Deal or no deal, the bottom line is that the UK must leave the EU on 29th March 2019

Deal or no deal, the bottom line is that the UK must leave the EU on 29th March 2019

Not a day goes by without Theresa May getting attacked by MPs on her own side, ridiculed by the Opposition, derided by the media and mocked by sketch writers; she faces a constant and continuing threat to her leadership. The only thing going for her is her stated determination to ensure the UK leaves the EU on the date Parliament decreed, 29th March 2019, and on that issue, she has the backing of the British people. This is the reason why she has been able to survive.

MPs may have the numbers to delay or block Brexit, but the people have the final say; in 2016 they said Leave; today they say get on with it.

Every other option other than the proposed Withdrawal Agreement or leaving the EU without a deal, does, of necessity, involve an extension of Article 50 and if Article 50 is extended once, it could be extended again and again until we relent and forget about Leaving the EU altogether. Renegotiating the current deal in any meaningful way would require months if not years; a general election or a second referendum likewise would require an extension of Article 50. At the end of the day, for MPs to honour the referendum result, they must vote for the current deal (or a cosmetic variation of it) or fall back on the default position of no deal.

It’s right for Brexit-supporting MPs and others to call the recent Treasury assessments of the impact of different Brexit scenarios and the warnings from the Bank of England as the continuation of Project Fear, but they must not themselves indulge in a Project Fear of their own. Statements such as the Withdrawal Agreement is ‘worse than remaining inside the EU’ and ‘once it is signed there is no way out’ are alarmist and unnecessarily defeatist.

Regardless of its faults – including keeping the UK too close to the EU than is comfortable for an independent country and ceding control in certain areas – the Withdrawal Agreement ensures we leave the EU on 29th March 2019 and once we leave, we become sovereign which could never be the case if we remain in the EU; sovereignty brings with it powers that had been surrendered to the EU.

As for ‘once signed there is no way out’, treaties are not written on tablets of stone, otherwise we would still be living under treaties that were signed in the nineteenth century. Treaties are amendable and in the final analysis disposable; they carry weight only if both parties are willing to abide by them; they are more honoured in breach than observance; the USA alone breached over 500 treaties and countries are accused of breaching this or that treaty on almost a daily basis.

Once sovereign, we can give notice of the changes we wish to make and if the EU refuses to negotiate, we can give notice of our intention to terminate all or parts of the treaty and that includes the backstop. To say that the fifth largest economy and the fourth biggest military power in the world, a permanent member of the Security Council, will be neutered in perpetuity if it signs a treaty with a union with serious signs of disintegration is fanciful to say the least.
The driving force behind Brexit has always been the British people and that must continue to be the case after we leave next year. This is the true guarantee for the future and not tightening this or that wording on a piece of paper.

Prior to us actually leaving the EU, a Withdrawal Agreement – regardless of who negotiates it – is bound to have compromises and leave a number loose ends. The purpose of a deal at this stage is not to tie the Government’s hands in future negotiations as some people seem to think, but to provide the best possible start after we leave the EU. After 45 years of being entrapped by the EU, its rules and bureaucracy, it will not be possible to escape in one single giant leap; at the present time, a deal is a first step, not the end result.

Once that first step is taken and we leave the EU, we can start the process of consolidating our economy, re-building our industry and ensuring our security, then we can assert our full sovereignty from a position of strength and demand the changes to the treaty that we want and need.

The 2016 referendum gave Parliament one simple task: get the UK out of the EU. So far, it has done its job: Article 50 has been triggered, the EU Withdrawal Act has been passed and a date set for leaving. For a Parliament with a majority on the Remain side, this is truly impressive. Now it has to complete the job and ease us out of the EU in March.

If Parliament rejects the deal, then Theresa May will have to go back to Brussels, not to beg for any meaningful changes, for that would be futile and humiliating; but rather to inform them that the UK will trade with the EU under WTO rules after we leave the EU – and preparations must be made to that end. Trading under WTO rules won’t be the disaster it is made out to be by some and the public will accept it.

If MPs fail to complete the task with which they are entrusted by ensuring we leave on 29th March next year Рand Labour has a central role to play in this Рthe whole Westminster set-up will be brought into disrepute. People’s revenge will be subtle, but it may not be pretty.