People’s Vote campaigners know they’re championing a lost cause

With just over forty days until the UK is due to leave the EU, the likes of Lord Adonis, Dominic Grieve, David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry, to name but a few, continue to pound the “People’s Vote” drum. The Prime Minister’s Brexit negotiating strategy may have been branded as reckless, but second referendum […]

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With just over forty days until the UK is due to leave the EU, the likes of Lord Adonis, Dominic Grieve, David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry, to name but a few, continue to pound the “People’s Vote” drum.

The Prime Minister’s Brexit negotiating strategy may have been branded as reckless, but second referendum supporters are surely being equally as reckless by continuing not to press their case so close to Brexit day. If they’re so confident of securing a People’s Vote, then they should put the amendment forward.

Although they may not admit it when pressed on Sky News or the BBC, those proposing a People’s Vote are not oblivious to the risks attached. The likes of Umunna, Soubry et al. know that the idea that the elite failed to implement the verdict of 2016 would play into the hands of populist leavers. If they thought ‘Take Back Control’ was fatal in 2016, then ‘Tell Them Again’ would be seismic.

And politicians can barely expect to look at the turnout statistics as a means of trying to reduce the legitimacy of the vote in 2016: the Brexit referendum produced a turnout not seen in a national election contest since 1992.

It may not be apparent to those in the claustrophobic Westminster bubble, but folk up and down the country are sick to their back teeth of hearing about Brexit. To many voters, it feels as if politicians have gone around in circles for the past two-and-a-half years. The electorate wants to change the conversation towards topical issues such as poverty, the NHS and education.

Since September 2014, there has been a Scottish independence referendum, devolved legislature elections, local council elections, two general elections and, of course, the EU referendum. What would be the result of forcing another referendum on an already weary electorate? There would be no guarantee that the turnout would be the same or greater than in 2016. Unlike our Australian counterparts, the UK does not use compulsory voting, so people are perfectly entitled to stay away from the polling booth if they choose to do so. What would happen if the turnout were less than fifty per cent and a Remain victory?  

Currently, the parliamentary arithmetic opposes the idea of a “People’s Vote”. Jeremy Corbyn, especially, appears extremely sceptical about the idea. Labour members seem to have failed to appreciate he is a lifelong eurosceptic – voting against EEC membership in 1975, siding with Tory rebels in the Maastricht debates and voting against Lisbon. Corbyn was in Ireland during the second Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign in 2009 and infamously described the Brussels project as a military Frankenstein.

Labour Party Conference kept the idea of a public vote on the table, as a last resort; however, this is a mere smokescreen. Unbeknownst to pro-EU party members, the idea of a public vote is still on the table, but the motion has been ripped up. Furthermore, in order to win an election, Corbyn knows he would have to gain marginal Tory seats which also voted Leave.

Amendments to government motions can be put forward by backbench MPs but the reality is that they are not legally binding. Convention suggests that if an amendment secures a majority, then it puts pressure on the Government to act; however, we live in such unprecedented times that nothing can be taken for granted. This was seen with regard to the series of amendments put forward on 29th January. MPs voted 318-310, a majority of eight, to reject the UK leaving without a deal; however, this amendment was meaningless since it does not change the default position should the UK and EU fail to reach an agreement. Furthermore, MPs rejected an extension of Article 50 (the Cooper Amendment) beyond the end of March. So, to quote Mrs. May: nothing has changed.

It is only the Government which can propose legislation and the Prime Minister opposes a second referendum. She has explained that a second referendum would undermine ‘social cohesion’. And a shift to a second referendum does not appear to be materialising as Brexit Secretary, Steve Barclay has reconfirmed that the UK will be leaving on 29th March, with or without an agreement.

In essence, People’s Vote campaigners know they are championing a lost cause. Despite continuing to defend the idea, they are extremely aware of the risks and know that a second vote might not even provide a different result to the vote in 2016.

Most importantly, as long as the Government continues to sit on its hands and stubbornly resist the idea of a public vote, then the dream of overturning the result of 2016 is up in flames.

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We should leave without a deal, declare our independence and let the EU then negotiate with us

A few honourable MPs aside, the Labour Party has now dumped its manifesto commitment on Brexit to respect the referendum result. It is now calling for Britain to stay in the EU’s customs union forever – which would effectively mean being locked into the EU forever while having no say at all over how it […]

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A few honourable MPs aside, the Labour Party has now dumped its manifesto commitment on Brexit to respect the referendum result. It is now calling for Britain to stay in the EU’s customs union forever – which would effectively mean being locked into the EU forever while having no say at all over how it works.

Say what you like about Theresa May’s negotiating skills, her task would anyway have been nigh on impossible given the continual attempts at sabotage from politicians and others in Britain.

One example: when May went to Brussels last week, she was told by Donald Tusk that Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals for a permanent customs union represented “a promising way out” of the current impasse on Brexit.

Another form of sabotage is the constant exhortations from the establishment calling for the EU to give no ground to the Government.

Brexit is in danger. A clean Brexit is still the default position, leaving on 29th March to trade on WTO terms. Yet despite the defeat in parliament on 29th January of every binding amendment to block or delay Brexit – including Labour’s permanent customs union – Theresa May’s so-called Withdrawal Agreement is still on the table.

Even though MPs voted against it on 24th January, May still wants MPs to vote again on it, once again using No Deal as a threat not as an opportunity.

Her current deal with the EU is not a Withdrawal Agreement – it is a Remainer Agreement, in every clause on every one of its 585 pages. It is No Brexit. It would bind us forever into a United States of Europe.

It is meant to be permanent, inescapable. The Attorney General told the Cabinet that there was no legal escape route from the backstop Protocol and that it would “endure indefinitely”.

Her deal would give the EU tariff-free access to our market and control of our trade policy, force us to fund the EU’s defence programme, give EU fishing vessels free access to our waters, give the EU control of our farms, and allow free movement of labour through clauses about “mobility”.  In sum, it would bind us into the EU in perpetuity.

No surprise, then, that Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, boasted that the EU got “almost everything” it wanted with the deal.

MPs rejected May’s deal – almost the only thing they can agree on – then voted to tell her to go yet again to Brussels with her faithful lieutenant Oliver Robbins, to beg the EU to drop the Irish backstop.

But the EU will not give up the huge advantages they gain under the backstop. As Robbins observed, renegotiating the backstop with the EU is “for the birds”.

