Brexit Update - 17 Oct 2019

17th October 2019

Today, 85 days after he became Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has pulled off what many doubted he could – we have a new agreement with the EU.

I am delighted at this progress. I know some constituents had raised concerns that the government was not really interested in securing a deal, and that there were no real negotiations ongoing. Happily, having been reassured by Ministers at the time, this has proven not to be the case.
I am especially impressed that the PM has achieved four aspects through negotiation that many thought were simply not possible. He has:

  • Forced Brussels to re-open the deal – something many said was impossible.
  • Ensured Britain will no longer be bound by EU laws and taxes – something many said was impossible.
  • Ended the supremacy of the European Court in Britain – something many said was impossible. 
  • Removed the backstop and ensured that the people of Northern Ireland are in control of the laws they live by – something many said was impossible.

I have been consistently clear that the best way to Leave the EU is with a deal which minimises disruption for individuals and businesses. So while I am of course reading the detail of this agreement carefully, ahead of voting on it on Saturday, it is already clear the new terms allow for the following:

  1. Britain is out of all EU laws. We will be able to change our laws in a huge number of areas – from product standards to fishing rules to farming subsidies – where we are currently bound by EU rules. 
  2. We will be able to strike our own free trade deals. We will have an unqualified right to strike our own trade deals around the world, and the whole UK will participate in them. 
  3. European Court supremacy ends in Britain. It will be our courts, applying our laws, which will be the highest authority in the land. 
  4. We will be in control of our taxes. We will be able to change VAT rules and other tax laws that are currently determined by Brussels. 
  5. Northern Ireland will be in the UK customs territory forever. There is now no doubt that Northern Ireland remains part of the UK’s customs territory and will benefit from the free trade deals we strike. 
  6. The anti-democratic backstop has been abolished. The people of Northern Ireland will be in charge of the laws that they live by, and – unlike the backstop – will have the right to end the special arrangement if they so choose.

This is impressive progress. The new protocol avoids the need for a hard border in Ireland and protects the all-island economy and the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions. Similarly, the main change in the new political declaration provides for an ambitious Free Trade Agreement, with zero tariffs and quotas between the EU and the UK – which is very welcome news for South Shropshire businesses, and is intended to come into force at the end of the transition period as early as 1st January 2021.  

The new Political Declaration also envisages a future relationship with a level playing field for certain things, including social and employment standards as well as maintaining environmental standards. It also spells out more clearly that the UK will maintain full discretion over if, when and the extent to which it wishes to contribute military or security resources to EU missions or procurements.

Given these terms, we have a credible deal on the table. So the question for MPs who claim to want to respect the referendum, but wanted to rule out No Deal, is will they now back up their words with their vote? Will sensible Labour MPs who want to deliver Brexit through a negotiated exit back this last chance to secure a deal?
Labour’s full volte face from a party who in 2017 said they would respect the referendum, to one now advocating a second referendum, does not fill me with confidence. But I hope more sensible heads will prevail.
I expect to support this deal, subject to the detail, aligned with the clear majority of those from South Shropshire responding to my recent survey, who want to get Brexit done. I shall be voting on Saturday to support the Prime Minister in taking the deal forward into legislation, for scrutiny in the House of Commons.

If you are interested to read the detailed texts published today jointly by the UK and EU Commission, you can find them here...

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