Democracy is in danger as our political leaders seek to subvert the Leave vote

A day before her defeat in the Commons on Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister had warned MPs that they must support her deal – or face doing catastrophic harm to voters’ faith in democracy if Brexit were stopped. The voters interviewed outside Parliament after the vote thought otherwise: they said that the MPs’ vote against […]

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A day before her defeat in the Commons on Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister had warned MPs that they must support her deal – or face doing catastrophic harm to voters’ faith in democracy if Brexit were stopped. The voters interviewed outside Parliament after the vote thought otherwise: they said that the MPs’ vote against the deal was right because ‘no one wanted it’. One man, a Leave voter, elaborated: ‘We voted to leave the EU, to leave’, he said. ‘We did not vote for a deal, for any deal, but just to leave, and we should leave’.

Both MPs and voters recognise that her deal would castrate Britain’s economy, bind the UK back into an EU customs union and divide Northern Ireland from the UK, making it a fief of the EU’s Single Market. Worst of all, it would deny the UK exactly the legal right a majority of voters chose to exercise in 2016 – the right to leave.

Yet despite opposition from the country and now from two-thirds of all MPs, including many from her own party, the Prime Minister made clear through her No. 10 spokesman that her withdrawal deal remains the only deal on the table, though she will now talk to MPs, she says, and listen to what they have to say. Few hold out any hope that she intends to do other than the EU’s bidding: it’s either her deal, as she has said time and again, or no Brexit.

A Remainer, like most of her Cabinet, she sees the referendum as a vote against immigration, not a vote for sovereignty or for the freedom to which people aspire. For her, as for most leaders clinging to power, the desire for freedom is neither a privilege to be defended nor a prize to be sought, but an obstacle to be overcome.

In the paternalistic world of power politics through which politicians duck, weave and dissimulate, the people are to be courted with bread and circuses: the equivalent today are immigration controls. The Prime Minister, like many MPs, does not see that when over 17 million people voted for Brexit, they did so to protect democracy from the overweening power of the EU, to preserve UK sovereignty and their freedom to decide their own laws.

Mrs May and her ministers do not seem to understand that democratic freedom matters, nor the corollary – that they must take account of their voters. Mrs May talks of democracy, but without an inkling of its potency for British people.

By their actions since Brexit, Britain’s political leaders have subverted the Leave vote, and damaged the arrangements under Britain’s constitution to protect peoples’ freedom against arbitrary rule. Despite being one of the world’s oldest and most iconic democracies – the strength of which derives partly from acceptance by governments of the electorate’s decision irrespective of their own wishes – things happened very differently since the referendum.

First, Parliament attempted to thwart Brexit. Then the Prime Minister deployed the autocratic systems of unaccountable powers to prepare a Withdrawal Agreement. That agreement was not the work of elected ministers – they were side-lined – but emerged from the backroom bartering of an unelected, unaccountable civil servant, the Prime Minister’s ‘court favourite’.

Ministers as well as MPs had been left in the dark about the deal with only an eleventh hour preview granted to some before the Cabinet meeting, at which those present were given little choice but to agree it there and then. Although two ministers resigned, others colluded to keep the deal alive.

The focus is now on the how House of Commons will respond to Mrs May’s next proposals. But already much has been done to prevent Parliament holding the executive to account. Some ministers have warned of the threat to the economy if the Prime Minister were to respect convention and stand aside for someone who would have the confidence of the country to execute the Brexit for which people voted. Other ministers have bombarded the airwaves and media with scare stories about no deal (that is to say, a WTO deal); bigwigs from the Cameron and Osborne Cabinet talk of the ‘duty’ to avoid ‘no deal’ and senior Tory Remainers have sought to block funds for ‘no deal’ preparations. And on top of all that come the Prime Minister’s threats that the country would enter the ‘unknown’ if there is no deal. This is the corroboration, if any were needed, of the anti-democratic impulses of Britain’s ruler today.

Instead, the UK could now offer the EU a UK-EU Free Trade Agreement which would solve concerns from all sides of Parliament at a single stroke, as David Collins, the International Trade lawyer, now proposes.

If the EU refuses? A ‘No Deal’ brings the freedom for a WTO deal that Canada and the US have both enjoyed, though Canada is now poised to strike a Free Trade Agreement with the EU. Both are Common Law countries with a long tradition of freedom under the law. They too, like Britain are amongst the world’s richest, G7, economies.