We do not need to beg the EU to change its position – that would be fruitless, as all experience from Harold Macmillan 50 years ago to David Cameron has proven. We do not need to beg the EU for a new deal, as Boris Johnson has suggested. We do not need to pay the EU £39 billion for the privilege of leaving, nor even the £20 billion that Johnson proposed.

We can and should just declare our policies on trade, fishing, the Irish border, immigration and everything else. We do not need to ask the EU’s permission. We declare our independence and then, if we wish, we can negotiate with the EU.

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Theresa May tells MPs to hold their nerve so she can get the changes they require to the Withdrawal Agreement

Theresa May delivered the following statement to the House of Commons earlier this afternoon. A video of the statement can be viewed here or at the bottom of this text. I would like to make a statement on the Government’s ongoing work to secure a Brexit deal that honours our commitments to the people of […]

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Theresa May delivered the following statement to the House of Commons earlier this afternoon. A video of the statement can be viewed here or at the bottom of this text.

I would like to make a statement on the Government’s ongoing work to secure a Brexit deal that honours our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland, commands the support of Parliament and can be negotiated with the EU.

On 29th January, this House gave me a clear mandate and sent an unequivocal message to the European Union. Last week, I took that message to Brussels. I met President Juncker, President Tusk, and the President of European Parliament, Antonio Tajani – and I told them clearly what Parliament wanted in order to unite behind a Withdrawal Agreement: namely, legally binding changes to the backstop. And I explained to them the three ways in which this can be achieved.

First, the backstop could be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Yesterday, my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union met with Michel Barnier to discuss the ideas put forward by the Alternative Arrangements Working Group comprised of a number of my Hon and Rt Hon Friends. I am grateful to that group for their work and we are continuing to explore their ideas.

Second, there could be a legally-binding time limit to the existing backstop.

Or third, there could be a legally-binding unilateral exit clause to that backstop.

Given both sides agree we do not ever want to use the backstop, and that if we did it would be temporary, we believe it is reasonable to ask for legally binding changes to this effect. As expected, President Juncker maintained the EU’s position that they will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.

And I set out the UK’s position, strengthened by the mandate that this House gave me, that this House needs to see legally-binding changes to the backstop and that can be achieved by changes to the Withdrawal Agreement. We both agreed that our teams should hold further talks to find a way forward, and he and I will meet again before the end of February to take stock of those discussions.

So our work continues. The Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are today in Strasbourg and last week the Attorney General was in Dublin to meet his Irish counterpart. And following my own visits to Brussels, Northern Ireland and Ireland last week, I welcomed the Prime Minister of Malta to Downing Street yesterday and I will be speaking to other EU 27 leaders today and throughout the week.

The Right Honourable Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, shares the concerns of this House on the backstop. I welcome his willingness to sit down and talk to me and I look forward to continuing our discussions. Indeed, Government Ministers will be meeting with members of his team tomorrow.

I think there are a number of areas where the whole House should be able to come together. In particular, I believe we have a shared determination across this House not to allow the UK leaving the EU to mean any lowering of standards in relation to workers’ rights, environmental protections or health and safety. I have met Trade Unions and with members from across the House, and my Rt Hon Friend the Business Secretary is leading work to ensure that we fully address all concerns about these vital issues. We have already made legally-binding commitments to no regression in these areas if we were to enter the backstop – and we are prepared to consider legislating to give these commitments force in UK law.

And in the interests of building support across the House, we are also prepared to commit to asking Parliament whether it wishes to follow suit whenever the EU changes its standards in these areas. And of course we don’t need to automatically follow EU standards in order to lead the way – as we have done in the past under both Conservative and Labour Governments. The UK has a proud tradition of leading the way in workers’ rights, whilst maintaining a flexible labour market that has helped deliver an employment rate almost 6 percentage points above the EU average.

Successive governments of all parties have put in place standards that exceed the minimums set by the EU. A Labour government gave British workers annual leave and paid maternity leave entitlements well above that required by the European Union. A Conservative-led government went further than the EU by giving all employees the right to request flexible working. And I was proud to be the Minister for Women and Equalities to introduce shared parental leave so that both parents are able to take on caring responsibilities for their child – something no EU regulation provides for.

When it comes to workers’ rights this Parliament has set a higher standard before and I believe will do so in the future. Indeed we already have plans to repeal the so-called Swedish derogation, which allows employers to pay their agency workers less, and we are committed to enforcing holiday pay for the most vulnerable workers. Not just protecting workers’ rights, but extending them.

As I set out in my statement two weeks ago, the House also agrees that Parliament must have a much stronger and clearer role in the next phase of the negotiations. Because the Political Declaration cannot be legally binding and in some areas provides for a spectrum of outcomes – some Members are understandably concerned that they cannot be sure precisely what future relationship it would lead to. By following through on our commitments and giving Parliament that bigger say in the mandate for the next phase, we are determined to address those concerns.

The Secretary of State has written to all Members of the Exiting the EU Committee seeking their view on engaging Parliament in this next phase of negotiations. And we are also reaching out beyond this House to engage more deeply with businesses, civil society and trade unions.

Everyone in this House knows that the vote for Brexit was not just about changing our relationship with the EU, but changing how things work at home, especially for those in communities who feel they have been left behind. Addressing this and widening opportunities is the mission of this Government that I set out on my first day as Prime Minister, and I will continue to work with Members across the House to do everything we can to help build a country that works for everyone.

But one area where the Rt Hon Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and I do not agree is on his suggestion that the UK should remain a member of the EU Customs Union. I would gently point out that the House of Commons has already voted against this. And in any case, membership of the Customs Union would be a less desirable outcome than that which is provided for in the Political Declaration. That would deliver no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors, and no checks on rules of origin. But crucially, it would also provide for the development of an independent trade policy for the UK that would allow us to strike our own trade deals around the world, something the Labour Party once supported.

On Thursday, as I promised in the House last month, we will bring forward an amendable motion. This will seek to reaffirm the support of the House for the amended motion from 29th January – namely to support the Government in seeking changes to the backstop and to recognise that negotiations are ongoing.

Having secured an agreement with the European Union for further talks, we now need some time to complete that process. When we achieve the progress we need, we will bring forward another meaningful vote. But if the Government has not secured a majority in this House in favour of a Withdrawal Agreement and a Political Declaration, then the Government will on Tuesday 26 February make a statement and table an amendable motion relating to the statement; and a Minister will move that motion on Wednesday 27 February, thereby enabling the House to vote on it, and on any amendments to it, on that day.

