Brexit must be delayed even if there’s a deal

by Hugo Dixon | 13.10.2019

The Prime Minister wants to bounce MPs into approving any Brexit deal he does in a single day next Saturday. It would be outrageous to decide our future with so little scrutiny.

We know very little for certain about what Boris Johnson is trying to negotiate with the EU. The two sides have gone into the “tunnel”, a highly confidential process that is supposed to stop leaks. 

But from what we have heard, the desired deal looks terrible. Even if the Prime Minister can solve the Irish border issue – a big “if” – the economic consequences for Great Britain would be ghastly. See this column for a summary of the problems.

There’s nothing wrong with confidential negotiations. But what comes out of the end of the tunnel must be subjected to proper scrutiny. Johnson doesn’t want that. His plan seems to be to cut a deal with other leaders at the European Council on Friday and then get MPs to approve it the following day by a resolution. 

This is a ridiculously short amount of time to examine something that will affect our country for decades to come. Our MPs need to be able to look at the exact text and interrogate the Prime Minister. They also need to be able to take advice from experts. But they won’t be able to do that job properly if they have only one day.

It’s easy to see why Johnson doesn’t want scrutiny. He knows any deal he does will be a fudge. The longer it is put under the spotlight, the more likely it is to fall to pieces. The Heath-Robinson coalition he is trying to put together – combining the DUP, ERG, MPs he has expelled from the Tory Party and some Labour MPs – could then easily collapse.

What’s more, the Prime Minister knows that, if he can get MPs to pass a resolution next Saturday to back a deal, the deadline set in the “Benn Act”, he won’t have to ask the EU for extra time. He will then be able to keep his promise to leave the EU on October 31 “do or die”.

MPs must have no truck with this. Quite apart from the fact that deciding the country’s future for decades to come in a few hours is atrocious, there are three other reasons Brexit needs to be delayed in this scenario.

  • Even if MPs pass the resolution approving the deal, there will need to be primary legislation agreeing our new withdrawal treaty with the EU. Such important legislation will itself require detailed examination. Rushing it in a maximum of 12 days (ie between October 19 and 31) would be wrong.
  • Johnson’s coalition is so fragile that he might change his mind about the deal even if MPs agreed the resolution. He could then refuse to push through the necessary legislation, in which case we would crash out.
  • The European Parliament also needs to agree a deal. We shouldn’t assume that it will snap to attention and rubber stamp anything Johnson agrees at the European Council. If it takes even two weeks, we would end up crashing out.

For all these reasons, MPs should insist on a delay to Brexit even if Johnson brings home a deal on Friday. Thankfully, some MPs including Philip Hammond, are pushing for extra time, according to the Mail on Sunday.

One way of achieving their goal would be to insist that there should be several days debate before any resolution is voted upon. That way, the Benn Act would also kick in – meaning the Prime Minister would have to ask for a delay to Brexit. There would then be enough time for our Parliament to examine the legislation and the European Parliament to carry out its scrutiny. Finally, if Johnson himself got cold feet and pulled the deal, we wouldn’t crash out.

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Edited by James Earley

Categories: UK Politics

2 Responses to “Brexit must be delayed even if there’s a deal”

  • Isn’t the mood of the opposing parties that any deal, whatever it is, will not be approved unless it is put to the nation in a vote? It really is time now for the opposition to put the country before party. None of them is showing much flexibility and if hey show Cummings , in particular, any weaknesses he will exploit it.

  • Whilst the mood toward the Brexit side of the UK is not exactly full of good cheer as far as I could make out two weeks ago, I do not think that EU voters would appreciate their elected representatives to gratuitously shaft the UK population through doing a shady deal with known liars and wide boys. Johnson has been optimistic about the urgency of the wish to do a deal within the EU before. And he lies! In Latin if need be!