driven me to quit the party

I have been a lifelong supporter of the Labour Party (like my coal-mining father before me) and a Labour member for many years; I served as a Councillor for 18 years and stood as Labour parliamentary candidate against Theresa May in 2005. But I am now in the unenviable position of having written out my […]

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I have been a lifelong supporter of the Labour Party (like my coal-mining father before me) and a Labour member for many years; I served as a Councillor for 18 years and stood as Labour parliamentary candidate against Theresa May in 2005. But I am now in the unenviable position of having written out my resignation letter from the party with a very heavy heart.

Labour – and in particular Jeremy Corbyn (who had always been a eurosceptic) – are not being honest with the British people by only looking after their own careers rather than the good of the country. I am finding this totally unacceptable and cannot continue to support an organisation that is prepared to sell its own country down the river merely in the pursuit of power. The number of Labour supporters who voted Leave who are being let down by their self-centred, arrogant and undemocratic MPs is nothing but a disgrace.

I have in the past lived and worked in southern Germany for an American international bank and loved the whole experience. However, I love Britain more and recognise that Brexit is best for the UK, albeit if not for the European Union.

Business is growing faster outside the EU than inside it. We sell approximately 43% of our exports to Europe, a proportion which has been reducing year on year. Our biggest market is outside Europe. However, as far as Germany is concerned, we are their biggest customer, even bigger than America. The majority of EU states countries export more to us than we do to them.

There are lots of other facts and figures I could quote to you, but they all add up to one thing: the EU needs us more than we need it.

So of course the EU wants us to accept the proposal currently on the table: it was provided by a group of Remainers, from Prime Minister to her civil service advisers, with input from big businesses which have their own vested interests.

I have set up and run an international company in the semiconductor industry, with suppliers from Silicon Valley in the USA and customers across the UK, Europe and parts of Asia. Of course, Brexit means there may be some disruption and extra paperwork for business, but how does that compare to having freedom and control over our own destiny and the expansion that Brexit will bring to the UK?

I find it an embarrassment, when most of the rest of the world can see the obvious benefits of Brexit, that so many of our own Members of Parliamentary cannot. They would rather promote a climate of fear and put the the interests of the EU before those of our own great country.

I would never ever go into any negotiations without the option of pulling out; so why are so many of our politicians set on giving the EU total control over us?
This is a very sad and depressing state in which we find ourselves.

It’s time to stop being so scared. Europe’s leaders have made no secret of their intentions: President Macron has gone on record to say the EU needs to work towards a European army and to fully integrate the euro. He also said that, if France were given a referendum, he was sure his people would vote to leave the EU – but he is a devotee of the EU so won’t be offering them a vote.

All I am hearing from Remainers is fear: fear of what may or may not happen, fear of any change, fear of stepping outside our own door. I wonder how the rest of the world manage to survive using World Trading Organisation rules?

I love Europe, but I love Britain more. We can still leave on 29th March without an agreement. Let’s use the £39 billion instead to support our own businesses, not Europe’s. To use a 1960s slogan, I’m backing Britain.

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A reminder of why Theresa May’s deal is so unacceptable

We ask about any bad event – cock-up or conspiracy? With the Government’s Brexit negotiations, you get both. Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is no such thing; it is a Remainer Agreement, a legally-binding international treaty that can only be changed by the unanimous consent of the 27 EU member states. This proposed international treaty breaches […]

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We ask about any bad event – cock-up or conspiracy? With the Government’s Brexit negotiations, you get both. Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is no such thing; it is a Remainer Agreement, a legally-binding international treaty that can only be changed by the unanimous consent of the 27 EU member states.

This proposed international treaty breaches the referendum result in spirit and fact; it breaches the clear manifesto pledge of the Conservative Party during the 2017 election; it potentially results in Northern Ireland permanently remaining in the Single Market – creating a border between it and the rest of the UK; and it hands over a minimum of £39 billion of UK wealth for an Agreement worse than the status quo.

The EU/May Political Declaration commits us to ‘an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic cooperation, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence and wider areas of cooperation’, which would be membership in all but name.

