15 MAR 2019

What next for Brexit?

One of the few things that everyone agrees on when it comes to Brexit is that it is all a complete mess. No one voted for this divisive shambles undermining our economy and trashing our international reputation. But the undeliverable promises made during the campaign have collided with reality and a hung Parliament. It's like being locked in a car with a broken handbrake and an incompetent driver, rolling towards the edge of a cliff.

The Prime Minister has twice put her Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework, to a meaningful vote claiming it to be the 'will of the people'. It certainly isn't the will of Parliament which has rejected it on both occasions by historic margins.

Brexit reality turns out to please almost nobody, neither the 48% who voted remain nor the majority of Leave voters. The Deal is deeply flawed and looks nothing like the sunlit uplands promised during the 2016 referendum campaign. The problem is that the Prime Minister's alternative, to leave with No Deal, is even worse.

In a crowded field, one of the strangest moments of this past week was for the Chancellor and other cabinet ministers to be setting out the stark and grim reality of No Deal, only for the government, just a few hours later, to be effectively whipping their own MPs to vote for it. Many abstained rather than vote for catastrophe. Collective Cabinet responsibility and the Prime Minister's authority have evaporated but given the reality that we are just a fortnight from Brexit, the government limps on.

Thankfully Parliament has made it clear that it absolutely rejects No Deal because of the compelling evidence of the real world harm that would inflict.

The problem remains that MPs remain deeply divided and cannot agree what they do want. Parliament is completely gridlocked.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister continues to stick rigidly to her false binary choice between the Deal on the table and heading over the cliff and intends to bring the Deal back for the third time of asking. There are no changes to the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement and little prospect of a different answer.

At that point the PM has been instructed to return to the EU to ask for an extension to Article 50. A short extension would only help if the existing Deal was agreed and the time could then allow the backlog of legislation to be passed. Otherwise it would be like constructing a gangplank from the edge of the cliff to No Deal. A longer extension however would draw us into elections to the European Parliament.

The Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework are flawed but this 'warts and all' Brexit is the best that could be negotiated. Whilst an alternative Norway style model with or without a customs union would be less economically damaging, the trade-offs would infuriate hard Brexiteers even more.

The divisive reality of Brexit leaves no one happy. It has already cost us billions and it has drained time and energy away from so many other pressing priorities. We should be striving to end austerity and getting to grips with issues like social care, education and police funding, housing and the environment but instead, two years on, we are still consumed by the hard choices underlying Brexit.

In my view, it is time to take the decision on Brexit reality back to voters. There is no consent to the deal on offer, no one voted for this mess and people should have the right to weigh up the risks and benefits of the actual Deal on the table, or a clearly defined alternative, and decide whether to go ahead or to stick with the deal we already have.

Parliament had the opportunity to show its opinion on this yesterday but for all their protestations to support a second referendum, the Labour leadership, decided to scupper the vote by heavily whipping its MPs to sit on their hands and abstain. The only leadership on offer this week from the Labour benches was from Select Committee chairs like Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn. More than ever, Jeremy Corbyn looked like an opposition leader in hiding rather a Prime Minister in waiting.


Sarah, you've about turned on Brexit, about turned on MPs having a by-election if resigning from their party (which you have done), spent nearly 3 years spewing unsupportable Project Fear and just lost a vote supporting a 2nd referendum. You persist with this nonsense, do you not see that you've lost all credibility and are no longer fit to be an MP ?
- John

As the PM has said many times no deal is better than a bad deal and she has negotiated the worst possible deal imaginable. Parliament is no longer representative of the people and is openly defying the electorate. As I have said before several times 17.4 million voters will NOT be denied!
- David H

Your up-to-date explanation is very helpful. Thank you for all you are doing to get the best possible outcome.
- Mary Light

ps. should have added that Sarah voted for Article 50, saying No Deal if a deal is not agreed before 29th March !!!
- John

This former NHS worker who retired at 48 after being educated at vast expense by the taxpayer has the audacity and arrogance to ignore the will of her constituents and directly oppose their democratic will. Will she resign and force a by election or carry on extracting money from the taxpayer ?
- Rebecca

Well done, Sarah, please keep fighting.
- Jon B

Thank you for your brave decision to put our country before your Party. Whilst we are all aware of the 48.1 v 51.9 result in 2016, we are now also aware of the false promises made at the time, the electoral irregularities, the illegal funding of the Leave campaignwhich is being investigated by the police and the daily saga of lost orders and companies and wealth being moved abroad. The poor and vulnerable will suffer the most from this Brexit. There is nothing honourable in supporting this deal.
- Tricia L

