My Week 12/12/18

This week I was expecting to speak in the Commons on the Brexit deal, but of course the vote was deferred.  Instead I will be voting in the motion of ‘no confidence’ in Theresa May which some Conservative MPs have precipitated.

I am very sorry that they have done so.  I think it is quite wrong to do this, especially while the Prime Minister is negotiating in Europe.

I will certainly support Theresa May, and I hope she wins.  By the time this column is printed the result will be known.  But the fundamentals of Brexit which lie at the heart of this issue will remain.

Article 50 has already been triggered.  By law the UK will leave the EU at the end of March next year.  It is possible that the process could be delayed if the Commons were to step in, but this is uncertain.  Otherwise the fundamental question is whether we leave with a deal or not.

What Theresa May has tried to do is steer a pragmatic course to deliver Brexit, honouring the referendum result, while ensuring a sensible transition and protecting jobs and the economy. 

This compromise satisfies neither the hard Brexiteers, who in reality want ‘no deal’, nor those who want to stop Brexit altogether.  Both sets of MPs say they will vote against the deal.  But clearly they can’t both get what they want, so both sides are taking a huge risk.

Going for ‘no-deal’ dismays business.  The disruption and cost as tariff and other barriers went up for half of our trade would be immensely damaging.  It would be like deliberately crashing a car at speed in the hope of surviving to get a new one.

From the other side, MPs who have never really accepted the referendum result now want a re-run.  They all assume ‘remain’ would win next time, but they may well be wrong.

Worst of all, the result could be very narrow, further dividing the country.   Another referendum would prolong delay and re-open rather than heal the wounds in our country.

I still believe the right course is to try and secure an orderly Brexit, with a transition period, then a new free trade agreement with the EU under which we will have a close economic and security partnership, yet regain control of our money, borders and laws.  That is what the deal does.

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