As well as making clear what is needed to change in the Withdrawal Agreement, the House has also reconfirmed its view that it does not want to leave the EU without a deal. The government agrees. But opposing no deal is not enough to stop it. We must agree a deal that this House can support. And that is what I am working to achieve.

I’ve spoken before about the damage that would be done to public faith in our democracy if this House were to ignore the result of the 2016 referendum. In Northern Ireland last week, I heard again the importance of securing a Withdrawal Agreement that works for all the people of this United Kingdom. In Belfast I met not just with politicians but with leaders of civil society and business from across the community. Following this House’s rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement, many people in Northern Ireland are worried about what the current uncertainty will mean for them.

In this House we often focus on the practical challenges posed by the border in Northern Ireland. But for many people in Northern Ireland, what looms larger is the fear that the seamless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland that helped make the progress which has followed the Belfast Agreement possible might be disrupted. We must not let that happen and we shall not let that happen.

The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House requires and deliver Brexit on time. By getting the changes we need to the backstop; by protecting and enhancing workers’ rights and environmental protections; and by enhancing the role of Parliament in the next phase of negotiations I believe we can reach a deal that this House can support.

We can deliver for the people and the communities that voted for change two and half years ago – and whose voices for too long have not been heard. We can honour the result of the referendum. And we can set this country on course for the bright future that every part of this United Kingdom deserves. That is this Government’s mission. We shall not stint in our efforts to fulfil it.

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Statesmanship, not brinkmanship, is now needed to deliver the right Brexit deal for Northern Ireland

This past week has sadly brought further damaging rhetoric in the Brexit process and some who ought to be statesmanlike have been anything but. This is surely a moment for statesmanship and for finding a way through the current impasse. We must calm things down and focus on developing a common sense solution to Brexit […]

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This past week has sadly brought further damaging rhetoric in the Brexit process and some who ought to be statesmanlike have been anything but.

This is surely a moment for statesmanship and for finding a way through the current impasse. We must calm things down and focus on developing a common sense solution to Brexit and the Irish border question in particular. In this context I welcome the visits of both the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach to Belfast and the meeting between both leaders in Dublin: this is the kind of engagement and leadership that is needed to help find a sensible way forward.

I recognise that the UK and the Irish Republic do not agree on Brexit itself and that many in Ireland feel hurt by the decision of the UK to leave the EU. Nevertheless, it is important we all respect democratic decisions of this nature, even when we don’t agree with them. Undoubtedly, the last two years have seen damage done to the three sets of relationships that formed the core of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

The absence of the political institutions, including the Assembly and the North-South Ministerial Council, has been to the detriment of all of us. Just think how differently we might have handled this very difficult situation if such institutions had been in place to provide a forum within which Belfast and Dublin could engage and take a more considered view on all of this. Instead, the politics of cooperation has been replaced by the old ways of megaphone diplomacy.

However, we are where we are and leaders on both sides of the border have hitherto shown a remarkable capacity to overcome enormous challenges in the peace process to find our way to the common ground. In the remaining weeks leading up to 29th March, we must do so again. Whilst it is London and Brussels who take the lead in negotiations, I believe that Dublin and Belfast can play a constructive role in helping to find the solutions.

We can begin by recognising that we already occupy significant common ground.

We all agree that the need to protect the peace process and the political and institutional arrangements of the Good Friday, St Andrews and Stormont House Agreements is vital.

Secondly, none of us want a hard border on the island of Ireland or the creation of a new border in the Irish Sea. Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland do a substantial amount of trade with Great Britain as well as with each other. The Common Travel Area ensures the free movement of people across the islands and is accepted by the EU. Now we need to find a sensible solution to ensure a similar approach on the smooth movement of goods. We in the DUP are of the view that a pragmatic approach can deliver an outcome on customs and trade that does not fundamentally undermine the EU single market or the UK single market.

Thirdly, both countries want to avoid a ‘no-deal’ outcome if possible as we recognise this could have significant implications for the short- to medium-term economic stability and prosperity of both parts of the island. Building stability and prosperity goes hand in hand with building peace.

For us, the primary problem with the draft Withdrawal Agreement is the backstop. It is not only the DUP that has concerns about the backstop and our opposition to it has been supported by many from all parties across the House of Commons.

On two occasions now, the House of Commons has voted decisively to reject the backstop in its current form and to call for legally-binding changes to these potentially harmful proposals. Our position on the backstop is also supported by other unionists like Nobel Peace laureate Lord Trimble, who has said that the proposals have the potential to “turn the Belfast Agreement on its head and do serious damage to it.”

Lord Trimble is in the process of taking legal action to challenge the legality of the backstop and his case is supported by leading experts on the Good Friday Agreement such as Professor Lord Bew. For such key architects of the Good Friday Agreement to raise serious concerns about the damaging nature of the proposed backstop must surely encourage the Taoiseach and others to pause and consider other options which are capable of commanding a wider cross-border and cross-community consensus.

If the current impasse between the UK and EU over the backstop results in no-deal then it will further damage relationships between Northern Ireland and the Republic and undermine the prospects for restoring the political institutions. The absence of these institutions over the past two years has seen a re-polarisation of attitudes on both sides in Northern Ireland.

In my opinion, securing a deal on Brexit that is broadly acceptable can only improve the prospects for restoring the institutions. It may suit Sinn Fein to have a chaotic situation, but it surely can’t be in the interests of anyone else. Sinn Fein has tried to exploit the uncertainty over Brexit to raise the border poll issue, hoping to force a referendum in the near term. This is, of course, a party that was fiercely opposed to Ireland’s membership of the EU and sought to vote down each successive European Treaty. Clearly, Sinn Fein is self-serving, and its claim to act in the wider interests of the ‘Irish people, north and south’, is bogus.

The consequences of a no-deal outcome will undoubtedly impact on the economies on both sides of the border, with their heavy dependence on the agri-food sector. InterTrade Ireland commissioned the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), an Irish think-tank, to conduct an analysis of the impact of Brexit on the Irish border. ESRI looked at several different scenarios, including one where trade between Ireland and the UK would be based on WTO rules. The resulting imposition of tariffs and non-tariff barriers in this scenario could result in Irish trade to Great Britain falling by 12%, British trade to Ireland falling by 6%, Irish trade to Northern Ireland falling by 14%, and Northern Irish trade to Ireland falling by 19% – resulting in a total reduction in cross-border trade of 16%.

