Now let’s strip the lipstick off Johnson’s pig of a deal

by Hugo Dixon | 22.10.2019

MPs have foiled the Prime Minister’s plot to ram his deal through the Commons in three days. Now we have time to expose its flaws.

MPs defeated the so-called programme motion by 322 votes to 308. That was a bigger majority of 14 against Boris Johnson than had been expected.

The Commons was right to say “no”. The Prime Minister was trying to bounce MPs into agreeing the nation’s future for decades to come in less time than many people take to choose a sofa.

His proposal was an abomination. The Withdrawal Agreement Bill was only published last night. When you add its 115 pages to all the other documentation, Parliament was expected to digest over a thousand pages of turgid text.

New horrors are emerging the whole time. Here are seven we unearthed this morning. That’s on top of what we knew last week – that the deal turns Northern Ireland into an EU colony and makes Great Britain poorer and less powerful than it would otherwise be.

MPs voted against the programme motion despite Johnson’s threat to pull the Bill and call an election if they did. Hats off to those brave parliamentarians that stood up to these bully-boy tactics.

In the end, it is the Prime Minister who is eating his words. After his defeat he said he would “pause” the legislation while he waited to hear how the EU responds to his request for extra time – not “pull” it. It’s not in his gift to cancel legislation, anyway. That’s up to MPs. (See section 20.22 of Erskine May, the authoritative book on parliamentary procedure). 

Nor, for that matter, is it his decision whether to call an election. He needs two-thirds of MPs to agree to that – meaning that, in practice, Jeremy Corbyn has a veto. The Labour leader wisely encouraged Johnson to work with him to agree a “reasonable timetable” to review the Bill, though he doesn’t look like he’ll take up the offer.

The Prime Minister did win one vote today – the Second Reading giving thumbs up to move ahead with the legislation by 329 votes to 299. But that’s the high watermark of what he can achieve, as there are lots more hurdles to jump. 

MPs are preparing to amend the Bill. What more, he knows that with every day of scrutiny lipstick will drip off his pig. 

His own untruths are being exposed. We shone the light on three porkies he told on Saturday, all to do with Northern Ireland. But he spouted some new ones today – on fish and workers’ rights. We’ll write up the detail tomorrow.

Johnson is also spraying around promises like confetti. We have already pointed out a couple. But there were five more today – on the environment, consumer protection, not crashing out next year, no problems at the Channel ports and no difficulties for EU citizens. Again, we’ll spell out tomorrow why the new guarantees may well be hot air.

After all, this Prime Minister’s pledges can’t be trusted. He said he’d prefer to be “dead in a ditch” rather than ask the EU to delay Brexit, a promise he broke at the weekend. And he told the DUP no Conservative government could sign up to regulatory and customs controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland – and yet his divorce deal does precisely that.

Johnson’s deal is on the ropes. But we can’t be complacent. Sitting prime ministers have huge power. We’ll have to strain every sinew to force him to put his deal to the people – and then win the battle to stay in the EU.

Edited by James Earley

Categories: Sovereignty, UK Politics

6 Responses to “Now let’s strip the lipstick off Johnson’s pig of a deal”

  • Some MPs admit that they have not read the bill; many claim that they have.
    Iain Duncan Sniff says he has read it twice and is not to be believed.

    Like many laws large parts of it are drafted as amendments to other existing legislation. Thus it is only possible to have any idea of what effect the words have by looking at the same time at those other pieces of legislation.

    For example:
    “(4) See also (among other things)—
    (a) Part 3 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act
    2019 (further provision about citizens’ rights),
    (b) section 7C of this Act (interpretation of law relating to the EEA
    EFTA separation agreement and the Swiss citizens’ rights
    agreement etc.),
    (c) section 8B of this Act (power in connection with certain other
    separation issues), and
    (d) Part 1B of Schedule 2 to this Act (powers involving devolved
    authorities in connection with certain other separation issues)”

    er, sorry, I am not sure what that means.
    How many MPs will (or can) give this the scrutiny the 115 pages (plus the rest) need in three days?
    Or at all?

  • One Tory admitted he had not read the document but ‘knew what was in it’. Looks like Johnson was done by the DUP on the second vote.
    The other question is did some of the Labour MPs vote Aye on the first deal so that they can amend it? Is so I hope that they will put forward the proposal that they will let the Bill through on the condition that there is a second referendum.
    I just do not understand those who say we’ve got to get it done because it has gone on too long. How empty headed is that?
    Over to the EU-please grant an extension until at least 31 Jan.

  • “He said he’d prefer to be “dead in a ditch” rather than ask the EU to delay Brexit, a promise he broke at the weekend”

    I don’t think Johnson should be criticised for breaking his “promise” not to delay Brexit. His avowed intention was for us to leave on the 31st, but a postponement is being forced on him, that is not breaking a promise.

    In any case, these kind of promises to destroy the country as soon as possible, we should encourage him to break.

  • Good analysis but clearly wrong to suggest N Ireland would be an “EU colony” – incorrect as well as emotive. n Ireland gets much more advantageous terms than GB, effectively a member of customs union and single market for goods. Some GB businesses planning to move HQ and some production to mainland Europe will now consider N Ireland instead so as to retain largely frictionless trade with EU27 market, though not with GB, due to complexities of customs arrangements in Irish Sea. N Ireland terms are not as advantageous as EEA terms still available on U.K.-wide basis, with no border in Irish Sea. M Barnier made clear that while its for U.K. to decide whether to leave EEA as well as EU, EU27 will keep that option open to the end of the transition period.
    So once this poor deal goes through, as it will within next 3 months now the principle has been agreed at 2nd Reading, the option for the next government will be whether to go back into EEA alongside Norway and Iceland once U.K. has left EU. That is sometimes misrepresented in U.K. as “colony status” or similar, but that is typical of U.K. misunderstanding of all things European.
    EEA is the only tried and tested option which limits damage to U.K. economy, protects treaty rights of EU citizens (inc U.K. citizens in 30 other European countries) and enables largely frictionless trade to continue.
    Of course it is no substitute for EU membership, like all forms of Brexit our political influence is ended. But once U.K. has left EU, it is by some distance the least damaging form of Brexit, as confirmed by Government Economics Service assessments for ministers and so many other studies.
    So try not to use emotive and inaccurate terms like “EU colony” about one part of U.K. , as before long we will he arguing about whether we secure similar terms for whole U.K., ending trade uncertainty, or spend years negotiating inevitably less advantageous FTA.

  • I noticed that Johnson and Tory Brexiteers’ main rhetorical argument for pushing his Bill through asap, seems to be the delay and time it has been taking and the need to create certainty for business.
    If Brexit was now revoked under Art.50, that would reduce delay and uncertainty to the absolute minimum.