UK needs to toughen up

Sunday Express - 03 Jun 2018

THE key judgment MPs must make when the wrecked Brexit Bill returns from the House of Lords is whether Government is heading in the right direction. The Government is intending to take us out of the EU but the way it has approached this task has made it very difficult to make clear gains that Brexit supporters wanted in the early days.

I hope that an increasing number of Labour MPs will support implementing the referendum decision.

It is important to remember that these are not Tory Bills any more than they would be Labour Bills if we were in Government and fulfilling our promise to the implement the decision made on the June 23, 2016.

Many Labour Members face a difficult choice. They voted for Article 50 because their constituencies overwhelmingly voted for Brexit.

Many made plain that they would support the Prime Minister in triggering Article 50, even though they didn’t personally want to leave the EU. Much has happened since that vote.

What we have seen is the EU negotiators playing on the weakness of the Government, as many on our side are prepared to “improve” the Brexit Bills, knowing that, of course, they are wrecking them.

Some Labour Members are quite genuine about leaving and believe that they can improve the Bills. I just hope that they have been persuaded by the tactics of the EU negotiators that this option is not really on.

These skirmishes have been child’s play. When the Bills come back to the Commons the serious politics must begin. People cannot pretend that they are trying to improve the Bill when they notice who has been wrecking it in the Lords.

We need to make a very clear statement that the House of Commons is the superior chamber and that, when we send the Bills back, the Lords will be playing with fire if they send the amendments back again.

We are in this very difficult territory of trying to implement a referendum decision which was narrowly won through a representative system, which is the basis of the Commons.

No wonder we have made a mess of it. Again, the referendum, although it gave a clear decision to leave, did not do so by a large margin. We must be aware that 48 per cent of the country did not wish to leave on referendum day.

My guess is that more people would support a leave vote now that they have seen how nasty our EU colleagues have been in negotiating Brexit. After the Irish voted not to agree another Treaty, the commission required Ireland to vote and vote and vote again, until the Irish voters gave up and agreed.

They will play the same game with us. Do we have the best of three? There lies chaos. When one is faced with a devilishly complex issue, it is always good to fudge until, through the mist, we see the obvious solution.

We must act similarly with access to the single market. The Government must make plain that it will keep us aligned to the regulatory system for the immediate future so that the EU cannot have any justifiable reason of putting up trade barriers.

On the Irish border we should make plain that we have no intention of implementing border controls during the transition period or afterwards.

If the EU wishes to have border controls, so be it. It will be on their heads. The Government should elevate fudge as a new principle of politics. It should give up this game of thinking these negotiations can be settled quickly. They can’t.

There will be those of little faith who think that unless they have timetables for all the negotiations there will be a continuous operation going on.

There might be. But that is when the Commons will assert the referendum decision. We will judge the direction of travel and arbitrary completion of dates, pushing the negotiations along at a great pace.

What we must not do is to get ourselves in the position which, because of a timetable, we harm the British economy. So complete alignment of our regulatory systems must continue.

Similarly, we will not put an Irish border up. We need to toughen our game. We must withdraw the foolishness of telling the EU that we will pay £30billion.

Every penny will, from now on, be dependent on a withdrawal timetable that supports Britain, allows total access to the free market (for which we must pay) while at the same time beginning to execute trade deals with the rest of the world.