It obliges us to ‘create a free trade area’, a ‘single customs territory’, ‘provisions to enable free movement of capital’, ‘a liberalisation in trade in services well beyond the Parties’ World Trade Organisation commitments and building on recent Union Free Trade Agreement’, and ‘a level playing field for open and fair competition’.

The Declaration proposes an ‘overarching institutional framework’ which ‘could take the form of an Association Agreement’. Association means Associate membership, which effectively means staying in the EU.

Paragraph 89 of the Declaration obliges the police to arrest people deemed to have committed ‘political offences’ – s kind of crime not known in our law. Remember, the EU’s Attorney-General has said that “Criticism of the EU is akin to blasphemy.”

Oddly, the Declaration proposes ‘developing alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland’, so they accept that we can avoid a hard border in Ireland with no need whatsoever for a backstop or a customs union.

The Agreement gives the EU a veto on UK withdrawal. If the current Withdrawal Agreement is passed into law, the UK cannot unilaterally withdraw from the Agreement. The EU can keep us in forever by refusing to revise the Agreement. It is a sham negotiation by both sides: the EU has got exactly the Agreement it wants. Why would they it change now?

It makes us a rule-taker in almost all areas of EU competence. Should it be agreed, Parliament would effectively be forced to accept, apply and obey whatever regulations the EU proposed and be bound by all rulings by the European Court of Justice. Contrary to the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech and manifesto pledge, the European Court of Justice retains de facto primacy over the UK, remaining the final arbiter of the Agreement and of the EU laws that affect us. Thus, the Agreement is remaining in the EU in all but name, but no longer having a say, thus breaking the spirit of the referendum result and the election manifesto promises.

The Agreement requires us to keep in regulatory alignment with the EU on matters such as agriculture subsidies and tax policy. This would effectively give the EU control over the UK’s economic policy. The UK would not be able to lower taxes and increase subsidies where necessary to vital parts of our economy.

We would be listed as a ‘participating state’ within the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism, paving the way for us to having to contribute money to any Eurozone bailout. (The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was how we were forced into giving the Eurozone money after the 2008 economic crash.)

The Agreement stipulates the ECJ and the European Commission would be able to set the legal levels of our financial contributions to fund EU bodies which the Agreement commits us to be part of. In effect we would be handing the EU a blank cheque

It aims to retain some preferential treatment towards EU citizens from the other 27 Member States – specifically in areas of education and work. Why should EU citizens get preferred over those from the rest of the world?

The Agreement commits us to contribute towards funding and supplying our troops for any future EU military operations and commits us to sharing sensitive intelligence data with the EU after Brexit.

It commits us to sharing the sensitive data of our citizens with European databases.

We would hand over a minimum of £39 billion (and possibly as much as £60 billion) of taxpayers’ money to the EU without agreeing any future deal on trade, other than being tied to the current acquis communautaire in its near entirely. This is like paying for a house before you have seen the title deeds.

The Agreement includes future negotiations on the Common Fisheries Policy (at the last minute and against all promises to the contrary) in the transition period the May government has guaranteed that access to UK fishing grounds will become a bargaining chip to be traded away, as President Macron confirmed immediately after the Withdrawal Agreement was signed.

By treating Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK, the Agreement raises the question of introducing a different deal for Scotland.

Article 18 of the Protocol says, “If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate measures.” So, in the event of any disturbance, of any kind, the EU has the right to act unilaterally in any way it sees fit.

Annexes 2 and 3 set out the core rules governing the single customs territory. The UK commits to align with the EU’s Common External Tariff, and with the Common Commercial Policy on trade in goods with third countries to the extent necessary give effect to these provisions. The text provides for the UK to remain within the EU’s trade defence regime for the duration of this Single Customs Territory regime.

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Given parliamentary arithmetic, I fear May’s deal is the only vehicle for getting out the EU

So, we finally come back to the starting point, back to square one. Parliament now faces the very same choice that the electorate faced when they placed a cross on a voting paper nearly three years ago, way back in 2016: Leave or Remain. There is nowhere for MPs left to hide. All prevarications, deviations […]

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So, we finally come back to the starting point, back to square one. Parliament now faces the very same choice that the electorate faced when they placed a cross on a voting paper nearly three years ago, way back in 2016: Leave or Remain.

