I wobbled and considered backing the deal, but realised I was wrong

I wobbled and considered backing the deal, but realised I was wrong

After the various votes of last week I felt that following the removal of the UK’s last little bit of leverage through the removal of “No Deal” from the negotiating table, the only option was for Brexiteers to vote through the flawed Withdrawal Agreement. I have great respect for Michael Howard and other prominent Brexiteers advocating that eurosceptic MPs hold their noses and vote through the deal. I was in agreement with them at the end of last week, but over the weekend realised that I had been sucked too far into the No Brexit vortex.

My reasoning for suggesting they vote for the proposed Withdrawal Agreement was that although the deal is awful, it does mean that we are at least out of the EU and we should at least bank that small gain. However, under the terms of the proposed Withdrawal Agreement, for the transition period, we won’t be out at all but instead virtually a full member but without any form of representation in the European Parliament or Commission. This is a worse situation than being a full voting member!

The second point that struck me is that we are all appalled by the Prime Minister’s inability to negotiate a good deal for Britain. It is therefore essential that she is not involved in the next phase and that we have someone of higher calibre in charge. However, if her Withdrawal Agreement is voted through then we are effectively handing her the keys for the next phase which would pile disaster on disaster.

The third point was this: why should we be afraid of an extension until December 2020 as suggested by some in the EU? The transition period was due to run until then and as explained above this would have been without representation at any level. If it comes to it, we should take up this offer and use the time to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement under a new leader now fully aware of how the EU operates and then leave properly at the end of the extension. In the meantime we would have European Parliament elections which I would expect to reinforce and reinvigorate the 2016 referendum vote.

Despite exporting a large percentage of our products to the EU, my preference still remains going WTO on 29th March as that gives us a clean Brexit now and we are then able to move on quicker. My second preference, which is about as likely as hell freezing over, is a short delay of weeks to dot the Is and cross the Ts of a WTO/No Deal exit. My third preference is remaining in the EU under an Article 50 extension until December 2020 and in that time negotiating a new Withdrawal Agreement whilst being fully prepared to walk away and leave without a deal.

Ironically it is by calling the Prime Minister’s bluff and seeing the threat of an Article 50 extension as an opportunity that can put the UK in a much stronger position long term. It is essential that the negotiating balance is reset and these, at this time, are the only ways of doing that.