How we are being betrayed

How we are being betrayed

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Friday 15, December, 2017

To move the following Clause—

“Parliamentary approval for the outcome of negotiations with the European Union No exit day may be appointed under this Act until the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, including leaving the EU without an agreement, have been approved by both Houses of Parliament.”

Member’s explanatory statement: This new clause is intended to establish that Parliament has a meaningful vote on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

IT SEEMS quite innocuous, almost reasonable doesn't it? At first glance it seems a rather harmless amendment to give Parliament a vote. Yet this motion, passed yesterday, was designed to betray the mandate given to Theresa May's government to take us out of the European Union.

It is unconscionable that members of the governing party would market such a motion as meaningful. It is not for MPs to determine what is meaningful by mere sentiment but that the choices offered to vote on must themselves be meaningful by which I mean decisive. 

Parliament did vote to leave the EU. It set a date no later than March 29th 2019 to leave if no agreement was reached or to agree terms of transition to leave at a later date. The motion is dishonest because of three main features of the motion:

1. The date for leaving the EU with a deal is not the gift of Parliament alone for it requires prior agreement by the institutions of the EU according to their procedures for revision and approval. 

2. Leaving the EU prior to March 29th 2019 may be required to institute trade talks with other nations formally and to prepare for customs to be ready on Brexit day. This requires a date to be set to ensure an orderly transition to new arrangements. So the motion is legerdemain in that it prevents the repeal of the ECA 1972 in this parliament. It therefore prevents one meaningful vote from being called. 

3. By failing to include options for what could be meaningfully voted on it injects uncertainty and a lack of clarity into government's negotiations with the EU. This is a particularly moot point for members of the governing party because it sees them circumvent their own internal party mechanisms for seeking clarity, that is, by ensuring the optimum deal is presented to Parliament to be voted upon after approval by the EU. 

The EU has already commented that this vote has been unhelpful to negotiations and this should now be obvious to anyone. In seeking not to disagree with their party but to go further and deliberately restrict the voting options of their peers and to introduce handicaps to restrict the role of their party as interlocutor they have not simply defied the whip but have effectively resigned it.

The MPs who voted against or abstained from voting with the government in rejecting this restriction on parliamentary sovereignty have sabotaged Parliament and should consider themselves legitimate targets for challenge at the next General Election by conservatives who believe by conviction and by mandate that Brexit means Brexit. 

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