03 FEB 2019

Brexit. What Happens Next

The grim news from Sunderland that Nissan have pulled out from a major future investment, should come as no surprise. Even Patrick Minford, one of the very few economists who Mr Rees Mogg and other hard Brexiteers can rely on to support their views, told a Parliamentary committee that WTO would all but destroy the UK car industry, but inferred this would be a price worth paying. Not for the tens of thousands of people and their families who depend on Nissan for their livelihoods across the North East.

It is not just the steady drum beat of warnings from firms like Jaguar Land Rover, Honda, Airbus and the pharmaceuticals sector that should worry us but the deep concerns of small and medium size companies the length and breadth of the UK about the consequences of No Deal.

It's easy to talk glibly about 'clean Brexit' but there is nothing clean or appealing about the reality of No Deal. I've seen the slogans 'Let's go WTO' outside Parliament, but there is a good reason why no country chooses to trade exclusively on those 4th division terms. All nations prefer trade deals but these are complex and time consuming to negotiate. At a stroke, if we exit with No Deal, we lose the trade deals we enjoy covering nearly 80 countries which extend to us because we are members of the EU. These deals cover around two thirds of all our goods exports and, as with the car industry, it is likely that other countries would prefer to import from nations with whom there are deals in place.

For our part, simply removing tariffs unilaterally on imports from one country, would oblige us under WTO rules to remove them from all which would mean kissing goodbye to major sectors of our own industries. How would our own farmers compete with a flood of cheap imports of lamb, beef and vegetables? The simple answer is that they would not cope with a rush to the bottom on pricing and the inevitable trade offs on welfare standards.

Far from being the 'easiest deal in human history', to quote the International Trade Secretary, Brexit reality does involve difficult trade offs and compromises. We were promised that scores of deals would be ready on the stroke of midnight as we left the EU, that 'Britain would hold all the cards' and that we would retain the 'exact same benefits'.

The reality is that the Prime Minister is  presenting us with a choice between a bad deal that leaves us with no future certainty and No Deal.

It turns out that No Deal is worse than a bad deal - but I do not accept that this is a binary choice. I don't accept that either of these choices can be said to represent the 'will of the people'.

Having lost the vote to ratify the deal in Parliament by an historic margin of 230, the government then cobbled together an assortment of backbenchers to produce an amendment to try to paper over the cracks. The deliberate fiction underlying the so called Brady Amendment, was a mirage that the Prime Minister could unilaterally achieve a renegotiation of the Irish Backstop. That together with offers of constituency bungs for wavering Labour MPs was enough to scrape the amendment over the line last week but I suspect the divisions within both main parties run too deep for that alliance to hold when the Meaningful Vote to ratify the deal returns to Parliament..

There is no prospect that the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement will be reopened and the Brady amendment will have achieved nothing but leave us rolling closer to the edge of the cliff edge of No Deal on March 29th.

We are woefully unprepared for that crash and it is worth looking at the report from the independent Institute for Government which sets out the sheer scale of the legislative and planning backlog https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/brexit-two-months-to-go-final-web.pdf

Despite the looming chaos, this week Parliament has no Brexit bills on the order paper. On Monday for example, government has scheduled a general debate on sport. I support the cancellation of the February recess but this must be used for serious action on the backlog, not left as window dressing with MPs free to continue any holiday plans they might find it inconvenient to rearrange. We do not have the luxury of time as there are fewer than thirty Parliamentary sitting days until the UK is set to leave an alliance of structures and interdependencies that have built up over more than four decades.

As the countdown to the meaningful vote on 14th February continues, many MPs will be weighing up whether they should knowingly vote for a bad deal in order to avoid the chaos of leaving with No Deal and no transition.

They should not accept that miserable binary choice but make it clear that no responsible government could inflict that kind of pain on the people. I could not remain in the Conservative Party if its policy objective was to deliver such a disaster or if that became its de facto policy after the Meaningful Vote by deliberately continuing to run down the clock.

The current deal is also problematic in that it pleases neither remainers nor the leavers who were lied to about the inevitable trade offs that would be necessary to at least partially protect jobs, livelihoods, supply chains and the wider economy, security and health.

Government could and should rule out No Deal and seek consent from the British People before an irreversible leap into economic decline which will set back our ability to reverse austerity. Checking consent through a People's Vote is the only way to be sure that this really is the will of the people.

It may be that people decide the benefits of Brexit outweigh the risks but this would be in the full knowledge of the version of Brexit involved.

Without this valid consent there is no consent and we face years of ongoing division, recrimination and resentment as the consequences unfold.