There is nowhere for MPs left to hide. All prevarications, deviations and diversions have failed: a second referendum comprehensively defeated; a Norway 2.0 type deal, EFTA membership and a customs union all thrown out; every attempt to derail Brexit decisively rejected. Also rejected is a no-deal departure. Bit by bit, Brexit has been stripped back to its bare bones much like a tree stripped of its branches and its bark right down to its core, its fundamental element; Brexit stripped to its beautiful simplicity: Leave or Remain.

The attempt by Speaker Bercow to prevent the Government bringing a ‘substantially same’ deal back to the Commons will make little difference. It is not the big spanner in the works that many Remainers hope it is; it will only delay a third meaningful vote to within a day or two from the default departure date which will only bring the stark choice facing MPs sharply into focus.

Theresa May’s deal may or may not be the disaster that the European Research Group say it is, but it remains the only vehicle through which the UK could leave the EU on or soon after 29th March. A delay beyond 30th June would be a betrayal for it makes no Brexit the only possible outcome. The option of voting against the deal because it’s not good enough is a kamikaze option: it serves no purpose other than keeping some MPs’ hands clean and their conscience pure.

The argument that being so close to 29th March, and that rejecting May’s deal at a third meaningful vote will leave no time for the necessary primary legislation to prevent the UK leaving without a deal, is far-fetched and reckless. In normal times, such restraints may prove effective; but we are not living in normal times. Given the will, and there is indeed a strong will among MPs, to stop a no-deal Brexit, Parliament will conjure up special emergency procedures to ensure the UK will not leave without a deal and the Speaker of the House will be more than willing to help.

A glimpse of a rethink was detected when Jacob Rees-Mogg asked the Attorney General if a different Parliament could unilaterally withdraw from the Withdrawal Agreement. The reply was clear and unequivocal, a sovereign nation can unilaterally withdraw from a treaty if it no longer meets its national interest. Other eminent lawyers may disagree as lawyers invariably do, but what is not in doubt is that untrammelled powers are bestowed upon countries once they become sovereign. This may be the start of a softening of the ERG’s approach to the deal. An all-or-nothing stance is the strategy of the desperate and the defeated. But the British people are neither desperate nor defeated. They know this deal is not so much an end but a start, a new start for Britain. What is done today can be undone tomorrow and what we agree to today can be changed tomorrow as the balance of forces tilts in our favour once we are out of the EU.

Sovereignty will bring to an end the chess game we’ve been engaged in with the EU and with all the pieces back into place, we’ll embark on a new match. The electorate has been steadfast in its determination to leave the EU, and so must their representatives in Parliament, especially those who campaigned to Leave and those who were the official leaders of the Leave campaign. They must make certain that the result of the referendum is honoured and that the UK leaves the EU.

The support of the DUP is important but no decisive. More decisive is the attitude of Labour, for the deal will not pass the Commons without support from Labour. Labour has as much responsibility as the Tories to facilitate Brexit, both its individual MPs and the party leadership – and Jeremy Corbyn has the greatest responsibility of all.

So far, Corbyn has managed to ensure that when it mattered, Labour did nothing to derail Brexit. No doubt an amendment promoting an alternative basis for a deal with the EU and another calling for an affirmative public vote on May’s deal if Parliament were to agree it will be put forward. But once these amendments are defeated – as they are bound to be – Labour will have to consider its attitude towards the deal itself, the only deal on the table. It is at that point that the Labour leadership must assert its authority, stand by its promise to respect the result of the EU referendum and ensure it goes through; there is no other honourable position for the Labour Party to take if it is to keep faith with its supporters and the country at large. Enough Labour MPs, whipped or otherwise, will support it or abstain to ensure its safe passage.

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Now is the moment for Brexiteers in Parliament to stay true and be brave

John Bercow certainly knows how to hog the limelight. The man who drones on and on, lecturing MPs about brevity, was at his grandstanding best in the House of Commons on Monday. But for once, I agree with him. It is wrong for the Government to keep asking MPs the same question in the hope […]

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John Bercow certainly knows how to hog the limelight. The man who drones on and on, lecturing MPs about brevity, was at his grandstanding best in the House of Commons on Monday. But for once, I agree with him. It is wrong for the Government to keep asking MPs the same question in the hope that enough of them will cave in under pressure. Just because the EU deploys the same tactic to deal with recalcitrant voters who have the audacity to vote “the wrong way”, it doesn’t mean that the Prime Minister should be allowed to get away with it.

