Amid the negotiating and politicking one thing seems forgotten. And that is why we voted to leave the European Union nearly three years ago.
I voted to leave because I believe the EU is simply incompatible with national democracy. Free trade across borders creates prosperity, but the EU is a political project that resembles not a single market but an empire.
AFP Theresa May waits to give a reading during the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey today
AP:Associated Press Theresa May’s Brexit deal is grotesquely flawed, writes her former adviser Nick Timothy
National democracy is the only tried and tested way to govern fairly. It allows us to run the economy in our national interest, fund services, and show solidarity with one another, by creating good, well paid jobs for everyone, taxing people fairly and providing welfare for those who need it.
The EU cannot do these things. Just ask the young unemployed workers of Spain. Or almost anybody in Greece. Or the people of places like Boston, Lincolnshire, who experienced their communities change almost overnight thanks to the unlimited free movement of people.
And just ask any minister or diplomat whether the EU is capable of heeding public concern and changing direction. Or save yourself the time and listen to last week’s grandstanding by the French President, Emmanuel Macron.
Out of the EU, free to govern ourselves, we can take back control. We can free ourselves from protectionist EU regulations, develop our own regional development funds and introduce free ports and enterprise zones to boost the regional economy.
We can cut energy costs, support local businesses in public procurement, and reduce NHS commissioning costs. We can regulate big tech and cut VAT bills on anything from gas bills to tampons.
We can negotiate our own trade deals, control immigration and protect ourselves from terrorism unhindered by idiotic rulings by the European Court of Justice.
Right now, this optimistic vision for life after Brexit seems a long way away. And there is a real danger we will never see it at all.
‘GROTESQUELY FLAWED DEAL’
The Government’s Withdrawal Agreement is deeply flawed. It would mean, if we cannot agree our long-term future relationship with Europe, we end up in the dreaded “backstop”, locking us into the EU’s customs union and tying us to countless EU laws.
Late on Monday night, the Government said it had won new assurances from Brussels that would mean the EU is legally bound to find alternative arrangements to the backstop. But Leave supporters in Parliament are understandably wary.
Once we are in the backstop, they worry there will be only one way for Britain to get out again. And that is if we sign up to a permanent customs union and even more European laws. Sabine Weyand, one of the EU’s negotiators, boasts that the Withdrawl Agreement “requires the customs union as the basis of the future relationship.” Thanks to the agreement, she says, “the EU will retain all the controls” over Britain.
PA:Press Association The Leavers are a minority in Parliament and a Brexit delay would give Remainers room to scheme for an overturn
Surely this means Eurosceptic MPs who, like me, voted for Brexit, believe passionately in Britain’s independence, and hate the Withdrawal Agreement should vote against it on Tuesday?
If only life was so simple. If MPs reject Theresa May’s deal, the House of Commons will certainly vote, on Thursday, to prevent a no-deal departure and delay Brexit instead. The EU says it will agree a delay, but we do not know how long we might have to wait to leave.
Some Leave supporters say this is fine, and we can leave without a deal at the end of the delay. The EU, they reason, will not keep granting extensions, and without an agreement in place, Britain can simply get out.
But the EU might well grant further extensions. After all, they have the likes of Tony Blair telling them Brexit can still be stopped. And during the delay, Remainers in Parliament will mount new challenges to Brexit.
Some are working to bring about a Norway-style relationship, in which Britain would follow almost all EU rules and laws, including on free movement, as well as a customs union.
Others are trying to stop Brexit altogether, through a second referendum. And if they get their way, do not expect either the rules or the choice put to the people to be fair. They want to rig a second referendum in favour of staying in after all.
LEAVERS ‘HAVE NOWHERE TO GO’
The Leavers, a minority in Parliament, remember, have nowhere to go. Those who want to leave without a deal will be thwarted by the majority of MPs who are against it. Those who want a different deal to the Withdrawal Agreement have been timed out by the Prime Minister.
They therefore need to consider the new assurances carefully. And even if they are unconvinced, they need to think through the reality of the choice they face.
Vote against Theresa May’s deal, and risk certain death with a Norway-style relationship or, worse, a rigged second referendum. Or back the deal, risking only probable death as the backstop might lead Britain to an eventual customs union.
Leave supporters in Parliament are understandably angry about the situation they find themselves in. Not only is the choice they are being forced to make unpalatable, it is about Brexit: the cause to which many of them have dedicated their careers. They feel conned by a Prime Minister, a Cabinet and a Parliament they suspect simply never believed in their cause.
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With a House of Commons divided along party lines and between a minority of Leavers and a majority of Remainers, leaving the EU was never going to be easy. David Cameron knew this when he resigned in 2016, saying he did not want to stay on and do “the hard s**t.”
But after so many missteps, so much lost trust, and swathes of her party feeling betrayed, Theresa May will soon face a day of reckoning with her MPs.
Before then, however, there is tonight’s vote. Brexit supporters hate this deal, and so do I. They are wary, too, of the assurances won, last minute, by ministers. But as grotesquely flawed as it is, MPs who want to see Brexit through should vote for the deal. In a choice between certain death and probable death, it is better to stay alive.
Reuters The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator welcomes the Prime Minister in Strasbourg, France today
Theresa May uses Bible reading to send barbed message to EU that they need a good Brexit deal as well