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The Government must force the EU back to the negotiating table while preparing for a WTO Brexit

Last night’s votes in the House of Commons sent a clear message to the Government that it must get on with delivering Brexit. Preparing for Brexit by getting the country ready for a departure on WTO terms also presents an opportunity to force the EU back to the negotiating table to get a better deal […]

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Last night’s votes in the House of Commons sent a clear message to the Government that it must get on with delivering Brexit. Preparing for Brexit by getting the country ready for a departure on WTO terms also presents an opportunity to force the EU back to the negotiating table to get a better deal for Britain.

This means that as the dust settles the Government needs to swiftly dismiss those who want to use the defeat as an excuse to stop Brexit and keep the UK under the thumb of Brussels. For too long they have been permitted to carry influence on the Brexit process and decision-making.

Many of those now trying to unpick Brexit voted for the referendum, stood on a manifesto to deliver Brexit, voted in favour of Article 50 and agreed to our departure from the EU on 29th March 2019. The Government must therefore move forward with new purpose and get Britain ready for our freedom from the EU on 29th March.

There are many advantages to leaving the EU on 29th March under WTO terms and with careful preparation there is nothing to fear.

First, doing so gives business and the country certainty to plan for the future as it gets rid of the years of uncertainty caused by the Withdrawal Agreement.

Second, as there will be no financial settlement, the Government will have £39 billion available to invest in the economy to address concerns about volatility and to support economic growth.

Third, we can immediately work on agreeing new trade deals with the rest of the world.

Fourth, we will have taken back control and delivered the outcome of the referendum and kept our promises to the people.

As well as leaving on these terms, we can also extend the hand of friendship to the EU to continue to cooperate in areas of mutual interest and to pursue an advanced free trade deal.

But while it is imperative the Government should fully prepare for departure under WTO terms, it is still preferable that we leave with a deal, so ministers should press for the Withdrawal Agreement to be amended. The Government should put new legal text on the table which changes the worst aspects of the Agreement to make it more acceptable.

This must include replacing the backstop with a better alternative that does not threaten the integrity of the United Kingdom and removing those elements that bind the UK into a single customs territory. With £39 billion at stake, there’s every prospect that the EU will return to the table for what should be seen as modest but important revisions.

Looking to negotiate a better deal while being fully prepared to leave on 29th March is the sensible and right course of action to take with either outcome being orderly and better than the deal that has been rejected.

The Government now has a chance to ensure we leave the EU and deliver on the promises made to the British people.

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A Withdrawal Deal is achievable in principle and executable in practice before Brexit

In light of last night’s developments, as Parliament starts to consider what would make for an executable framework for much of the UK’s economic future, one thing has become clear: the Withdrawal Agreement must be changed – renegotiated. For that to happen, the enduring interests of each party, the UK and the EU, must be […]

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In light of last night’s developments, as Parliament starts to consider what would make for an executable framework for much of the UK’s economic future, one thing has become clear: the Withdrawal Agreement must be changed – renegotiated.

For that to happen, the enduring interests of each party, the UK and the EU, must be recalled so that a politically viable outcome can be reached. For its part, the UK seeks a deal on services which account for 80 per cent of its economy. By contrast the EU seeks a deal on goods, to protect its valuable surplus. Both parties want the benefits of as frictionless trade as possible. Beyond trade, wider collaboration is sought in certain areas, such as security.

But for the UK, the current draft Withdrawal Agreement falls short of what is needed on two key counts: sovereignty and trade.

The Agreement gives away sovereignty, leaving the UK with no say over any of its laws during a transitional period, and then no say at all over chunks of laws thereafter. Restoring constitutional sovereignty was a referendum decision and must be respected if any agreement is to take off.

For trade, the draft Withdrawal Agreement cannot work if EU interests for a quasi-customs union are prioritised along with elements of the Single Market for goods, but only warm words are offered for the UK’s interests in services, including financial services.

In the Political Declaration, which was a simultaneous but non-binding declaration of intent, the parties stated their wishes for a wide-ranging trade deal, involving mutual recognition on services and enhanced equivalence for the financial sector. Yet the current proposal to put services ‘on hold’ to be negotiated in a transitional period, would bring uncertainty and dangers for all. During that time the UK regulators would be without the powers often needed to change rules dynamically to protect taxpayers. Though such a transition period may be workable for goods, it cannot be for services. So though we see good intentions for services trade, the execution falls short.