Thankfully, Bercow’s intervention has spared us all another meaningful vote this week, and although I am sure it was not the Speaker’s intention to help Brexiteers in Parliament in any way, it might just work in our favour.

I have to say that I am disappointed with some of my fellow Brexiteers – many of them personal friends – who have decided to back Theresa May’s deal at this stage in the negotiations. They have their reasons, and I don’t doubt their commitment to the cause. No-one can say that Philip Davies is anything but a committed Brexiteer, and if anyone starts questioning that commitment, I will defend him. No, the reason why I am disappointed is because I feel that their tactics are wrong.

Theresa May has written her letter and is today going cap in hand to Brussels asking for an extension to Article 50 at the European Council meeting. Britain is in crisis, so she says – said as if she is an innocent bystander, not a protagonist of a deal that has been overwhelmingly rejected by MPs and is deeply unpopular with the majority of UK voters.

If she has any sense, she will say that the Speaker of the House of Commons has tied her hands; that she doesn’t stand a chance of getting the current deal through Parliament because he won’t allow her to. “If you want us to leave more or less on time (after a short technical extension), you had better give me something meaningful, otherwise there won’t be another meaningful vote”, she should say. She could use it as negotiating leverage.

The EU doesn’t want a no-deal Brexit which – despite how MPs voted last week – is still the legal default position in just eight days’ time. It doesn’t want a long extension to Article 50 either. It has offered us a truly awful deal that it wants MPs to approve. The EU has to contend with elections this year which are bound to increase the number of eurosceptic populist MEPs. It doesn’t want more of them from the UK. A new Commission has to bed in and doesn’t want to have to continue Withdrawal Agreement negotiations with the UK. It is far better to give some more concessions that will command majority support in the House of Commons (knowing that it still has by far the best part of the deal) than to allow negotiations to keep dragging on.

So please, Brexiteers in Parliament, stay true and be brave. I know that you are facing pressure left, right and centre. The whips are on your back; retired politicians are busy writing op-eds telling you to cave in; newspaper editorials are urging the same; and one of your number, Andrew Percy, the co-chairman of the misnomer that is the Brexit Delivery Group, has accused you of idiocy for holding out. Don’t listen to them. You know that this deal is awful. You know that it is the worst kind of Brexit in name only. Like me, you are probably resigned to not getting the Brexit that you want. You know that you will have to compromise, but you shouldn’t compromise until the second you have to.

MPs will vote again on Theresa May’s deal next week after the EU has made some tweaks, despite what Bercow said on Monday. The Government will get around it with another one or two pieces of paper from the EU. If it is still a bad deal, they should vote it down. Watch the EU stop the clock on 29th March if it has to, and watch them make more concessions. Please remember that the EU has invested an enormous amount of time and effort into these negotiations, too. Theresa May doesn’t want to throw away more than two years of work, but neither does Michel Barnier.

It has to be made clear that the implementation period must be time limited and there must be alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop for the deal to go through. It still won’t be my kind of Brexit, and it still may be a poor deal, but it will be much better than it is now. Importantly, we won’t be trapped.

Now is not the time to give in. There may be just eight days to go, but these negotiations are far from over. Now is the time to fight harder than ever before.

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Business wants certainty – even a three-month Brexit delay prolongs the agony of indecision

Talk to anyone in business, Leaver or Remainer, and they will say that they want the Government to get on with it. In fact, that’s true of anyone you speak to, in business or not. Just get on with it. That’s what the Prime Minister used to say. At the National Conservative Convention in Oxford […]

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Talk to anyone in business, Leaver or Remainer, and they will say that they want the Government to get on with it.

In fact, that’s true of anyone you speak to, in business or not. Just get on with it.

That’s what the Prime Minister used to say. At the National Conservative Convention in Oxford at the end of February, she made much of the feeling in the country by telling the assembled throng that the thing that most people say is “Just get on with it. She got a big cheer and a standing ovation.

