Why I will vote for the Withdrawal Agreement in the European Parliament

Why I will vote for the Withdrawal Agreement in the European Parliament

I entered the political arena in April last year only to ensure that the democratic result of the 2016 referendum was enacted, that the UK Brexits and that it does so properly. I had been a Conservative voter all my life but had totally lost faith in their ability to deliver the largest democratic mandate in the history of our country.

Defining a proper Brexit is simple:

  • Removing the ECJ as the supreme judicial authority over UK courts;
  • Leaving the Single Market and Customs Union;
  • Ending Freedom of Movement;
  • Making our own laws;
  • Taking full control of our territorial fishing waters; and
  • Leaving the European Defence Union (bizarrely Mrs. May signed us up to this after the 2016 referendum!)

As far as I am concerned, anything short of achieving all of the above would not constitute Brexit and would not honour the result of the referendum.

I was therefore delighted when Boris Johnson, as our newly appointed Prime Minister, declared in August last year that the Withdrawal Agreement was dead. His condemnation of it was not equivocal and neither was it conditional. His condemnation was comprehensive. So I was disappointed in equal measure when two months later he came back seemingly triumphant from Brussels claiming that his new deal was “fantastic”, even though it was (and remains) a rehash of that same Withdrawal Agreement. Granted, he achieved the removal of the Backstop but at the cost of putting a border down the Irish Sea – something else he said he would never do.

In all other material respects the Withdrawal Agreement remains the same document as proposed by Theresa May and does not achieve any of the items required to constitute Brexit. Once executed, the UK does leave the institutions of the EU but it enters a Transition Period during which time it remains under the supremacy of the ECJ, in the Single Market, subject to Freedom of Movement etc.

Indeed, Brexit can only really happen once the UK has left the Transition Period. Appended to the Withdrawal Agreement is a Political Declaration which sets out the heads of terms for the future relationship between the EU and the UK after this period. The terms of the Political Declaration, if enacted as drafted, would also fail to fulfil my definition of Brexit. They envisage the ECJ continuing to have a special role over the UK, require the UK to adopt EU laws on state aid, competition, employment, the environment and tax (the so-called level playing field), grant fishing quotas to the EU and contemplate close military cooperation.

I have spent the months since October and the election campaign trying to expose the huge flaws in the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. Indeed, if enacted as drafted, I consider the terms of this deal to be worse than remaining in the EU. We would have given up our voice and votes in the EU but would remain firmly in its orbit.

However, two significant things have happened, of which I must take note.

First, the Prime Minister personally and Conservative Party via its election manifesto have both undertaken to limit the Transition Period to December 2020 (now to be enacted into law) and not to honour those aspects of the Political Declaration which would allow the ECJ supremacy over the UK, bind the UK into a level playing field and assure fishing quotas to the EU. If the Government honours these undertakings and subject to the UK not entering into military interoperability with the EU, I would consider that Brexit has been delivered.

Second, the Conservative Party has won a thumping election victory on the strength of its manifesto and executing the Withdrawal Agreement. It has a clear democratic mandate to fulfil its version of Brexit (including the manifesto pledges).

Given the above, when the Withdrawal Agreement is presented to the European Parliament to be approved later this month, I shall vote in favour of it being ratified. I shall do so with a significant degree of trepidation. The Agreement itself is a bad one and my faith in the Conservative Party has been very badly shaken, but it is not for me to stand in the way of a genuine democratic mandate, especially since the undertakings given by the Government would result in a genuine Brexit.

As recently as September, I thought Brexit may have been lost, but with the collective effort of Brexiteers and the support of the British people, we would appear at last to be on our way to a proper result. I shall therefore also celebrate on the night of 31st January when the UK nominally leaves the EU. I shall do so because, after four bruising years, the British people will have triumphed over the EU and its anti-democratic forces.

A word of warning, however: British politics has undoubtedly changed for good. The last few years has awakened an interest in politics like no other event in my lifetime. The Brexit Party has developed an army of engaged and passionate Brexiteers across the country ready to stand up again if the Conservative Party should falter in the delivery of its promises. I for one will be keeping a very close eye on the direction of travel in 2020.