So what’s next?
Well here are my own personal views of the various options being bruited about:
- Renegotiate with the EU. By far the best thing to do. Delete the obnoxious Backstop, and other lesser improvements. Secure support of DUP and ERG. Deal agreed by House. But: EU say ‘no renegotiation’. Perhaps they need to be forced into it?
- Forget the deal, and just leave on March 29. Most terms and conditions laid out in 585-page Withdrawal Agreement could easily still apply (driving licences, rights of EU citizens, medicines, Euratom, Air Traffic Control.) After all, the WA was not about trading, just about practicalities. Negotiations over the trade deal come next. Saves us £39 billion. Scaremongers argue that this would be ‘catastrophic crashing out’ etc. Interesting that they are 99% Remainers. We certainly need this option to persuade the EU to reopen negotiations as in 1.
- Extend Article 50. May be necessary for purely practical reasons (to get necessary legislation through Parliament). But must not be used as a way of ’kicking the can down the road.’ If we cannot decide on a way forward now, why would it be any better in six months? The 29 March backstop is a worthy discipline.
- Commons takes control. Ludicrous proposal by Nic Boles. He forgot to mention to the Liaison Committee who it would be, under his idea, that would become the Government. Fundamentally undermines the whole basis of UK constitution, especially Separation of Powers.
- Second Referendum. Would be divisive and indecisive. Those proposing it believe that Remain would win. Even if they are right, could we really go back to the EU now with cap in hand to say we had changed our minds? And anyhow if Remain win, I will call for a third Referendum ad infinitum. The divisions within the country - within families - would deepen, and really nothing would have been decided.
- More honest are those who say we should simply abandon the whole idea and remain members. We would preserve the right to use Article 50 at some later date and would in the meantime (probably for ever) remain members. That would be to ignore the will of the people so clearly expressed in the Referendum; it would undermine the whole meaning of democracy. And it would anyhow fail to deal with our long-standing and deeply held criticisms of the EU.
- A general Election. Would be pointless. The EU departure arrangements would still have to be agreed, unless an incoming Government would renege on the whole thing. And anyhow, it would probably take longer to arrange and hold than 29 March, so that our departure from the EU would occur anyhow.
So for my money - and I shall be saying so very firmly to the PM - we should now seek an urgent and fundamental renegotiation with the EU, especially over the obnoxious Backstop proposals and if they will not play ball, then we must prepare ourselves for leaving without any kind of deal. It’s time for a better Deal or No Deal at all.