In fact, a viable overall arrangement in skeletal form can be agreed even now without the need for the alternative of a managed no-deal. Perhaps inevitably, this reflects the EU’s typically last minute way.

How could this be achieved? The concept of Enhanced Equivalence is one which I set out in detailed legislative form in July 2017. This would provide financial businesses with what they need, enabling them to operate across Europe under one set of regulations and subject to one supervisor, replicating the status quo. It would avoid the costs of setting up duplicative regimes which are charged back to consumers, to the detriment of businesses and savings within the EU27.

Under Enhanced Equivalence, when the parties’ laws achieve equivalent outcomes, businesses can provide services in the other market under their home jurisdiction’s regulations and supervision. We already have executable text, providing for exactly that and achieving procedural certainty for the granting and withdrawal of equivalence in each financial sector. Temporary recognitions could tide the parties over for four months to finalise any details. A similar approach would work for mutual recognition in other services. The reality is that each party would be starting with not just equivalent laws, but they often move even now in a similar direction.

In practice, the EU’s artificial mantra that no trade deal can be negotiated until the UK is a third country can be circumvented for services by a mutual recognition agreement rather than a free trade agreement.

There are good reasons for the EU to agree. The eurozone needs the UK to continue to treat its member state government bonds as sovereign for regulatory purposes, ignoring a proper application of international regulatory standards and avoiding crippling costs. To assist, the UK needs full, dynamic control over all other protective regulatory levers. Enhanced Equivalence achieves just that. Also, the UK cannot be expected to agree to every other aspect of the deal so favourable to the EU unless the EU reciprocates.

The practicalities are close to the intended agreed position anyway. In financial services, the EU is already making unilateral declarations of equivalence across key areas such as cleared derivatives, allowing a continuation of current arrangements even on a hard Brexit. More declarations are likely, preserving the competitiveness of continental EU financial institutions and the ability of EU citizens to obtain access to cheap finance.

As the negotiations inch their way towards a system that can work, the UK’s whole economy must be brought to the fore.  That means services must be covered and constitutional essentials recognised. Otherwise, nobody ends up with what they want.

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Highlights from the Meaningful Vote Debate II – Final Day

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC MP opens the final day of debate… Attorney General @Geoffrey_Cox “I support the Withdrawal Agreement. Not because I like every element of it… It is the necessary means to secure our orderly departure and unlock our future outside the European Union.” pic.twitter.com/10BajBOs9h — BrexitCentral (@BrexitCentral) January 15, 2019 Nigel Dodds […]

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Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC MP opens the final day of debate…

Nigel Dodds MP made a strong intervention…

The Attorney General makes his final remarks to the House…

Shadow Solicitor General Nick Thomas-Symonds responded…

Nigel Evans MP intervened…

Followed by a statement from Sir Bill Cash MP…

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab made a passionate speech…

The DUP’s Chief Whip Jeffrey Donaldson followed…

And Owen Paterson MP made an impassioned speech…

Julian Lewis MP kept his contribution clear and concise…

Mark Pritchard MP eloquently summed up the Brexit vote… 

And Gregory Campbell MP made his contribution…

Robert Halfon MP followed…

Then Richard Bacon MP…

And Nigel Evans MP delivered his speech…

Followed by Damian Moore MP…

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn sums up his party’s position…

And the Prime Minister Theresa May closed the debate…

Then responds to the hefty defeat of the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement vote…

And Jeremy Corbyn tables a motion of no confidence in the Government… 

 

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MPs should vote down Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and seize the opportunities of A Better Deal

Below are the remarks delivered by Shanker Singham at an event in Westminster alongside David Davis, Dominic Raab, Arlene Foster and Lord Lilley  On 24th September, we gave you Plan A Plus, a genuine alternative to the Prime Minister’s plan as laid out in the Chequers meeting. On 12th December we gave you the alternative Withdrawal Agreement with an […]

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Below are the remarks delivered by Shanker Singham at an event in Westminster alongside David Davis, Dominic Raab, Arlene Foster and Lord Lilley 

On 24th September, we gave you Plan A Plus, a genuine alternative to the Prime Minister’s plan as laid out in the Chequers meeting. On 12th December we gave you the alternative Withdrawal Agreement with an Irish backstop that actually works and commands the support of the DUP among others.