There is nothing anti democratic about pausing Article 50 for a further democratic process and I will continue to press for this. In the words of David Davis, one of the most vocal campaigners for Leave, "if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy".

14 comments

Sarah Wollaston has almost excelled herself by regurgitating hackneyed misinformation to try to persuade us that undermining a democratic vote is justifiable, pure Project Fear. She attempts to mislead us for her own ends, check her examples and you`ll soon she is exaggerating eg. Nissan making a model in the East because of Brexit, rather than EU directives against diesel engines make it foolish to make a car here that won`t sell well here, whereas it would in Japan. She plumbs new depths by misrepresenting a colleague, David Davis, when he said ‘if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy’. Yes, he did, in 2012 when suggesting a new referendum would be valid after 40 years from the previous referendum. The Referendum in the 70s had been implemented, we had experience of the result. When we implement the 2016 Referendum and time has passed, we, if we wish, could have another. This behaviour is unworthy of a Parliamentary Representative for Totnes. Whilst on the point of democracy in relation to her beloved EU consider it`s action in regard to Referendums: Denmark Maastricht Treaty Referendum 1992- NO 51% Yes 49% = VOTE AGAIN. Eire Nice Treaty Referendum 2001 – NO 54% Yes 46% = VOTE AGAIN. France EU Constitution 2005 – NO 55% Yes 45% = IGNORE. Dutch EU Constitution2005 - NO 62% Yes 38% = IGNORE. Eire Lisbon Treaty 2005 - No 53% Yes 47% =VOTE AGAIN. Greece Bailout Referendum 2015 - NO 61% Yes 39% = IGNORE. Dutch EU Ukraine Deal Referendum 2016 - NO 61% Yes 39% = IGNORE. Let`s hope we`re never added to this contemptable list. When Sarah asks `What Happens Next`, I suggest if she has her way, what Helmut Kohl German Chancellor and architect of the EU said ` we decided to renounce the framework of the old style nation state. We agreed that the establishment of a common currency is crucial to the process of European political union becoming irreversible`. Yes IRREVERSIBLE !
- John

Einstein said of the Nazi era "The lack of courage on the part of the educated class has been catastrophic". Sarah has courage and judgement, we should be grateful. She is one of the few. Edmund Burke, arguably the greatest philosopher of conservatism, wrote more than 200 years ago: “It is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.” Our society is fractured. Sarah is absolutely correct, MP's need to cobble together an agreement they can live with, seek an extension to Art 50, and put that deal against remain to the people in Ref 2. It's not rocket science.
- Richard

Richard. Yes our society is fractured because people engaged in a vote but do not respect the principle of 'loser's consent'. Instead of pulling together they whinge and whine like spoilt children.
- John

Richard's sycophantic worship of Burke is embarrassing naïve, as is his support for Sarah Wollaston (our would-be Burke?). He is fond of quoting Burke selectively, so let's have some balance by reflecting on facts and his other thoughts. Burke was possibly the worst constituency representative to have ventured into Westminster. No mean feat. He paid his constituents so little regard that even he himself did not dare stand for re-election in Bristol (much preferring the 'rotten borough' of Malton). The man considered an election candidate to be “a bidder at an auction of popularity”...such democratic accountability was much beneath him. The man was a patrician and an utter snob. The Roman Republic would have been too modern for him. Witness “as ability is a vigorous and active principle, and as property is sluggish, inert, and timid, it can never be safe from the invasions of ability, unless it be, out of all proportion, predominant in the representation. It must be represented too in great masses of accumulation, or it is not rightly protected...the power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of the most valuable...circumstances belonging to it…some decent regulated pre-eminence, some preference.. given to birth, is neither unnatural, nor unjust, nor impolitic”. Really? That our model for the distribution of wealth and power in society?! Keep the property in the hands of the aristocrats and out of the hands of capable people. Good luck selling that under universal suffrage(!). Burke never fails..."we have never dreamt that parliaments had any right whatever to violate property". An argument against any form of taxation ever. A tad right-wing even for me, and I'm a Tory. He was an all-rounder, supporting the physical punishment of black slaves. He believed that black slaves should have to buy their freedom, but never came up with an answer for how they were to get the money. Even then he stated that blacks were not civilised creatures and should not attain their freedom until such time as they had secured that desirable status. He believed that poverty was the result of “Divine Displeasure”, not misfortune. Laws of commerce could not be changed because they were “the laws of nature” and therefore the “laws of God”. More Islamic theocracy than One Nation I'd have said. Of course to complete the basket of sins, he was also an anti-Semite. He ranted in the relation to the French Revolution..."Jew brokers contending with each other who could best remedy with fraudulent circulation and depreciated paper the wretchedness and ruin brought on their country by their degenerate councils…". Even after the Revolution, which he deplored but for no decent reason he states "the next generation of the nobility will resemble the artificers and clowns, the money-jobbers, usurers and Jews who will always be their fellows and sometimes their masters." Burke was wrong on slavery. Wrong on anti-Semitism. Wrong on representative democracy. He'd be wrong on the EU and anything else he ventured an opinion on. Citing him as a guru for Parliament's attempts to keep us in the EU against the will of the people is dim beyond conception. He was anti-democratic, reactionary, contemptuous of the people and a racist bigot. Actually, he's the perfect poster boy for the European Union...just not in the way that you think Richard.
- George, Paignton