An excellent local MP and one of the few MPs with both the common sense and the courage to stand up against this coup by the far right. keep up the good work.
- Keith Browning

Unworthy Keith Browning, referring to the 17.4 million as 'far right. Typical retort of undemocratic 'sore losers'.
- John

Glad Sarah is carefully representing the views of the constituency (that voted narrowly to remain), and doing so very thoughtfully and using her own judgement - through the shameful chaos created by the partisan approach adopted over the last 2 years by this defunct govt.
- Margaret

Well Sarah, I have just seen you on TV saying yet again that there should be a second referendum. This time you say it is to endorse the PMs deal, or remain in the EU. This is clearly another blatant attempt by you and your remain colleagues to overturn the referendum result. If there were to be a second referendum there should only be two questions on the ballot paper i.e Theresa May's deal or No Deal. This would respect the original referendum result and allow the public to decide what they really wan't after years of betrayal from rogue MPs like yourself.
- David H

Sarah has the right to change her mind, like many other people have with regard to the UK leaving the EU. There are far more positive reasons to stay with the security of the EU than there are positive reasons to leave the EU. In fact there are no positive reasons to leave the EU. Thank you Sarah for resigning the Tory Whip and standing up to the dictatorship that Theresa May has developed.
- Philip

Sarah, please keep up your good work. I am livid about the PMs broadcast last night. I am not tired, I’m angry. It’s time to revoke A50 and start over. A PV on a rational deal that has support of HoC, or revoke and get back to real business. People (like David H above) talk about “respect for the referendum”. There should be no respect for a referendum, which was based on lies and deceit. 26% of the population and 34% of the electorate is NOT “the British people”. People like Farage claim the biggest democratic exercise ever, but is afraid of a PV to confirm a narrow 52-48 “victory”. There is nothing to celebrate in Brexit. All deals make us poorer. I agree with Philip above, there are no positive reasons to leave the EU. All this nonsense about “taking back control” is right wing crap. How much money has this country now wasted over the last 3 years (must be coming from the magic money tree) on civil servants, consultants, parliamentary time, hiring fridges to stockpile medicines, and on and on? David Cameron and the Conservative party should be banished for decades from power for the damage they have caused this country. How lucky we are in the South Hams to have an independent-minded MP willing to stand against this madness. Well done and thank you: it can’t have been easy for you.
- Kevin G

Thank you Sarah for all that you've done - I agree wholeheartedly with everything Kevin G and Philip have said. Well done
- Liz

Well done Sarah. So difficult in this age of fake news and mindless partisanship to stand head and shoulders above the rest of them. My daughter told me this morning why her hairdresser voted to leave - because the Europeans don't vote for us in the Eurovision Song Contest. I think she must be confusing the EU with the ESC!
- Rob

Congratulations Dr Wollaston and your fellow MPs who didn’t agree with the original referendum. The betrayal of both this original referendum and of Labour and Conservative manifesto is almost complete. You have now ushered in a time when half of the electorate will become disenfranchised and who knows who they will vote for. Congratulations Mr Corbyn – your ability to appear to be siding with both sides will see you into Downing Street at the next opportunity – for as sure as night follows day, the Tories will be annihilated for not delivering Brexit. If we thought that Brexit was going to be bad for the economy – well let’s see what this ‘socialist’ government will bring. But alas, hardworking people like myself coming from a very working class background, born to Irish immigrants but given strong values of work ethic, honesty and integrity will suffer – the something for nothing brigade will have free rein in our new socialist paradise until the money runs out. But hey-ho, the continuing globalisation and absorption in to the United States of Europe will continue, life will go on, the majority will continue to be ignored and kept down. Our population will continue to increase at unsustainable levels, our NHS won’t cope, wages will be kept down, we will build over all of the green belt and all in a ‘free’ country where we dare not speak our mind less we are castigated for being extremists and before long arrested for not having the ‘correct’ views. Good luck to all who refused to accept the will of the majority and the resulting impact on what we used to call ‘Democracy’.
- Patrick, Brixham

Don`t despair Patrick, for our democracy to function requires that we stick to the rules, ‘play the game’. The Referendum was won, yet there are weasel words, smoke & mirror arguments by selfish people who feel ‘entitled’, attempting to subvert the system. My bet is they`ll lose again !
- John