Today, on the day of this momentous vote, we are bringing the two together, showing how negotiating dynamics can be used to achieve results and previewing our next major launch which will be the entire UK-EU Free Trade Agreement, built on what the EU has already agreed in other fora, which we are already 350 pages or so of the way through.

A vote against the Withdrawal Agreement is a vote for UK opportunities after Brexit. Voting for the Withdrawal Agreement takes Britain’s opportunities off the table.

While there is a vigorous debate about end states, there is little discussion of the process of getting from here to there – even though that process will determine the potential end state. We have tended to talk about the end states like they are options on a menu, and not discussed in detail how negotiating dynamics actually work in real time. Negotiating pathways are critical to understand how we get the best Brexit outcome. So are the do’s and don’ts of trade negotiating.

There are now three negotiating pathways covering what is likely to happen in various scenarios. In the first pathway, if the Prime Minister’s deal is accepted by the House of Commons, then the logical progression is that we will be unable to align our allies by negotiating trade deals with them. We will have to pay all the money now, limiting our leverage, we will be threatened by the backstop arrangement whenever the EU feels like it and so we will lose every negotiating point as and when they come up, and this will guarantee a bad deal.

If, on the other hand, the deal is voted down we have selected two possible negotiating pathways. In the first, we recommend that the UK puts A Better Deal on the table, announces what it will do in the event of an exit without a Withdrawal Agreement, including potentially opening up agricultural import quotas to all comers, and allow the compression of the timetable to work for once in the UK’s favour bringing the EU back to the table. We know that both sides want a comprehensive FTA with regulatory cooperation, customs facilitation and Irish border facilitations. It would be an act of monumental incompetence to fail to agree even the most basic FTA.

But we do not control the EU, so in the third pathway, we look at what happens if with the best will in the world, we fail to conclude prior to 29th March. We will exit on WTO terms, which as noted in Lord Lilley and Brendan Chilton’s excellent paper, 30 Truths About Leaving On WTO Terms, does not hold the terrors our Government has suggested. But we will be able to do all the other things that constitute the do’s of good negotiating. We will be able to align our allies. We will be able to negotiate other deals. We will not have to pay the full amount of the payment. We will use our applied rates to bring the EU back to the table, and I daresay that we will get an FTA from them quite quickly after exit. In other words, what people call “no deal” is not a stable state and will not last very long because both the UK and the EU will want a deal. There are many things we can do unilaterally to lessen the disruption until this occurs.

In these two scenarios, we must be prepared to use the weakness of the EU against it. It is reactive. So we must be pro-active, and seize the pen by putting negotiating text on the table. They are a global outlier in terms of their approach to regulation and liberalisation – and becoming more so – so we must draw our allies onto our side. When we make offers, they should align with those made by the US, as well as other allies like Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and others, and help to solve the major global trade problems we all face, such as China distortions.

They are major agriculture exporters to the UK – fully 70% of our beef comes from the Republic of Ireland, so we must leverage that. To protect our consumers and prevent food price inflation, we will have to at least open up Tariff Rate Quotas to all comers. This will force EU agricultural exports to compete head on with industrial strength production in Argentina, Brazil and other places and they will quickly lose market share in our market. The EU has a $29bn surplus for agriculture with us and have benefited from the cosy customs arrangement with our captive market.

Once they start losing market share, this will put pressure on them to come to the table. We can ensure minimum disruption to our farmers by applying WTO compliant direct payments for environmental remediation and stewardship, but these will not need to be for very long. The EU tends not to be creative and follow others – astonishingly the EU-Japan agreement is the first that has regulatory cooperation whereas for the US and others that chapter has been the norm for over a decade. So we must be creative and offer solutions.

The hour is upon us, but it is not too late. We need a change in our approach and a change in our team. We must have a holistic to approach to our trade policy that includes the EU relationship and the relationship with the wider world.

Seeking an extension of Article 50 now would be a catastrophic mistake as it would remove the compression needed to get a deal. It would communicate weakness and vulnerability. Telling the EU that we will keep coming back to the House of Commons with minor variants of their bad deal would also be a catastrophic mistake as it would again take the pressure off them.

We must not lose sight of the fact that there are tremendous opportunities before us. But catastrophic failure also beckons in the shape of this Withdrawal Agreement. Let us choose the former by voting the deal down, and immediately seize the opportunities that are ours for the taking.