Agri-food in particular is a sector that has expressed concerns about no-deal. A study of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the EU’s agri-food industry has claimed that beef and cheese exports from Ireland to the UK could collapse by up to 90% with the loss of over 3,500 jobs. No amount of preparation by any government can nullify the significant economic implications outlined.

Additionally, a further fall in the value of sterling in a no-deal scenario would worsen the outcome for Irish exports to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In this scenario, Irish trade to Great Britain would fall by 20%, British trade to Ireland would remain broadly similar (at +0.3 %), Irish trade to Northern Ireland would fall 21%, and Northern Irish trade to Ireland would fall 11% – so there would be a total fall in cross-border trade of 17%.

Despite these stark statistics, there are some who seem determined to impose the backstop. Yet the Withdrawal Agreement and backstop in their current form have been roundly rejected in the UK Parliament because they could lock us indefinitely into an arrangement that undermines the economic integrity of the UK. The backstop is designed to prevent a hard border but could ultimately result in no-deal and actually compel the EU to impose a hard border in Ireland.

Having been an MP for over 20 years and in frontline politics since the early 1980s, too many times have I seen politicians become wedded to an idea and intent on implementing it, even when they are aware of the dire consequences. Now is not a time for brinkmanship but for leadership.

I am convinced that there are better solutions than this. Whilst I am not going to be prescriptive in this article about what they may be, I am aware of several ideas, including the ‘Malthouse Compromise’, that are surely worthy of serious consideration. If the political will is there on both sides, I firmly believe we can find a solution.

The people of the United Kingdom voted by a majority to Leave the European Union. Despite this, the leadership of the EU and some in the UK have sought to frustrate the will of the people and to make it as difficult as possible for our country to Leave. The indefinite nature of the backstop would harm the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK.

The EU leaders have asked Parliament to state clearly what we want. That answer is now clear and the EU must address British concerns about the backstop if a no-deal outcome is to be avoided.

If the EU truly want to avoid harm to the peace process and to protect the political arrangements established under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, then they need to take account of unionist concerns as well as those of nationalists, otherwise, as Lord Trimble has said, they violate the core principles of the Agreement.

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There are very strong reasons why the EU ought to accept the Malthouse Compromise

The recent vote in Parliament attempting to prevent a no-deal outcome on Brexit was counter-productive and non-binding. Any attempt to hobble the Government’s negotiating hand would have been a self-inflicted wound. It was also irrelevant, since virtually no-one in the UK is advocating no deal. The preference of the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative […]

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The recent vote in Parliament attempting to prevent a no-deal outcome on Brexit was counter-productive and non-binding. Any attempt to hobble the Government’s negotiating hand would have been a self-inflicted wound. It was also irrelevant, since virtually no-one in the UK is advocating no deal.

The preference of the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative eurosceptic MPs has always been for what is usually called a ‘Canada-plus’ free trade agreement. Everyone also supports sensible side deals on such issues as aircraft landing rights, air and vehicle safety certification, and truckers’ licences. It may not be the Withdrawal Agreement signed off by Theresa May, but it is a perfectly coherent UK offer, especially if accompanied by undertakings on the Irish border.

It is entirely logical for Brussels to play hardball at this stage of the talks. The EU still see some prospect of Parliament reversing its rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement and are, of course, fully aware of the non-binding vote on no deal. However, the EU’s current refusal to re-open the Withdrawal Agreement is unlikely to be a guide to the endgame in March.

It would nevertheless be logical for the EU to offer Parliament a sweetener in the form of a codicil attached to the Withdrawal Agreement. This codicil could suggest that the EU will try hard to ensure that the backstop is either never used or will be used for only a short period.

However, this is unlikely to work since prominent ERG MPs have said that they will reject any formulation that does not replace the current wording of the Withdrawal Agreement with a clear get-out clause from the backstop. The likelihood is, thus, that the deal will once again be rejected if it returns to Parliament.

The Prime Minister’s first preference is clearly still to get an amended Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament. Her strategy all along has been to give Leave supporters a formal exit from the EU and control over EU migration, but to give companies an outcome very close to the customs union and single market. The recent Nissan decision not to build the new X-Trail model in the UK will have strengthened this resolve.

The voting strength of the ERG, however, means that a fall-back position is now under consideration – the ‘Malthouse Compromise’. This is close to the ERG’s long-standing preferred option, with the involvement of prominent Remainers giving the plan a far higher profile than we might otherwise have expected. These MPs find the Withdrawal Agreement unacceptable. They also share a survival instinct and wish to prevent their party from fracturing and losing the next election.

If and when the Withdrawal Agreement fails again to pass in Parliament, the plan is to have a compromise which the Malthouse group hope will command sufficient Tory and DUP support (together with up to forty Labour MPs from Leave-voting constituencies) to provide majority backing in Parliament. This can then be presented to the EU who will need to choose between this and no deal.

The Malthouse Compromise is based on a free-trade agreement with no tariffs or quotas. A commitment to avoid new infrastructure on the Irish border is supported by proposals for advanced customs and trade facilitation measures of the sort already in use on, for instance, the Swiss border. Regulatory equivalence of the type that currently exists for meat imports from New Zealand are proposed to remove the need for sanitary and phytosanitary checks for food and animal imports. Non-regression clauses of the sort common in modern free trade agreements are proposed to address EU concerns over unfair competition. Provisions on citizens’ rights and payments to the EU would be carried forward from the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Malthouse plan could involve an extended transition period agreed under Article 50 to allow time to negotiate a free trade agreement (which should not be difficult between two entities which already have free trade). Additional payments would accompany an extended period.

Alternatively, the free trade negotiation could be conducted without a formal transition period through making use of the provisions of GATT Article 24 as long as the EU agreed that formal FTA talks could begin soon after 29th March. Article 24 allows countries engaged in formal free trade negotiations to suspend the most favoured nation rule of the WTO and to continue with the existing tariff-free trade arrangements. In either case, the period would finish by December 2021 at the latest.

The EU is likely to resist consideration of this alternative for several weeks, but once the Withdrawal Agreement has sunk without trace, and both sides face no deal, there are three strong reasons why it might accept the Malthouse Compromise.