George. Thanks for your wisdom. My mother used to say, "empty vessels make the most noise". She taught me to respect the quality and brevity of the word. The Brexiteers truly deserve their special place in Hell. The EU have now started to comment on the quality of UK leadership:-- Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s point man on the Brexit negotiations tweeted of the hardline Brexiters: “Well, I doubt Lucifer would welcome them, as after what they did to Britain, they would even manage to divide hell " Senior EU officials also doubted the sincerity of Labour’s offer to the prime minister, fearing it is an attempt to weaken May’s hopes of getting a deal through parliament. One official said: “It is a shame that we have this perfect storm: a lousy government and an even lousier official opposition.” Sarah is absolutely right. We are at a point in our history where principles and judgement really matter. We are not getting either from the leaders of our 2 main parties
- Richard

I get the impression from what I read in newspaper articles that Theresa May is trying to prepare the ground for staying in an EU customs union. This would be totally unacceptable and is NOT in keeping with the referendum result. If pushed through Parliament it will decimate the Conservative party at the next election and result in a total collapse in any faith that remains in our democracy - and there is precious little of that left already.
- David H

Everybody would be wise compared to you Richard. Why don't you come back when you've got some sort of education? Verhofstadt and the other Brit haters are about your level.
- George, Paignton

Sadly so David H. worth watching this to see how our MP and Parliament treats us with contempt : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6pwZ1saqBc
- John

Thank you Sarah for taking a principled stand on this issue: you have my full support if only from Liverpool! Wishing you and yours well.
- Tom

I am sorry to see the quality of intellectual comment from the Georges of this world so reduced by my fellow George from Paignton. "Brit Haters"? The only hate around here comes from the extreme Brexiteers, who are so committed to damaging our country regardless of the consequences - which have been laid out repeatedly by many respected and respectable think tanks and international analysts. The head in the sand refusal to accept the facts, by the cheap use of the phrase "Project Fear", when the real "Project Fear" is being perpetrated by Theresa May, is risible. I salute Sarah Wollaston for her principled, intelligent and courageous stand. Well done Sarah, it is great to be represented by an MP with guts and integrity. As for the argument that "we must deliver what the people voted for", every serious opinion poll for some considerable time has been showing a majority of UK citizens now support Remain. Why don't those who oppose Theresa May's 'deal to do a deal' because they hate the backstop agree on a People's Vote? That's where the 'Fear' is - because you know that without Russian money behind your campaign, and with the false forecasts of the original campaign now fully exposed, you would lose. Hate and Fear are Brexiteer qualities.
- George Two

With respect George Two - deluded woffle.
- John

Yet again remainer MPs are trying to undermine the UK negotiating position by plotting another attempt at blocking a no deal brexit. Can't these people, including I am sorry to say our own MP understand that the only thing that will get the EU to alter or better still get rid of the backstop is the threat of no deal? Oh, but of course I am missing the real point here. Their real intent is to thwart the electorates wishes and block Brexit at every opportunity, regardless of the mid and longer term interests of the country. Come the next election it will be pay back time for many MPs that are ignoring the expressed political will of the British people.
- David H

David H Completely agree. No deal is a bargaining tool and not voting for Sarah Wollaston at any future election is my intention and the intention of a great many people I know.
- Candy Totnes

Dear Sarah...I agree with almost everything you say about brexit...the last thing we need now is an economic crash when every public service we all rely on is in crisis. We need massive reinvestment in health, education, police and all the local government sevices. It would be lovely if we could invest in more council-type housing so that our young people might have more hope for their futures. None of this is possible with a crashed economy. Brexit has already done enough damage, look at the value of the pound now. If a people's vote can be used to stop the largest collective act of lunacy ever seen when 17.5 million people voted for brexit, then we have an obligation to support it....Rory O'Connor...retired dairy farmer and grand-parent who doesnt want to spoil my grand children's opportunities and chances in life.
- Rory O'Connor

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