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Highlights from the Meaningful Vote Debate II – Day Four

“This country will do incredibly well… the people wanted change, they wanted to take back control of their country & that’s what I want to do too.” says Iain Duncan Smith pic.twitter.com/M7Oq6ItemH — BrexitCentral (@BrexitCentral) January 14, 2019 “What the Europeans say & what they do is two different things… the way the European Union […]

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Juncker and Tusk’s letter to Theresa May changes nothing: we must vote down the draft Withdrawal Agreement

The letter sent from Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk to Theresa May in the last 24 hours shows more clearly than anything else possibly could why the draft Withdrawal Agreement is fundamentally flawed: not only the lack of substance in the letter, which adds nothing new to the sum of human knowledge, but also the […]

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The letter sent from Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk to Theresa May in the last 24 hours shows more clearly than anything else possibly could why the draft Withdrawal Agreement is fundamentally flawed: not only the lack of substance in the letter, which adds nothing new to the sum of human knowledge, but also the lack of any form of collegiate kindness or helpfulness to the Prime Minister.

When the Prime Minister addressed the 1922 Committee on 12th December, she assured colleagues that she would secure legally-binding wording to address concerns over the Northern Ireland backstop. Now we learn there will be no end date to the backstop or unilateral exit mechanism for the UK. So, yet again, the EU have let the Prime Minister down.

The lesson is clear: we need to vote down the Withdrawal Agreement by as large a majority as possible. Only then can we move on and either negotiate a new agreement (as David Davis argued at the weekend) or Leave without a deal on World Trade Organisation terms with a view to later negotiating a new relationship.

The Government and the Conservative Party must remain committed to delivering the result of the referendum, as repeated in our 2017 manifesto, which pledged to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, accompanied by the declaration that No Deal was better than a Bad Deal. Otherwise, the credibility of our democracy will be thrown into chaos.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement does not respect the result of the referendum. The Government should be seeking to unlock the negotiations by returning to the Canada-style option offered by President Tusk, using the tried and trusted techniques and procedures so that rules of origin and customs checks are conducted away from the Northern Ireland border, to make unnecessary the hard border that everyone agrees must be avoided.

The backstop means we will be trapped under the thumb of the EU with no date to escape – and unable to strike trade deals. It means we would be trapped indefinitely as a satellite of the EU, obeying its laws without a say, unless the EU and its Member States gave permission for us to leave. The UK will be paying £39 billion – equivalent to £1,443 per household, or £60 million per constituency – and getting nothing in return. We will not take back control of our money, laws and trade. Remaining in the Customs Union is a breach of the 2017 Conservative Manifesto on which I and all my colleagues stood.

The backstop drives a regulatory barrier down the Irish Sea, severely damaging the Union and moving Great Britain and Northern Ireland further apart. This deal keeps the supremacy of the European Court over our own law and sells out the UK fishing industry, excluding them from any trade deal, and envisaging a deal where the Prime Minister trades away our fish in return for market access.

We remain effectively in the EU for an extendable ‘transition’ period, paying and accepting new laws over which we will have had no say. Unrestricted immigration of EU nationals will still be continuing for years after we leave. This commitment comes with no guarantee of a future trade agreement. Worryingly, this deal will deny the UK an independent trade policy while potentially keeping us out of existing EU trade policy. We would be cut off from the world with our trade and economy regulated from Brussels without any say.

So, let us be honest: the Withdrawal Agreement is a terrible deal – worse than Chequers, less popular than the Poll Tax and only one in five voters think it honours the referendum result. The only way to get a better deal for the UK is for Parliament to reject it and force the Government to renegotiate with the EU.

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Tonight’s “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal – three possible scenarios analysed

MPs will vote today on whether (or not) to “approve” the Prime Minister’s draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. The starting point is a Government motion that fulfils the legal requirement set out in Section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act for Commons approval. The Government motion therefore states “That this House approves…” If […]

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MPs will vote today on whether (or not) to “approve” the Prime Minister’s draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration.

The starting point is a Government motion that fulfils the legal requirement set out in Section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act for Commons approval. The Government motion therefore states “That this House approves…”

If passed the Withdrawal Agreement will have passed the first of the stipulations set out in Section 13 (the other major one being the passing implementing legislation).

The Government’s motion has, however, been subject to a welter of amendments on today’s Order Paper, some of which may be voted on. These range from those that would still approve the agreement (Rt Hon Sir Edward Leigh’s (b) on the Vienna Convention and Sir Hugo Swire’s (o) on domestic provisions); give heavily qualified approval (John Baron’s (f) requiring a termination clause to the backstop); to those that would not approve it at all including the official Opposition’s amendment (a) and Hilary Benn’s (i) which goes on to propose the logical absurdity – a rejection of ‘no deal’ without saying how the EU can be forced to agree or what they are to be asked to agree (hint – it’s Remain).