First, an agreement secures the £39 billion (or more) promised in the Withdrawal Agreement. Secondly, an agreement avoids potentially high tariffs for EU exporters into the EU. The EU currently sells £55 billion of products in high-tariff food and vehicle sectors into the UK. Exports from the UK into the EU in these sectors are lower at £21 billion.

But the most pressing reason is to secure a frictionless border in Ireland. The UK has guaranteed no new border infrastructure, deal or no deal, but without a deal there will be a problem on the Irish side to maintain the integrity of the EU Single Market.

It is obviously better for Ireland and the EU to accept some deal on the Irish border rather than no deal at all, even if that deal were inferior to the backstop in their eyes. The UK will also prefer to avoid no deal but can live with tariffs and side deals.

This is an extract from Brexit and Backstop: everything you need to know, published today by The UK in a Changing Europe.

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We have a precious choice between democracy or permanent second-class statehood

Let’s make no mistake – with the clock ticking down to 29th March, we have finally arrived at an existential turning point for both the United Kingdom and the European Union. Talk of compromises and cross-party consensus and some kind of semantic fudge that will make the Brexit-negating Withdrawal Agreement pass the Commons at the […]

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Let’s make no mistake – with the clock ticking down to 29th March, we have finally arrived at an existential turning point for both the United Kingdom and the European Union. Talk of compromises and cross-party consensus and some kind of semantic fudge that will make the Brexit-negating Withdrawal Agreement pass the Commons at the third attempt is a painful distraction from harsh political and historic realities.

Both the UK and the EU still face a stark binary choice, whether all parties acknowledge it or not. Leave or Remain. Double or quits. In or out. Sitting on the Brexit fence while making the right noises to the right people, in the hope that this decision can be delayed or permanently taken off the political agenda, is an abdication of responsibility that will soon no longer be an option.

For the UK, the choice can be summarised as one between democracy and permanent second-class statehood; freedom to hire and fire the people who make the laws we have to obey and pay for, or the triumph of pessimism due to the mistaken and craven belief that we aren’t mature and sensible enough to run our own affairs, and must cleave to a supranational body with minimal democratic legitimacy because we are too insignificant to defend our right to democratic self-government.

Remainers trying to subvert the referendum result by locking the UK into the EU, even as we are supposedly leaving it, have completely missed the point of the Leave vote. It was a vote of confidence in Great Britain and its institutions, flawed or otherwise. It was a vote by optimists, by people who believe in the regenerative, sometimes messy but always liberating, principle of democracy – which is that you make your own mistakes, and if you don’t like the way the ship of state is run, you chuck out the government and give someone else a turn at the wheel. There are ups and downs, but you always have a choice. And that choice is precious.

People across the world have died in countless wars to be able to have such a choice. It is sad indeed that many of the guardians of this ancient, disruptive, rambunctious democracy of ours are so afraid of it that they dare not stand up for it. Indeed, they would rather abolish it and have us ruled by an unelected European Commission, which continues to assume with Ancien Régime arrogance that the British people can be made to vote as many times as necessary until they sign up to the European Project. One might say when hell freezes over, but one hates to employ such clichés. Except when they are true.

Staying in a customs union with the EU, accepting close regulatory alignment with the EU, joining an EU army with imperial ambitions (as outlined recently by the French), allowing the EU to decide on vast areas of policy-making – as the Withdrawal Agreement does – is not only not Brexit and a failure to deliver on the referendum result. It is to collude in the death of functioning, open, plural democracy, which is the only safeguard against dictatorship.

So the choice is clear: a Brexit that restores supreme law-making powers to the UK, or the triumph of technocracy and the enforcement by a foreign court of perpetual protectionist mediocrity, to ensure that no member state of the EU is ever independent enough to question the power exercised by an unelected Politburo in Brussels, whose mission is to create the United States of Europe, by fair means or foul.

One country’s upsurge of democracy, of course, can be another’s constitutional catastrophe. For the EU, Brexit is no less of an existential issue. That the second largest financial contributor and the oldest democracy in the EU voted to leave is a damning indictment of the political failure that has marked the European Project in the last twenty years. The fury and insults heaped upon Britain after the referendum testify to the total incomprehension of the EU’s political class when confronted with legitimate dissent.

And that nothing has changed since 23rd June 2016 is evidenced by the ludicrous stories peddled by Project Fear in recent days… Apparently the Queen is to be evacuated if we leave the EU on WTO terms. Given that Her Majesty produces much of her own food on her own land, one wonders where she might go to avoid “the cliff-edge” if the Roquefort doesn’t show up in time for the cheese course.

We hear that a third of UK businesses are thinking of relocating to the EU, only to see that the poll conducted by the IoD was of a tiny percentage of its members. Another headline claims that a majority of Chief Finance Officers believe that the UK will be worse off after Brexit – a majority of just one hundred CFOs surveyed by Deloitte. None of these surveys takes into account that a sovereign Britain can take whatever legislative and fiscal measures it deems fit to ensure that goods flow into this country unfettered and that our economy continues not only to function normally, but to thrive.

This acceleration of Project Fear in the media strengthens the belief that there will be no meaningful concessions on the Withdrawal Agreement before the next debate in the Commons. Indeed, EU leaders have repeatedly said that they will not reopen the legal text. Michel Barnier therefore has no mandate other than to listen politely to the Prime Minister and say no.

The EU will try until the bitter end to ram its appalling deal down our throats, because the slightest sign that it is willing to agree a pragmatic, mutually beneficial trade relationship with a former member state will be seen as a green light for other eurosceptic members to flex their muscles and stand up to the Franco-German juggernaut that intends to sweep them up in its imperial embrace.

The ‘Malthouse Compromise’ recently floated by a group of Tory MPs is likely to be shot down in flames – if indeed it is even tabled for discussion by Theresa May. Whatever she may propose to break the impasse, negotiators in Brussels must cling to their position – that a centralised technocratic EU superstate is the ineluctable future.

It is, of course, the past: an attempt to create by red tape and judicial takeover what has not been possible to achieve through centuries of warfare. But it is hard-wired into the EU’s DNA, and it is a question of survival. For them a no-deal Brexit will be preferable to any ‘deal’ that fails to put Britain on the naughty step and keep it there until it begs to be let back into the nursery.

To EU or not to EU, that remains the question.

