I have now read the Withdrawal Agreement and the other documents concerning our future relationship with the EU. Whilst there are flaws in the Withdrawal Agreement, I believe that it offers the best way forward. I am keen to see the details of the future relationship develop this week but, as it stands, I am minded to support the Government’s proposals in the House of Commons.
The proposals secure the rights of our citizens living in the EU and of EU citizens living here. This is crucial for people living here in East Herts and for many Brits living abroad. Without an agreement, families would be left in limbo.
The agreement would ensure only one change of rules once we exit the EU, providing businesses and the rest of us a sensible transition period after next March. This is vital for our local employers and jobs.
The agreement also provides a sensible compromise over any legal disputes. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) would no longer have its existing jurisdiction here. Instead, the ECJ could only adjudicate over a dispute if a joint UK-EU panel first agree that it can become involved. This will mean its remit will be limited, and relevant only during disputes that involve EU matters. This is a sensible compromise: it means that we will make our laws in future.
The proposals for our future relationship are just as important – possibly more so, because they will shape our long-term future. The agreed proposals include: a free trade area for goods, avoiding any tariffs or other restrictions; a close trade arrangement for services, including financial services; collaboration over shared matters like security; freedom to expand our exports and investment with other countries. All of these approaches have my support.
The proposal will also mean an end to free movement, replaced by a managed migration system based on what skills and talents people can bring to the UK, regardless of where they are from. This means we would control our borders.
The proposals also mean that the UK will be able to set its own agriculture and food policies for the first time in forty years. We would regain control over our coastal waters, helping our fishing industry to thrive.
If we were to leave without a deal it would have an immediate impact on the economy, on travel and on our jobs. It would also make it harder to secure any future trade deal with EU countries, meaning we’d be left in trading limbo for years to come.
As for Northern Ireland, I don’t accept the DUP’s view that somehow the province will be cut off from the rest of Great Britain. The proposals are an insurance policy in the event of an agreement not being reached before the end of the transition period. Personally, I would prefer a longer transition period, to avoid any need for a so-called backstop, but I accept that it only applies if all else fails.
Labour have said they would go back and get a better deal before March. What utter nonsense. They have as many differences over this as my party and a leader who is pathologically incapable of making decisions.
Some people have asked, ‘What about another referendum?’ I remain sceptical about this for several reasons. First, there is no time to call such a vote before March. Second, how could we get the House of Commons to agree on what the question would be? Third, it would be just as divisive as the previous referendum and its outcome just as uncertain. In that sense, we would be putting off a decision for a few months.
So, I will support the Prime Minister and the Government in seeking to get this proposal agreed. Theresa May has shown grit and determination. Picking holes in this deal is easy. Governing for all is much harder. May has chosen a difficult path and I respect her for that.