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If the Commons cannot reach agreement on Brexit, Article 50 must be extended

If MPs cannot agree a way forward on Brexit this month, the Government must extend the Article 50 process by at least six months, says Conservative Peer Anne McIntosh.

As we enter a new year, farmers can be forgiven for thinking it is not just the weather that is bleak.

 

How Brexit will impact farmers and what form our leaving the EU will take is as yet unclear.

 

Farmers are self-employed and as for all businesses, they crave certainty yet the current situation as to the final outcome is by no means clear.

 

There may be opportunities for import substitution with consumers choosing Shepherds Purse cheese over Roquefort or boosting exports, but then this is not the time to reduce any export levy used to promote exports abroad, which has seen a sixty per cent increase in UK food exports to China alone in the last three years.

 

Speculation

 

In all the speculation as to what will happen, what will the role of the House of Lords be?

 

Peers are recognised as playing a crucial role in scrutinising and testing legislation before it is adopted. With Brexit, there are many opportunities to do so with no less than six Bills and up to a thousand regulations.

 

One sign of the extraordinary times in which we live is the apparent inability of the House of Commons as the ultimate decision making body in the country to agree on any of the options available.

 

Of the most likely outcomes, probably that the deal negotiated by the Prime Minister gains a majority is still possible, in preference to crashing out without a deal.

 

Feasible

 

It is quite feasible that the Commons will be asked to vote on each of the possible options in turn through the process of elimination.

 

The key will be who decides the order of the vote and the question to be put: whether the Government or the Speaker.

 

In the Lords, we are debating the EU Withdrawal Agreement for three days, concluding with an indicative vote. The meaningful vote is in the Commons.

 

However, the most worrying aspect is that there is nothing legally to block a no deal outcome.

 

Narrow

 

The most likely scenarios are the PM’s deal gaining a narrow majority, crashing out with no deal or a move towards an association agreement with the EU along the lines of Norway as part of the EEA/EFTA.

 

In the event of the Commons failing to reach agreement, the Government should apply to delay the application of Article 50 by at least six months.

 

This in itself is complicated given the elections to the European Parliament are to be held in June 2019.

 

One solution to this would be to invite existing MEPs to continue for that short spell as observers, normally reserved for new entrants in advance of their joining the EU.

 

Advantage

 

This would have the added advantage of British MEPs ensuring that what has been agreed is properly implemented.

 

A further referendum holds no attraction to me as the original one was extremely divisive and not entirely conclusive.

 

In any event, the decision on our future should rest with Parliament, in particular the Commons, with those elected as the people’s representatives.

 

Baroness McIntosh can be found tweeting at @AnneCMcIntosh


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