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Labour’s dumping of its six Brexit tests suggests Corbyn is serious about respecting the referendum result

The most remarkable thing about the votes in the House of Commons on the amendments that sought to frustrate the Brexit process last month was not how close they were but how close the results were to those of the referendum in 2016. On the two most significant wrecking amendments – that in the name […]

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The most remarkable thing about the votes in the House of Commons on the amendments that sought to frustrate the Brexit process last month was not how close they were but how close the results were to those of the referendum in 2016.

On the two most significant wrecking amendments – that in the name of Dominic Grieve seeking to ensure six and half hours of debate on Brexit in the Commons on six successive Tuesdays on amendable motions and the other in the name of Yvette Cooper seeking to override long-standing Commons Standing Orders and bring a bill which would direct the Prime Minister to seek an extension of the Article 50 period until 31st December 2019 – the percentage votes were exactly the same as those cast in the 2016 referendum: 48% for and 52% against.

Such voting figures in a Parliament that’s predominantly Remain is a testament to the underlying strength of British democracy and the societal robustness of the UK.

Parliamentarians may strut the national stage with the self-importance of those who have the power to legislate, making interminable speeches and debating the finer points of Brexit, but in this drama, it’s the working people who are in the driving seat and they have already written the script.

The EU – who are not used to any form democratic control – find this hugely frustrating. Their frustrations is beginning to boil over as we approach our departure date. With no sign of the British people wavering on Brexit and the prospect of a second referendum all but dead, they resort to abuse and insult talking about a “place in hell” for those who voted Leave, a sure sign of desperation. We are winning, we are leaving the EU, and though tempting, we need not respond in kind.

Jeremy Corbyn’s recent ground-breaking letter to the Prime Minister is the strongest indication that Labour will keep its promise to respect the referendum result to Leave the EU and of Labour’s intention to ensure an orderly departure in March. The letter rightly dismisses Keir Starmer’s farcical six tests and presents no principled opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop. All of Labour’s stated demands can be implemented within the current provisions of Withdrawal Agreement.

Some of Corbyn’s demands on workers’ rights and standards, for instance, have already been conceded, and participation in EU agencies and future security are uncontentious. However, having a customs union and close ties to the single market would be difficult for Theresa May to accept and once the caveats that Labour will undoubtedly place on these proposals as far as state aid, VAT and independent trade policy are concerned, it wouldn’t be acceptable to the EU either.

The EU’s initial response welcoming Corbyn’s letter is tactical and has no substance: they would rather deal with May any day of the week than Corbyn, who is fundamentally opposed to everything the EU stands for.

But that doesn’t diminish the letter’s importance. If the Prime Minister goes some way towards Corbyn’s position, such as providing guarantees on workers’ rights, participation in EU agencies and security, while indicating her willingness to consider the other issues in the course of the forthcoming negotiations on our relations with the EU, it would make it all but impossible for Labour to oppose an agreement to which it has no principle objection.

Labour may not be able to support it, but it dare not oppose it for fear of postponing Brexit or reversing it; it may have to go for abstention, either formally or implicitly by making it clear that Labour MPs may absent themselves from the vote. There are enough Labour MPs to ensure a deal is passed by a decent majority.

The threat to Theresa May in such a scenario where she depends on Labour to get the Withdrawal Agreement through is highly exaggerated. Far from weakening her, she would be strengthened by the mere fact that she delivered Brexit as she promised and restored the sovereignty of the British people as demanded by the EU referendum.

And the importance of sovereignty could not be overemphasised or exaggerated. The day after we leave, treaties that we may have signed with the EU becomes treaties between equals – which is not the case while we are still a member of the EU – and as a sovereign state we have the right to re-negotiate or unilaterally withdraw from these treaties, regardless of whether such treaties have escape clauses or not.

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Why seeking an extension to Article 50 would be a terrible idea

From various quarters, whispers or even open calls are growing for an extension to the UK’s Article 50 period which finishes, unless extended, on 29th March 2019. Most of those talking about an Article 50 extension seem to assume that the UK only has to ask for such an extension, and it will be granted […]

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From various quarters, whispers or even open calls are growing for an extension to the UK’s Article 50 period which finishes, unless extended, on 29th March 2019. Most of those talking about an Article 50 extension seem to assume that the UK only has to ask for such an extension, and it will be granted unto us.

However, the European Union is not the beneficent Lord mentioned in the gospel according to St Matthew Chapter 7, Verse 7 (the Sermon on the Mount), and confidence that the EU will just grant any extension that the UK asks of them is likely to prove very misplaced.

The so-called “Cooper-Boles amendment”, which was defeated in the House of Commons on 29th January by 321 to 298 votes, seems to be based on such an assumption. This sought to pave the way for a Bill which would impose a legal duty on the Prime Minister to “seek an extension of the period of two years specified in Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union to a period ending on 31 December 2019”, or to such other date as the House of Commons might decide on a future motion.

The legalities of an Article 50 extension

But let us look at the legalities both of how an Article 50 extension can be granted, and the legal effects of such an extension. It is important to understand both in order to assess the likely reaction of the European Union and its Member States to an Article 50 extension request from the UK.

The governing provision is the closing words of Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union:

“3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2 [i.e. 29 March 2019], unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”

The effect of an extension, if granted, is to postpone the UK’s date of exit from the European Union, so that the whole panoply of rights and obligations of EU membership would continue to apply to the UK as a Member State during the extended period. So the UK’s obligation to pay into the EU budget would automatically be extended. But most importantly in view of its political repercussions, both the right of the UK to be represented by MEPs in the European Parliament and its obligation to choose them by direct elections would continue to apply to the UK.

On the face of it, this means that if an extension takes us past May, the UK must then hold a fresh round of European Parliament elections. There is a little bit of wriggle room, in that if the extension period terminates before the new European Parliament assembles on 2nd July 2019, such elections could be avoided as pointless. But if the extension is beyond that date, it is very difficult so see how the elections could be avoided.

That would mean that Nigel Farage would be re-elected to the European Parliament, probably in present circumstances as part of an increased phalanx of members of his new Brexit Party. And the EU’s internal legal advice is apparently that once elected, the UK MEPs would be entitled to remain members of the European Parliament for the rest of their five-year terms, regardless of when the UK leaves the EU. This would completely up-end the political agreements which have been reached for the sharing out of the seats which (it had been assumed) would be vacated by the UK in the European Parliament.

This is a huge spanner in the works for any Article 50 extension longer than three months. No doubt the ‘creative law-bending’ departments of the EU would be hard at work to think of ways round this problem, but at the moment it looks like a formidable difficulty.

