It’s time to end the constitutional wrangling, back the deal and get Brexit sorted

It’s time to end the constitutional wrangling, back the deal and get Brexit sorted

In politics, every day is not just an adventure, but more than often a journey into the unknown. Every day I, like so many others, wake up and go through my quotidian ritual of checking news apps, which generally swing my mood between the ever-changing highs and lows of deal or no deal; leave or don’t leave.

The UK Parliament has seemingly been running from one constitutional and political crisis to another; whilst some have sought to break the Brexit impasse, others have though to frustrate it completely, and all against the backdrop of a divided, fatigued and weary electorate.

This process has undoubtedly been long and tiresome, often looking as though there was never light at the end of the tunnel. Light travels faster than sound, and the sight of a new EU Withdrawal Agreement surely precedes the roar that inevitably will follow it.

On the day of the October EU summit, the seemingly impossible was achieved – a new deal was struck between the UK and EU. Compromise rightfully made, one side to another. Not only has a deal been reached, but also it is a considerable improvement over the original proposition and Withdrawal Agreement. Those talking it down did so before the ink had dried. There are also those to whom no deal will ever be pleasing or acceptable.

This deal however clearly addresses several concerns over the Irish Backstop. Northern Ireland will remain in the UK’s customs territory, whilst British authorities will be responsible for charging European tariffs on goods destined for the Single Market. This would also put much needed pressure on politicians to form a Northern Irish Executive and get the Assembly up and running once again, not just for Brexit’s sake but to give its domestic agenda momentum once again.

This arguably is a creative solution to both maintaining a soft border with the Republic of Ireland whilst ensuring that  Northern Ireland benefits from our new independent trade policy. Crucially it includes that necessary transition period to allow people and businesses to make the required adjustments to the new world, whatever that may be. That continuity is one thing we heard loud and clear from so many quarters, and was at the heart of efforts to ensure we exit the EU with transition and agreement.

The Prime Minister has achieved what all the pundits said he couldn’t – he reopened the Withdrawal Agreement, he got a settlement on Northern Ireland that avoided a hard border and he got a deal agreed by the October summit of the European Council.

Any accusation that he was chasing a no-deal Brexit is as vacuous as the malicious intent with which such criticism was borne.

This deal is just one half of the baguette though. The other half will be found in Westminster. We are, however, heading for a momentous showdown in the House of Commons in what has been labelled “Super Saturday”. Super is not a word I would gleefully use to describe this almighty confrontation between those who simply want to get Brexit done, and those who will thwart it, come what may.

MPs will have a simple choice: back this deal, back No Deal or back no Brexit. It is now or never.

It seems improbable that a better deal can be laid before Parliament, nor will there likely be any further negotiations with the EU. Indeed, we have heard Commission President Juncker ruling out any further extension beyond Halloween.

Put simply, if we want to leave by 31st October and avoid No Deal, then the time has come to back the only horse in town.

The EU has approved this and believes it to be solid. It has the backing of the Council, the Commission and will likely command the support of the European Parliament. It also has the backing of the Irish Government. Our friends on that island must also be considered. No mean feat and not to be ignored.

It’s been three years since that game-changing vote in June 2016, and here we are, yet to leave the political structures of the EU. We promised to respect the verdict of the British people. If we are serious, then now is the time to show it. For everyone’s sake.

Trust in politicians has been justifiably eroded these past three years due to the abject failure to enact the instructions of the British people. We are lucky to live in a country that allows referendums and direct democracy. In trusting the public with these votes, they in turn trust us to honour those decisions. Trust is earned when promises are kept.

The last great irony of Brexit may be that those want it most may be part of its downfall. The deal is far from perfect, but it is what it is.

As someone who voted for Brexit, I am willing to throw my support behind this agreement. As a Scottish politician, I understand the importance of passing a sensible and pragmatic deal that delivers an orderly Brexit. My inbox is already full of commentary from wide-ranging business sectors, welcoming the prospect of a deal. I implore others to consider this reaction when they consider their next moves.

If you think three-dimensional political spectrums are confusing, try adding a fourth: notably the presence of Scottish Nationalism and Northern Irish Unionism. Understandably, this is a complex and sensitive jigsaw to complete. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP will use any hint of turbulence as an excuse to rip Scotland out of the UK. The Scottish First Minister would like nothing more than a no-deal Brexit, so she can capitalise on any disruption for her own political gain.

This is our opportunity to put an end to constitutional wrangling, deliver Brexit and say to voters, as loudly and clearly as we can; we hear you, we respect your say and we will deliver your decisions – be that Brexit or otherwise.  Let’s not scupper this opportunity to break free of the constitutional turbulence that has engulfed us for too many years.

The Rubicon is in sight, hold our nerve long enough and by goodness we might just cross it. This is our chance to finally get Brexit sorted. To offer much needed stability to business. To embrace the opportunities which lie in store for us. In Scotland, it allows us to take back control of our fisheries policy, establish a new fair framework for Scottish farmers and explore the potential for more export destinations for best-in-class Scottish produce.

Far from Nicola Sturgeon’s own brand of doom and gloom – used to depict a depressing picture of post-Brexit Scotland – I truly believe that we will thrive.

It is time to reignite the economic tiger which has been subdued for too long and boost our productivity, grow our economy and make decisions on our islands. If we are serious about strengthening devolution though our EU exit, empowering our Parliaments and Assemblies, then this deal is the way to achieve that.

The choice is quite clear right now: it is the Prime Minister’s deal, or no deal.

Those who continue to thwart democracy or bring about a no-deal exit will only have themselves to blame for the consequences that follow.

Brexit is not about shutting ourselves from the world, it is about embracing it; Brexit is not a conversation about how we survive, but instead how we should thrive.

So, I plead with those who will have a say in the final episode of this political saga; with one final push, please, let’s get this over the line and get Brexit sorted.