The original Programme motion allowed for up to six amendments to be selected by the Speaker for a vote – adding a vote on an amended motion there could be 7 votes culminating at around 8.30pm. This selection of votes may not be clear until the end of the debates. The selection is not straightforward. One amendment (the Lib Dem’ second referendum amendment) is dependent on Labour’s amendment passing and yet others conflict with each other. It would not make sense for some to be voted on if others are passed first – they would fall. Amendments are taken before a vote on the main motion – the order is therefore important.

Despite the complexity, here are three of the most likely scenarios:

Scenario 1: Government loses by 30 Votes on Hilary Benn’s amendment (i) to their motion

In this scenario, Labour’s official amendment is defeated. Labour then join a coalition of the smaller parties and around 20 Conservative Remainer rebels to defeat the Conservative Party and DUP and pass amendment (i).

This would be a defeat for the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration as the amendment states it “declines to approve” them, thus failing to fulfil the requirements of Section 13. The motion also ‘rejects’ leaving without a deal. This wording is not statute or legally binding but will have been passed. It will leave commentators with a question: the Commons seems to have rejected this deal, and ‘no deal’, but has not expressed any support for any other deal.

If that amendment were passed, there then may be a vote on the motion ‘as amended’ which, if it went to a vote, would lead to the same result. The irony of the Benn amendment being passed by Remain Conservatives is that pro-Brexit Conservative MPs will have succeeded in getting through the entire process of Brexit, defeating the Withdrawal Agreement, without rebelling once! Which is as it should be given they have held to the Conservative manifesto throughout.

The text of the Hilary Benn Amendment (i) is as follows:

Line 1 leave out from “House” to end and insert “declines to approve the Withdrawal Agreement and the Framework for the Future Relationship negotiated between the EU and the UK; rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship; accordingly calls on the Government to bring forward without delay the debate required under section 13 (6) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018; and orders that Standing Order No. 24B (Amendments to motions to consider specified matters) shall not apply to any further motions made under Section 13 of that Act.”

Scenario 2: The Government’s motion is not amended and is defeated by a majority of over 100

In this scenario the official Labour amendment is dispatched early on, the minor amendments are withdrawn or defeated, and Labour decide to put their full firepower into a straight defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement.

In this scenario the bulk of 256 Labour MPs, those from the minor parties and the 10 DUP MPs would form a winning coalition with, say, around 60 Conservatives. The deal would be defeated by around 375 to 267.

This would be a clear defeat for the Government, leading to a potential Opposition confidence motion (that would be won by the Government). It would also surely stop any further attempts to revive the Withdrawal Agreement without major surgery.

Scenario 3: The Government’s motion is not amended and is defeated by a majority of under 100

In this scenario, the Government manage to reduce their margin of defeat via a mixture of Labour and Lib Dem abstentions (new constituency hospitals, enterprise parks and knighthoods anyone?) and a reduction of the Conservative pro-Brexit block by assurances to its irreducible core.

In this scenario, as with the others, the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement has failed to be approved. This triggers, under the Act, a Government Statement within 21 days and a motion – in addition to the motion required within 3 sitting days added by Dominic Grieve’s last rebellion. If the margin is reduced, would the Government conclude the EU would not renegotiate and so attempt a re-run?

Whatever the outcome, the same Parliament that voted to leave on 29th March would have voted against the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement. If the Commons acts decisively and defeats what is very obviously a bad deal by a healthy margin, then a period of frantic renegotiation will no doubt ensue, hopefully leading to a better outcome. If not, the Prime Minister was correct to say ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ – unfortunately the EU was only able to offer a bad one. Either way, it’s time for MPs to put the ball in the EU’s court by rejecting the deal.

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Living with Mrs. May

The British PM isn’t the only one losing sleep over Brexit.

LONDON — Hullo there. I’m Phil, the Woody Allen lookalike, aka Theresa’s other half.

It’s a funny old life at the moment.

“Him indoors,” the police officers in Downing Street call me. I sometimes stop for a chat when I pop out on a morning to go shopping — the usual essentials such as milk, eggs, heavy-duty sleeping tablets, boxes of Kleenex for when we’ve all been having a good cry, and Polyfilla to repair the plasterwork where T has beaten her head against the wall.