But another problem arises if an extension is for three months or less – say to 29th June. It is not possible to treat such an extension as a “more of the same” extended negotiating period. This is because the current European Parliament term will end on 18th April 2019 prior to the European Parliament elections. Article 50(2) requires that the European Parliament must consent to any Withdrawal Agreement before the EU can conclude it.

So, at most, an extension to the Article 50 period which stops short of 2nd July would allow merely an extra three weeks for an agreement to be finalised and concluded.

As to how an Article 50 extension is granted, it should be noted that this requires the unanimous consent of each EU27 Member State within the European Council. This is actually a more stringent rule than for an Article 50 agreement to be concluded, which can be done by Qualified Majority Vote (QMV).

The effect of this requirement is to place enormous power in the hands of each individual Member State which may have demands it wants to make. If the UK comes crawling along, begging for an Article 50 extension, what better time to dig in and extract some useful concessions?

What terms will be imposed on an Article 50 extension?

Let us then turn to the question of whether, and on what terms, an Article 50 extension might be agreed if the UK asks for it. As is evident from Article 50(3) quoted above, such an extension is not simply a matter of choice for the UK, but requires the unanimous consent of all EU27 Member States.

First, the EU collectively is unlikely to agree to any Article 50 extension unless there is a clear purpose to it, other than just buying time for yet more turmoil and negotiation. Secondly, as mentioned already, the EU will be very reluctant indeed to agree any extension beyond 2nd July 2019 because of the consequences for the European Parliament elections.

But, thirdly, quite apart from what the EU as a whole may have concerns about, each individual Member State may have demands of its own.

As reported in the Financial Times on 1st February: “The Spanish are gearing up for a Gibraltar fight when there is an extension request,” said one senior EU diplomat. “It could be dangerous.”

And Germany also could have its demands. When my colleague Dr Gunnar Beck and I gave evidence in Berlin to the European Union Committee of the Bundestag, the subject of a possible Article 50 extension was raised by a number of the German legal experts giving evidence to the Committee. First, it was the general view that there would be great difficulties in extending it by more than a couple of months, because that would mean that the May 2019 European Parliament elections would need to be held in the UK. None of the German legal experts could think of a convincing way round this problem, since the election of MEPs in each Member State is mandated by the European treaties.

However, one of the German experts made an important point. He pointed out that the UK Government is using the fact that there is no mechanism to make the UK pay the ‘divorce bill’ unless a Withdrawal Agreement is ratified as a negotiating lever. He advised the Committee that Germany should require, as a precondition of agreeing to any Article 50 extension, that the UK should agree unconditionally to abide by the obligations to pay money into the EU budget which are set out in Part Five of the Withdrawal Agreement, and to submitting to the jurisdiction of the ECJ to set the amount of these payments, regardless of whether or not a Withdrawal Agreement was subsequently ratified.

One does not know whether the German Government will take up this suggestion, but it would be quite logical for it to do so. Germany will end up paying the lion’s share of the shortfall in the EU budget caused by the UK’s departure. Under the draft Withdrawal Agreement, the UK would have to pay a sum which has been widely estimated at £39 billion, but in fact is likely to end up considerably higher, particularly since Theresa May caved in to the EU’s demand that the ECJ should be given jurisdiction to decide the amount instead of a neutral international tribunal.

Under international law, the UK would have some legal obligations, but they would be very much lower (for background on this, see what I and Charlie Elphicke MP wrote here on the EU’s financial claims).

So taking advantage of the UK’s moment of weakness when it supplicates for an Article 50 extension, and taking the chance to lock in the EU’s legal entitlement to this enhanced sum come what may, would be quite the logical thing for Germany to insist on.

This illustrates a wider point about any application to extend Article 50.

By asking for a favour when up against the clock, the UK would once again put itself in a very weak negotiating position, where it would be subject to being blackmailed for further concessions.

It would also let the EU off the hook and remove the negotiation pressure on the EU to revise the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Asking for an Article 50 extension would be a terrible, terrible idea.

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Betrayal of Brexit manifesto commitments would be catastrophic for the Conservative Party

The following is an open letter to Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis from Cllr Bob Perry and a host of other Conservative Party activists (as listed at the bottom)    Dear Mr Lewis, We, the undersigned, write to you as long-standing, dedicated, voluntary members of the Conservative Party. We have serious concerns over the direction […]

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The following is an open letter to Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis from Cllr Bob Perry and a host of other Conservative Party activists (as listed at the bottom)   

Dear Mr Lewis,

We, the undersigned, write to you as long-standing, dedicated, voluntary members of the Conservative Party.

We have serious concerns over the direction of the Brexit negotiations and the impact this will have on our party. Specifically, we are deeply worried about the impact of extending Article 50 beyond 29th March 2019 and reports that the Government is seeking a ‘customs arrangement’ with the EU and may reach out to the Labour Party.

The British people spoke to us very clearly on 23rd June 2016 and gave us a mandate to leave the European Union: no customs arrangements, no deals. As has been said many times before, the British people did not vote for a deal, they voted to Leave.

This is extremely troubling as the Prime Minister has committed to leaving the Customs Union and to attempt to tie us to any form of ‘customs arrangement’ would be seen as a shameful sidestep through semantics.

People across Britain have been promised time after time that we will be leaving the EU on 29th March 2019 – almost three years after voting to Leave. Voters have waited long enough for this important day to come and any extension – no matter how short – will be seen as a duplicitous act of betrayal.

Trust in politicians is at an all-time low, and how politicians of all political parties have dealt with Brexit is a major reason for this. You must not underestimate the damage any extension will have on the Conservative Party in future elections. Make no mistake – it will be catastrophic.

This year’s local elections in May are the biggest cycle of local elections and involve seats won at a high-water mark in 2015. We fear that any perceived betrayal of manifesto commitments could well result in severe electoral defeats for Conservative candidates.

Remaining in a customs union or ‘customs arrangement’ with the EU will leave Britain unable to negotiate, sign and implement free trade deals with the rest of the world. This is one of the key economic benefits of Brexit and would lead to lower prices for consumers in the long term. This is a red line that must not be breached.

