At long last Theresa May has brought her Brexit deal back to Parliament for a final rejection.
I didn’t know what to say about it when she unveiled it yesterday, because it has all been said already.
For those who don’t know, she summed up her offer as a 10-point plan:
“One – the government will seek to conclude alternative arrangements to replace the [Northern Ireland] backstop by December 2020, so that it never needs to be used.
“Two – a commitment that, should the backstop come into force, the government will ensure that Great Britain will stay aligned with Northern Ireland.
“Three – the negotiating objectives and final treaties for our future relationship with the EU will have to be approved by MPs.
“Four – a new workers’ rights bill that guarantees workers’ rights will be no less favourable than in the EU.
“Five – there will be no change in the level of environmental protection when we leave the EU.
“Six – the UK will seek as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible while outside the single market and ending free movement.
“Seven – we will keep up to date with EU rules for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at border protecting the thousands of jobs that depend on just-in-time supply chains.
“Eight – the government will bring forward a customs compromise for MPs to decide on to break the deadlock.
“Nine – there will be a vote for MPs on whether the deal should be subject to a referendum.
“And ten – there will be a legal duty to secure changes to the political declaration to reflect this new deal.”
She said: “All of these commitments will be guaranteed in law – so they will endure at least for this parliament.” And nobody believed her.
Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour cannot support the new Withdrawal Bill as it is a “rehash” of what has been brought before.
And Conservatives who supported her previous attempts have started bailing out because they don’t want another referendum.
Zac Goldsmith, whose campaign to become London Mayor was criticised for overt racism, described the new Bill as a “convoluted mess”.
He was joined in opposition to it by Robert Halfon, Andrew Percy, Maria Caulfield, David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith, Charlie Elphicke, Ben Bradley, Johnny Mercer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab, Boris Johnson, Mark Francois, Beth Rigby… the European Research Group (ERG) is reportedly unanimous against it – already she cannot gain a majority for the Bill.
The promise on the NI “backstop” is empty. It seems clear that Mrs May – or her successor – will find alternative arrangements by 2020. This issue has been explored fully and as Labour’s Brexit spokesperson, Lisa Chambers, said, “If they existed, they would already be on the table.”
The DUP has said the possibility of an alternative is the only hope for a stable majority government to return to Westminster, making it clear that it will not support Mrs May until such an alternative hoves into view. So there will be no majority Conservative government for the foreseeable future.
In the light of the responses, it seems amazing that Mrs May is going ahead with this Bill. Perhaps there is simply no alternative for a prime minister who has spent three years mapping out her own downfall.
This is a Bill that might never make it to a Parliamentary vote.
It comes from a prime minister who, also, might never see another Parliamentary vote. Her time has run out.
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