And last night, she said it again. “The public want us to just get on with it”. Having earlier that day asked for an extension and decided not to get on with it. Obviously.

Business is buoyant (despite Brexit, of course). But at the MIPIM property conference in Cannes last week, where thousands of the property industry gather, the mood was optimistic yet sombre. Optimistic – because business would know where they would be by the end of month; but sombre – because the past two months have been slow as people have put off decisions until the end of March.

The rational question has been: “Why invest now if in a month’s time everything changes? What happens if the pound falls, or rises – I would look pretty silly, and I could lose my job.”

Whilst we remain in the epicentre of uncertainty, why would corporates make any investment decision at the moment?

So for business, they either want a long Article 50 extension, which means they can get on with the job of earning money (although obviously a long extension or no Brexit would be catastrophic for the Tory Party); or to leave, so they can get on with the job of earning money.

What the Prime Minister wants now, an extension until the end of June, is the worst of all worlds as it just prolongs the agony of indecision.

Business is ready to leave on 29th March 2019. Talk to people in the pharmaceuticals industry, and they will tell you that there has been so much information that any business in that industry cannot have failed to prepare. And we all know that Matt Hancock has been the largest buyer of fridges.

Talk to people in the banks and the City. They’ve been preparing for over a year now and they will be ready.

Talk to people in small business. They will tell you that MTD (Making Tax Digital) is far more onerous than Brexit.

And the smart ones in the service industry, from corporate lawyers to PR companies, should be cracking open the Champagne, with their training seminars on how to make your business WTO compliant.

Business has seen the tariff schedules. They’ve made the investment. They’ve put in the hours.

Now please, Prime Minister. Please leave, as you said you would 108 times, on 29th March 2019.

Business will cope. Nay, business will thrive.

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Leo Varadkar’s meddling and antagonism is hindering Anglo-Irish relations

“It’s time now to cut them some slack, to cut the British government some slack, when it comes to their request for an extension and when it comes to their request that the Strasbourg Agreement be ratified formally by the European Council over the next two days.” When Leo Varadkar took it upon himself to […]

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“It’s time now to cut them some slack, to cut the British government some slack, when it comes to their request for an extension and when it comes to their request that the Strasbourg Agreement be ratified formally by the European Council over the next two days.”

When Leo Varadkar took it upon himself to make the above announcement yesterday, I was met with the familiar feeling of déjà vu. I was immediately reminded of the Taoiseach’s antagonism over the Northern Irish border in January. Not much has changed in his attitude since then, only this time he undercut Mrs. May’s integrity by announcing she would be addressing the British public last night.

This meddling, coupled with the antagonistic “cut them some slack”, is counter-intuitive for any progress on an acceptable Withdrawal Agreement and it is a disservice to many Irish people too.

Sadly, it has now become regular practice for Mr Varadkar to use media engagements to slight Theresa May and her Government’s approach to Brexit. It’s hard to determine what is the purpose of these slights. Personally, I feel he is opportunistically capitalising on public dissatisfaction for Theresa May to boost his own image.

A bit like Jeremy Corbyn, Mr. Varadkar is quick with a quip but slow on any real solutions. All he managed to achieve yesterday was to enrage both sides of the Brexit debate. With his underhand remarks and his big reveal that Mrs. May would be addressing the people, he was insulting the British people.

But why should this matter to the Irish public? Well, our relationship with the UK is unique, a troubled history exists but this doesn’t define our future? For the sake of the Irish in Britain and the British in Ireland it’s time our Taoiseach shows some respect to all involved in this Anglo-Irish relationship.

If anything, Varadkar’s behaviour yesterday will serve only one purpose, to kick our neighbours while they are down. Rather than coming across as suave and debonair, he is in fact damaging the future of Irish citizens, his citizens. Currently it is estimated that roughly 400,000 Irish-born citizens call Britain their home. Furthermore, almost 10% of British citizens can claim some sort of Irish heritage.

Coupled with strong trade relations – Britain accounts for 24% of food, fuel and other merchandise brought into the state according to the Irish Central Statistics Office – this should be ample evidence for co-operation. Alas not in the eyes of Leo Varadkar. As former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald said in 1983, Britain is “our nearest neighbour and our natural friend”.

