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Gale's View - 27/03/2019

March 27th 2019


A day, at present, is a long time in politics. When reading this, therefore, please bear in mind that it was written to meet a deadline and may well have been overtaken by events by the time that It reaches you! My personal view, however, will not have changed.

The EU Referendum posed a binary (Leave or Remain) question to which there are no binary answers. 

The simplistic “We voted to leave – so get on with it” response overlooks the complexity of the situation. The United Kingdom has legal international obligations and debts that have to be honoured and even with the “No Deal” `solution` that hard-line Brexiteers desire we still have to reach agreements about the terms upon which we leave the EU. 

That said, the default position as defined in the Withdrawal Act states clearly and remains that if the agreement reached between the twenty-seven remaining Member States of the European Union and the United Kingdom has not been approved by the UK parliament then this country will leave without a deal.  For that to change a statutory instrument has to be laid and approved by the House. If the statutory instrument is not passed then UK law and International Law will conflict. 

The agreement reached in Brussels in the small hours of last Friday morning does not alter the fundamental position. The time extension approved is designed to allow space, in the event of the Commons finally voting for the Withdrawal Agreement, for the necessary measures to be put in place to permit an orderly exit and no more. 

So at present little has changed. The choices remain between No Deal, No Brexit and the Prime Minister`s Withdrawal Agreement.  To date the House has been very good at saying what it does not want – and there is at present no majority for any one course of action – but very bad at saying what it does want. A series of ‘indicative votes’, when they are held this week, is very unlikely to change that.

On that basis the Prime Minister was entirely justified to say from Downing Street, when addressing the British people last Wednesday evening, that Parliament bears a great deal of responsibility, on both sides of the House, for the predicament in which we as a Country find ourselves in. She has negotiated, with tenacity and good faith, an agreement with the EU. It is certainly not perfect – no compromise ever is – but it reflects and meets the requirements of most people while removing us, as the result of the referendum requires, from the European Union. It does so in an orderly fashion and it allows us to move forward to reach the trade and relationship agreements remain to be reached. 

Those that prefer the grievance to the solution or are wedded to one doctrinaire approach are, I believe, doing the UK no favours whatsoever and to suggest that the Prime Minister should stand aside now is a demonstration of naked ambition not of national interest: you do not throw the Captain overboard in the middle of a storm.  

It remains to be seen – and at the time of writing it is by no means certain – whether or not the Speaker will actually permit, in the light of a brief but significant extension to the timetable, the Withdrawal Agreement to be debated again.  I hope that he does. I shall vote for it again and I shall do my utmost to try to persuade my friends and colleagues on both sides of the House to join me in the lobby in support of the Agreement. It really is time for common sense to prevail, for the least bad option to be approved and for the United Kingdom to regain our pride and self-confidence and move forward under a leadership that has demonstrated her courage, her tenacity and her desire to put the result of the referendum and securing an agreement with the EU in the interests of her Country above everything else.

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