The polls say the public do not want a second referendum which includes remain.. Parliament has twice rejected a second referendum.. What happens next? For three years you sat around, voted for Article 50, stood for an election on a manifesto to leave, which I voted for. Then stopped listening to the people and finally stood down before we could voice our displeasure. I am concerned that the continued pretence that Parliament is in any way competent risks the rise of fringe groups and beg you respect the most democratic vote ever held in this country. I am one of an increasing number who are not being represented by our lawmakers.
- Giles, Paignton

Totally agree with the previous comments. It is crystal clear what the majority voted for: 1. To leave the EU, full stop and 2. To do so, preferably with an agreement for a Canada Plus free trade agreement. This would enable a continued business relationship with the EU, but crucially leave us free to sign other free trade deals around the world and there is NOTHING wrong with that. Sadly from the now infamous Chequers weekend which resulted in the resignation of David Davis and subsequently Dominque Raab the PM has pursued her own fudged version of Brexit which satifies nobody, except the EU. As for today's indicative votes whether the 'remainer' MPs vote for a customs union or not remains to be seen. If they do it changes NOTHING - 17.4 million people voted to LEAVE in the face of 'project fear' and ALL MPs have a direct responsibility to deliver the result, IN FULL.
- David H

It is a charade that a majority of the whole adult Electorate voted 'Leave' - that was never the case. Totnes Constituency just displayed sufficient strength to Remain. Usurpation of the Union Jack as emblem of any political Party, especially any whose policies will break up the U.K if implemented, should be declared illegal. The insanity of expecting 237 Trade Agreements to be re- - negotiated to our advantage immediately upon leaving the E U needs to be exposed - at least a decade of difficult talks will be needed.. A 'no deal' Brexit would be ruinous to our economy for many years to come. The interests of the rising generation are side-lined, as also international environmental policies to safeguard our future existence. How will NHS be funded to cope with ageing population ? Our courageous M.P. now stands for Change Britain. More power to her elbow !
- Robin K

@Robin K... Another bleating remoaner. Wind your neck in.
- Richie S

On 15th March you asked “ What next for Brexit?” The next question must be to the 2 candidates for tory leader/prime minister, “Where will the economic benefits you so generously promise actually come from?”. Our potential prime ministers tell us that our leaving the EU will be followed by raised government spending on education, health, increasing the housing stock, and ending austerity. At the same time they are promising, among other goodies, substantial reductions in taxes for both the the low paid and the high paid, in corporation tax and in national insurance contributions; and of course there is also £39 billion to pay to the EU itself. They indicate that the resources to achieve all this are going to come from higher foreign and domestic investment and greater productivity and employment in an economy 'freed-up' by lower tariffs and therefore increased trade with the rest of the world, plus about £9 billion per year in net savings from ending annual contributions to the EU. So the precise question must be, “How will you get the great trading nations of the world to give us a better deal than we now receive as a member of the EU?” The latest data on foreign direct investment into UK from the Office for National Statistics showed a fall of nearly £31 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2019 in the previous 6 months, with investment in quarter 1 at minus about £15 billion. Meanwhile the British Chambers of Commerce Economic Survey for first quarter 2019 showed domestic investment intentions to be the lowest since 2012. The survey also reported the lowest level of export sales since 2009 and more firms indicating declines in cash flows than those predicting rises. On these figures, to afford any of these promises, there will be the need for a remarkable boost to investment, productivity and exports as a result of the “tremendous” trade deals we are told will be made possible by Brexit. Will Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt therefore explain, not only in their hustings for the Tory members, but also to the other 99.6% of the population to whom this is a vital question, how a country with a market of only 65 million will be able to negotiate more advantageous trade deals than the EU managed to negotiate with its market of 550 million? Countries like India or China have populations in the billions, and the USA, Russia, Brazil, Iran and Indonesia also have much bigger actual or potential markets than the UK. These countries pursue very different global policies from those of the UK, including some or all of the following: continuing extensive production and use of hydro-carbon fuels; failure to recognise and combat global warming and its consequences; persecution of ethnic minorities; and murder of civil protesters, journalists and others who oppose dictatorial regimes; aggression against neighbours and disregard of international systems and law. And they will, as we have seen, use tariff policy to achieve their political objectives, including, in the case of the most powerful, penal duties to get their way. Having to agree to import chlorinated chicken might be the least of our worries. Just one example is the certainty that the price for a Chinese trade deal will include us shutting up about Hongkong's rights. So, it is up to Boris and Jeremy to tell us in a bit more detail, how they will negotiate trade deals to make us all richer, not poorer - and please, leave out claims of possessing super powers making you able to achieve miraculous results. David Prag, Brixham
- David Prag

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