The British people have waited three years to enjoy the benefits of life outside of the EU and for a Conservative Government to prevent this would be an unforgivable betrayal. We urge the party to reverse this avoidable collision course with the British electorate, before it is too late. Ignore us at your peril.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr. Bob Perry (Chairman Hornchurch & Upminster Conservative Association)

Cllr Lord Ampthill (Rother District Council)
Della Jones MBE (former Conservative County Councillor)
Delyth Miles (District & Town Councillor for Walton)
Ron Barker (Party member and former Executive Officer)
Michael A. St. Clair-George
Ian Hunter (Colchester Conservatives)
Margaret Chatham and Peter Chatham (Nuneaton Conservative Association)
Stewart Drennan
Bexhill & Battle Conservative Association (Heathfield, Cross in Hand and Five Ashes Branch)
David J. Kelly (South Staffordshire Conservative Association)
Margaret (Trent Valley)
Mary S V Baxter (former Chairman Ledbury & Old Gore Branch, former Management Executive, North Herefordshire Association)
Angela C W Morris (Former constituency deputy chairman (political) and Branch Chairman)
John Wilkinson (Party member)
Guy Shimmin (Torquay Party member)
Giles Rowe (Party member)
David Rees (Party member)
HH The Lord Parmoor (President of Wycombe Conservative Association)
Ken Worthy (Chairman, Claygate and Hinchley Wood branch, Esher and Walton)
John Waine (Party member)
Fennie Strange (Party member)
Robert Flunder (Party member)
Peter Hole (Conservative activist and member)
Simon Hornshaw (Fylde Conservative Association)
Eric Lowe (Party member)
Annabelle Meek (Party member, former Deputy Chairman and Fundraiser)
Dr D Ratcliff (Party member)
S Ratliff (Party member)
Nigel Shaw (Party member)
Robert Johnson (Party Member)
Theresa Sargent (Party Member and volunteer)
Mrs. Anthea Kemp (Party member)
R A Baggott (Cotswold Association)
John Carpenter (Party member, Sleaford and North Hykeham)
Robert Sawle (Party member and former election agent)
Richard Mackenzie
Roger Duckworth
Richard Reeves (Party member, Bexhill and Battle)
Diane Reeves (Party member, Bexhill and Battle)
Jeremy Knapp (South Suffolk)
Cynthia Beesley and Derek Beesley (Llandudno)
Dr David Seawright

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With 50 days until 29th March, the clock is ticking and many of us are hoping for a WTO Brexit

Theresa May is going back to Brussels today following her visit to Northern Ireland, to meet Jean-Claude Juncker and seek changes to the Withdrawal Agreement. But we already know that the EU has said many times that they will not re-open the Withdrawal Agreement, as doing so would mean completely re-writing it after two years’ […]

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Theresa May is going back to Brussels today following her visit to Northern Ireland, to meet Jean-Claude Juncker and seek changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.

But we already know that the EU has said many times that they will not re-open the Withdrawal Agreement, as doing so would mean completely re-writing it after two years’ work on the task.

On 14th December at a Leave Means Leave event, Jacob Rees-Mogg said that of the 585 pages that make up the Withdrawal Agreement, 68 pages concerned the backstop. However, he said that these 68 pages were not pure legal text, they were in fact a 68-page list of legal directives that apply to it!

How exactly can all of this be unpicked to create a new Withdrawal Agreement in time for 29th March, bearing in mind that the European Parliament’s five-year term ends on 18th April? There simply would not be time.

The Telegraph reported yesterday that Theresa May plans to put her revised Withdrawal Agreement to another vote before Parliament at the end of February but this may well end in another crushing defeat, especially if there are no concrete changes to the backstop.

David Davis is now saying he wants to present the Free Trade deal to the EU that he authored last summer, but was rejected in favour of the Chequers blueprint. Will they accept this at the eleventh hour, as he believes?

We also heard yesterday that some Cabinet ministers are suggesting they would need until 24th May in order to get through important Brexit legislation – but it is unclear yet whether the EU would accept this and whether it would mean a formal extension of Article 50.

There is also talk of an amendment being tabled at the end of February to block a no-deal Brexit after the Caroline Spelman amendment passed by eight votes on 29th January. Again, what would this mean?

It would certainly mean extending Article 50 to prolong talks with the EU to create a new Withdrawal Agreement, so that we do not leave without a deal in place. Extending Article 50 would also require the agreement of all 27 Member States – and if just one disagreed, it could not be extended.

However, as I mentioned above, the European Parliament ends its five-year session on 18th April and does not come back until July, in the wake of the European elections taking place between 23rd and 26th May.

If we were to extend Article 50, would it mean that we would have to fight those European elections in May, as we would still be a member of the EU?

This would surely not now be possible because the EU has already re-allocated 27 of the 73 British seats to other Member States, with 46 of them remaining empty to be used in future for any new Member States.

It seems unlikely that the EU would want its timetable disrupted by our Brexit indecision. We have already heard quite clearly from Michel Barnier that they do not want to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement to make any changes. They feel they have given enough time to it and need to move on to other things, since there are 27 other countries with their own issues to deal with.

Nevertheless, the Remainers in Parliament will be racking their brains right now as to how to stop Britain leaving the EU without a deal on 29th March.

A second referendum would most likely take at least a year to put together, which would mean an extension to Article 50 of a year or longer.

Would Remain MPs try to force the Government to revoke Article 50 altogether? This seems highly unlikely because of the huge backlash it would cause in Britain, not to mention the extreme embarrassment of our country spending nearly three years trying to get Britain out of the EU, with the whole world watching, only to drop the whole idea.

So the conclusion is that the only thing that Remainers could try to foist upon us is an extension of Article 50, in order to avert a No Deal. Yet, from the above it appears this would not be possible due to the EU’s timetable and the upcoming European elections.

So many Brexiteers are keeping their fingers crossed that the clock keeps ticking and that nothing can stop us leaving on Friday 29th March on WTO rules.

Unfortunately, the case for this has not been properly presented to the country, certainly not by what I would call our “Remainstream media”. The golden opportunities need to be clearly set out, especially if the EU will cave in and accept Article 24 of GATT, allowing us to trade with them without tariffs for at least two years or longer, until we do finally agree a trade deal.

90% of world trade is done on WTO terms and a considerable percentage of our trade is currently conducted on those terms – and of course the EU sell us £90 billion more than we sell to them.

Leaving on WTO terms gives us everything we wanted when we voted to Leave: taking back control of our country, our laws, our borders, our fishing rights and our money, as well as the ability to agree free trade deals with the rest of the world. The jobs that will be created will far outweigh any short term disruption.

Roll on 29th March!

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