The long awaited debate on Theresa May’s Brexit deal began this month. Over 160 MPs spoke in the first three days of the scheduled five days of the debate – some of which ran until 4am. Ann Clywd MP was kind enough to mention me in her contribution.
As the weekend approached, it became clear that the deal would be voted down, possibly losing by as much as 100 votes. Labour can see that it is a very bad deal which does not meet the six tests – based on government ministers’ own promises made in 2016. All the smaller opposition parties are against the deal. It also provoked a furious reaction from the Democratic Unionist Party, who are angry at arrangements for a backstop to avoid customs, security and regulatory controls on the Irish/Northern Irish border. But most embarrassing for the Prime Minister is that many in her own party felt they could not support it either, for a variety of reasons.
So May took the extremely unusual step of postponing the vote indefinitely, to the dismay of hundreds of MPs, as the Commons had previously agreed a timetable motion laying down when the vote would be taken. This prompted a challenge to her leadership of the Conservative party – in which 117 out of her own 317 Tory MPs voted against her. Once again it became apparent that this whole chaotic Brexit episode is more about internal fights in the Conservative party than what is best for the country.
Theresa May promised to get further assurances and clarifications from European Leaders at the December European Council, but returned with nothing changed. This is not intransigence from the EU, it is incompetence from the Conservatives. The Prime Minister returned to the House of Commons on Monday of the final week before Christmas recess to kick the can still further down the road, promising that the meaningful vote – which she is still expected to lose – would take place mid January.
Every day of delay creates more uncertainty for UK businesses, who are increasingly having to spend money and time preparing contingencies for a disastrous no-deal Brexit which would be extremely damaging to our economy, particularly in the Yorkshire region. EU citizens living in the UK remain unsure of their rights – many are leaving, creating staff shortages in the NHS and in other important industries. International companies are starting to move jobs and investment out of the UK, a trend that will only increase as we enter the new year with less than three months to go before the Article 50 deadline.
It is unsurprising then that there are increasing calls from politicians and the public to revoke article 50 (which we now know can legally be done unilaterally), or to extend it by some months (which would require the consent of all 27 EU members) in order to have a general election or a People’s Vote on the deal.
As Brexit is turning out to be very different from what was promised, many people who voted Leave are now asking for a chance to reconsider.