Westminster Column - Brexit

23rd November 2018

I have always taken the view our negotiations with the EU would be extremely complex since we are exiting treaties built up over 45 years, difficult to do given the fact we have 27 counter-parties, and impossible to satisfy everyone, not least since the nation was so divided in the 2016 referendum.

But I have also been clear that it is the role of Government and Parliament to deliver the result of the referendum, a pledge on which I was re-elected last year.

Last week the Prime Minister published the 585 page draft Withdrawal Agreement, which essentially sets out the legal terms which would govern the UK/EU relationship during the transition or implementation period commencing after we withdraw from the EU on 29th March 2019. Alongside this is a 7 page outline political declaration of the future framework for the enduring relationship after the end of the transition period.

During the transition period, the government has negotiated to allow trade to continue much as it does today, maintaining an open border with Ireland, while achieving the essential elements of Brexit, namely regaining the power to control our borders, our laws and our money, to leave the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. Implementing these changes will take time, hence the transition period.

Much of the advice I have received, has focussed on the implementation period and/or backstop and how this can be brought to an end. I recognise the difficulties, but am persuaded that the EU will have a powerful incentive to either avoid or end the backstop arrangement in good time, as the Freedom of Movement pillar ceases during the backstop, and other member states may begin to view freedom of movement as a negotiable aspect of EU membership.

The key negotiation on the future relationship continues as I write. I want to see a free trade relationship, with the UK being able to conclude new trade agreements once the implementation period ends. The PM attends the EU Council meeting this coming weekend at which I am hopeful significant further progress will be made, which will allow the final deal to be presented to Parliament in coming weeks. I intend to support it, since although imperfect, it is far preferable to leaving the EU next March with no transition deal and the significant disruption this would cause.

 

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