The situation regarding our leaving the European Union is fast-moving. At the moment, the Commons has rejected the draft Withdrawal Agreement by 149 votes, which is the fourth largest government defeat in history. This follows on from a rejection by 230 votes, which was the biggest ever defeat.
The current draft Withdrawal Agreement does not, in my view, represent Brexit. To start with, it is not a trade deal, but merely a draft withdrawal agreement. This draft agreement has the potential of tying us to a customs union (under which we could not negotiate our own trade deals across the world, as we said we would) indefinitely, would place Northern Ireland into a different regulatory regime, would keep us under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in certain areas and would require us to continue paying money to the EU. We would be prevented from leaving this arrangement without the EU’s permission.
Under the Conservative Party manifesto at the last election, we said we would leave the EU. Since then, the Prime Minister has stated over a 100 times that we would leave the EU on 29th March. She also said in her Lancaster House speech that we would not be half-in, half-out of the EU, so that we would not be in the single market or the customs union. I want us to stick to these promises.
The Speaker of the House of Commons has responded to the situation by saying that, under the rules, the government cannot put the same motion again to the Commons, so we will have to see what happens from here. Basically, there are three options: get a better agreement and bring that back to the Commons; leave without a deal; or delay our leaving.
My preference, of these three options, would be to leave the EU on 29th March without a deal being in place now, but to apply for the triggering of Article 24 of the WTO/GATT, which would enable us to continue trading on much the same terms as now while we pursue a free trade agreement with the EU. I will not support the draft Withdrawal Agreement as it stands nor will I agree to an extension of our membership.