The PM’s withdrawal agreement wilts under the heat of scrutiny, which is why the Chancellor will not sanction an economic impact assessment, says Angela Smith, MP and Efra Committee member.
As I write these words, Parliament is about to commence its debate on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), after the Prime Minister surprisingly agreed a deal with the European Union.
Should the Bill secure its passage through Parliament, we leave the EU on October 31 – a truly frightening prospect for the country.
But don’t for one-minute think this is ‘Brexit done’. This is simply the end of the beginning.
The really contentious stuff is to come. A cheery prospect, I’m sure.
The fact is this deal is worse than the one negotiated by Theresa May. Lest we forget, her deal was voted down on no less than three occasions by Parliament – the first by a historic margin.
The Prime Minister’s agreement creates a border in the Irish sea, with customs being required on goods leaving the province to enter the UK.
This follows the PM’s declaration, only a year ago at the DUP’s annual conference, that ‘no British government could or should,’ sign up to such a thing.
Not surprisingly, the Unionists feel a keen sense of anger about this, having seemingly had the wool pulled over their eyes by Mr Johnson.
Truth be told, the WAB wilts under the heat of any sort of scrutiny.
Why else would the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, refuse to sanction an economic impact assessment of the Bill?
Already, promises of workers’ rights, environmental protections and regulatory alignment with the EU have been moved from the withdrawal agreement to a non-binding political declaration, meaning it will be up to a future Government whether they want to honour these promises or not.
As things stand, the Government is attempting to strong-arm Parliament into voting for the WAB, the single most important piece of legislation this country has considered for more than 40 years, in three days – fewer days than were spent banning wild animals in circuses.
No doubt opposition MPs will add a multitude of amendments to the WAB in order to smooth its harsh edges, but they do not give us the best possible deal. We have that already.
Agriculture deserves better than the possibility of tariffs and other trade barriers. My view is a customs union is the minimum we should be asking for.
It’s said we must leave the EU because that is ‘the will of the people™’, but I’d argue the 2017 General Election also saw the people speak, and the hung Parliament they returned called for a softer Brexit than the Prime Minister seeks to force on the country.
Nevertheless, if the people’s decision led us to this point, then perhaps only they can end this political purgatory.
The Government should put this deal to the people and let them decide if this Bill is the future they envisage for this country.
What are they afraid of?
Angela can be found tweeting at @angelasmithmp