Finally, it is interesting to note how the beleaguered Mrs. May alluded to social issues, education and knife crime as she spoke to the public last night. She acknowledged their frustration and though her croaky considerations may be too little too late, at least she acknowledged her citizens.

The Taoiseach seems to have forgotten who has elected him, or is this ignorance by choice? Perhaps he has spent too long with Donald Tusk and is of the opinion that he too cannot be replaced by the public. However, the homelessness epidemic and the housing crisis in Ireland are nearing cataclysmic levels. So I would say to my Taoiseach, remember your citizens here and abroad and do your duty for them.

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Theresa May’s full letter to President Tusk on extending Article 50 until June 30th

The Prime Minister’s letter to President Tusk on the UK’s exit from the European Union & extending Article 50

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The Prime Minister’s letter to President Tusk on the UK’s exit from the European Union & extending Article 50

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Paying £39 billion without agreeing future trading arrangements doesn’t even count as a deal in my book

As we draw closer to the next Meaningful Vote (despite Bercow), I can only imagine the pressure the ERG and DUP MPs are under. Cast as hard Brexiteers, extremists and fantasists by their peers and mainstream media, I can see why some have started to crack. I have immense admiration and respect for these individuals […]

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As we draw closer to the next Meaningful Vote (despite Bercow), I can only imagine the pressure the ERG and DUP MPs are under.

Cast as hard Brexiteers, extremists and fantasists by their peers and mainstream media, I can see why some have started to crack.

I have immense admiration and respect for these individuals and for others outside of these groupings who have stood up to those who wish to deceive the British people and betray the largest ever democratic decision this country has made. They are the people who have put country before party politics.

These individuals have shown leadership, courage, integrity and determination and they should be applauded regardless of their political associations by all of us. Thank you.

Notwithstanding the above, the biggest decision since the 1930s now rests with our elected Members of Parliament: to vote for or against the Government’s deal with the EU.

I ask only this of our MPs whose salaries we all pay: that they vote down this terrible deal not just the next time it is put before them, but for evermore; it is not Brexit.

What is the Government’s deal? It is a misnomer. To all intents and purposes, it is actually the only ‘no deal’ on offer. Why? It would see us pay £39 billion for no trading arrangements, which would have to be negotiated after we have given away our leverage.

It is what the Remain-supporting politicians have been angling for while deceiving the British people by labelling it as a ‘deal’ that satisfies the referendum result.

It does no such thing and anyone can see that the tortuous negotiations that will follow will result in the Remain establishment saying “we told you it was a bad idea to leave”.

And guess what would happen as we drew closer to the expiry of the so-called implementation period? The EU and referendum deniers will draw us back in and we would be forced onto our knees with cap in hand to accept whatever we are offered.

I hear some say ‘nonsense’ – but just look at what has happened when the public has ever disagreed with the EU before. Democracy as we know it is lost in the sphere of the EU. They believe the people should never be asked for their opinion as their answer will go against the EU’s ideology.

To Leave without a deal is the only realistic option. This has always been the case and it was what we voted for. Yes, we were told a deal would be easy and we thought so too. It should and would have been, had we started from the basis of a clean Brexit, i.e. working toward WTO terms and preparing for it.

So what is the so-called no-deal outcome? In effect, it is a deal: the complete opposite of the Government’s deal. Already lots of side deals are being made in preparation for our departure and terms for trade would be upon the basis of the WTO which is how most world trade is done. Most importantly, it is what we voted for.

This is Brexit, and this is how we will secure a trade deal with the EU that favours both parties. It is and remains the only feasible way we were ever going to get one.

It is highly unlikely that Theresa May will gain any concessions from Brussels over the backstop; and even if she does, her deal will still be Brexit in name only and leave us at the mercy of Brussels in future negotiations over trade.

Courage, determination, integrity and leadership is what we, the people, need more than anything now from our elected Members of Parliament. Even if we are thrown into a delay, which will deflate all of us, these essential virtues that could be lost in a sea of despair at the end of our democracy.

Never give up.

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