On Monday I complimented the Bobbies on their machine guns, which they were brandishing with their customary professionalism. “We might need those later,” I said, ever the japester. “We’ve got Boris Johnson coming in for drinks along with lots of Brexiteer MPs. Theresa might be tempted to borrow a few bullets.”

In the event, Boris behaved himself. We asked the prettiest waitress in the room to keep plying him with sausage rolls and some slightly fizzy prawn vol-au-vents to stop him talking too much.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, walks with her husband Philip whilst on vacation in Italy, July 29, 2018 | Pool photo by Marco Tacca via Getty Images

On the advice of the spin doctors we also invited MPs to bring their spouses. That ensured the conversation remained on the level of domestic small talk. I’m good at that. Last summer, Melania Trump and I had a grand old chin-wag about how much time our spouses spend doing their barnets every morning. Just as George W. Bush and Tony Blair once discovered they used the same toothpaste, Melania and I discovered our better halves use the same hairspray.

But I’d be lying if I said it was all fun and games.

Nights are difficult. T keeps talking (well, shouting, really) in her sleep, thrashing the sheets and saying “Donald, you’re not going to get your hands on my booty.” When I shake her awake she insists she was talking about Mr. Tusk and the British £39 billion withdrawal payment, not Trump or “booty” in the American slang sense. I believe her.

Early December was a bit choppy and T did become a bit morose. One morning I had to unpeel her fingers one by one from the No. 10 bannister to get her to go to work. She wasn’t her usual cheery, thigh-slapping self. One day I humorously recalled that when she became PM she spoke of the “just about managings” and that, sure enough, we were “just about managing” to run the country, but she didn’t think my joke terribly funny.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s husband Philip May goes into the back of 10 Downing Street on July 9, 2018 in London, England | Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images

But after she survived that confidence vote among Conservative MPs we each had a celebration schooner of sweet sherry — just the one, mind you. We used the glasses we got from a Daily Telegraph reader offer in the early days of our marriage, and save for special occasions. From then until the start of this week she was the life and soul of the party (with a small p!). We had a lovely Christmas. I gave her a novelty kitchen apron with the motto “not even onions make me cry.”

Alas, parliament returned on Monday and since then the apron has been put away in a drawer. Stress levels have been jumping off the Richter scale.

At dawn it can be tricky to get T to come out from under the bed blankets. There is usually a brief discussion along the lines of “we won’t still be the occupants of 10 Downing Street at the end of the week, so what’s the point?”

I try to cheer her up by doing my Angela Merkel impersonation — I place my underpants over my head, speak in a toneless voice and fling my verbs to the back of every sentence. If things go wrong in politics, I might have a tilt at “Britain’s Got Talent.” Simon Cowell’s said to be a Tory, after all.

At breakfast we try to keep the newspapers out of sight because they only upset T. Chief of staff Gavin had a brainwave (now there’s something I don’t often say!) and tuned all the Downing Street radios to Classic FM, so that we only listen to soothing symphonies while we’re munching on our toast and marmalade. Just so long as they steer clear of Beethoven’s 9th.

Off T toddles to her study after breakfast. Do I worry? Of course I do. I try to keep her going by sending her text messages such as, “Tell Philip Hammond his hair is a mess” or “Gove’s flies are undone.” But it’s horrible to see the woman you love being biffed and battered by the Brexit hassles.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and husband Philip May (R) attend the Chelsea Flower Show 2018 on May 21, 2018 in London, England | Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Every evening, after hours of cacophony and criticism, T toddles home, collapses into the sofa, stabs her letter knife into the cushions for 10 minutes, and then says she’s feeling “much better” and is ready for her high tea. Boiled eggs are our current favorite. As we smash their shells we take great satisfaction in imagining we’re whacking Jacob Rees-Mogg on the bonce.

Next week’s vote? It’ll be agony, of course. But we cross every crisis — and sometimes drop into the ravine — as we come to it.

Before that we have our usual trip to church on Sunday. No shortage of prayers to say.

Quentin Letts is parliamentary sketchwriter for the Daily Mail and author of “Patronising Bastards” (Little, Brown 2017). 


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The EU is no land of milk and honey – let’s be optimistic about our future as an independent nation

This is a momentous year in the history of the United Kingdom. The voices of 17.4 million voters who took part in the biggest act of democracy in our history will finally have been heard and in the decades to come, history books will pronounce 2019 as the year that the UK once again became […]

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This is a momentous year in the history of the United Kingdom. The voices of 17.4 million voters who took part in the biggest act of democracy in our history will finally have been heard and in the decades to come, history books will pronounce 2019 as the year that the UK once again became a proud, independent nation.

And it won’t be forgotten that it was the Conservative Party that gave people a chance to give their verdict on the EU in the 2016 referendum, and which entrusted the people with such a momentous decision about our constitution and destiny.

Of course, as we approach the pivotal moment of 29th March when we leave the EU, we are once again being force-fed a diet of doom, gloom and despondency from those who wish the result had turned out differently.

But we must remember that these people have a democratic right to propel these arguments, just as 17.4 million voters had a right to rubbish their claims during the referendum – which they did, resoundingly.

And it turns out that they were absolutely right to do so. This really is a time for hope and optimism, not despair and fear. Since 2016, in spite of dire predictions made during the campaign, we’ve seen a tax windfall, the fastest growth in wages in almost a decade, record employment levels and steady economic growth. Our future has never looked brighter.

If we had have chosen to leave some sort of Utopia, I would understand people’s concerns. But the EU is no Utopia and if it were, voters would have had the wisdom to recognise this during the referendum.

In Italy, months of uncertainty and inconclusive elections have resulted in two populist parties – the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and right-wing League – forming a coalition.

Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered the federal parliament for the first time last year. As with Italy’s League, it is an anti-euro party and it has strong anti-immigration policies. In 2017, next door in Austria, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) become a junior partner in coalition with the Conservatives and talk of banning headscarves for girls under 10 in schools and seizing migrants’ phones is now a part of mainstream Austrian politics.

In April last year, Viktor Orban secured a third term in office in Hungary with a landslide victory in an election dominated by debates about immigration. Orban once warned of the threat of “a Europe with a mixed population and no sense of identity” – comments unheard of in the UK political context.

The Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) was the largest party in last year’s general election in Slovenia. Its party leader, Janez Jansa, formed an alliance with Mr Orban in opposing migrant quotas, Poland has also condemned the EU’s handling of the migrant crisis and in Denmark, the police are now allowed to seize migrants’ property to pay for their upkeep and has pledged to boost contraception aid to developing countries to “limit the migration pressure”.

And of course we’ve seen the distressing scenes in France. Weeks of street protests have erupted into a full-on anti-government movement leading to the worst violence in central Paris in a decade.

The EU is not the land of milk and honey many would have you believe. The tide is turning against the EU and the way it does business in scores of EU countries and our friends on the continent are being forced to make their voices heard through the prism of extreme political parties.

Turning to the economy, around 90 per cent of global economic growth will come from outside the EU over the coming years and the EU now accounts for less than half of our overall trade.

The EU’s economic clout is also falling, with its share of the global economy almost halving over the last 30 years. That’s why people voted to Leave so that we could take back control of our trade and regulatory policy and strike trade deals with the emerging powerhouses of the world economy.

And for every unemployed Brit, there are two people unemployed in the euro area. Unemployment is five times higher in Greece, almost four times higher in Spain, double in France and between 17-19 per cent in much of the south of Italy.

As much as my opponents like to whip up a fevered frenzy about Armageddon scenarios, cliff edges and crash outs, the truth is that we are doing well in the UK. We are also lucky to have had a chance to register our discontent in a referendum, and fortunate to be having such a thorough, engaging and relatively peaceful debate about what our post-Brexit future should look like.

We haven’t seen a rise of extremist parties in the UK, nor have we seen riots on our streets. We have simply concluded that the EU is not capable of change and that it doesn’t have our best interests at heart and we’ve done all this without making extreme political choices.

But we must be careful to ensure that we keep our debate within the political mainstream. Many people who voted in 2016 did so for the first time in their lives and there would be disastrous, political consequences if we decided to ignore or reverse the result.

The British people have boldly trodden where no other EU country has yet dared to tread and we are leading in Europe, as we always have done.

Let’s hold our heads up high and show how you can be a proud European nation without belonging to the institutions of the European Union. And let’s lead our friends and allies into the 2020s as we forge a strong, peaceful and prosperous path together.

The post The EU is no land of milk and honey – let’s be optimistic about our future as an independent nation appeared first on BrexitCentral.