As the Westminster week ends, and we have a brief recess, I think we have reached a significant further stage of the Brexit process.
After the conclusion of the talks with the Opposition, in which few here had any confidence but were worth a try, the Prime Minister made what she clearly considers her last attempt to persuade the Commons to accept her Agreement with the EU. It contained a number of new elements, and I set out below the main points.
Despite her intense efforts, it was clear from Tuesday evening onwards that this was not to be enough, and MPs made their reservations obvious, confirmed by the reception in the Commons yesterday.
I spoke in favour of Mrs May's efforts to reach a compromise, still in my view the best way for the UK to move forward, by accepting the result of the Referendum, but leaving with a deal to avoid the economic and other consequences of ‘no deal’ as set out by the Chancellor in a speech this week.
But the PM’s effort has not succeeded. I doubt it will be brought forward to a vote in two weeks’ time.
We must now see what happens next, but as you will all be aware, this is expected to be the announcement of the timetable for the departure of Mrs May.
I will comment upon that when it happens. I expect events to move quickly, but a new Leader will face the same dilemmas as the current PM, the same arithmetic of the Commons composition, the same polarisation from many and will need somehow to encourage Parliament to say ‘yes’ to something credible, rather than just ‘no’. I am acutely conscious that the British and North East Bedfordshire public is patient, but not endlessly so.
I will remain in contact, and as always will welcome your thoughts on where we go next.
- The UK will protect jobs by seeking as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible while outside the single market and ending free movement.
- We will keep up to date with EU rules for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at the border – providing certainty for our vital manufacturing sector.
- The Government will bring forward a customs choice for MPs to decide on. This will be between (1) our proposal which delivers the benefits of a customs union but with the ability for the UK to determine its own trade policy; and (2) a compromise put forward in the talks with Labour - a temporary customs union on goods only, including a UK say in relevant EU trade policy and an ability to change the arrangement so a future Government could move it in its preferred direction.
- We will introduce a new Workers’ Rights Bill that guarantees workers’ rights will be no less favourable than in the EU.
- There will be no change in the level of environmental protection when we leave the EU.
- We will seek changes to the political declaration to reflect this new deal.
- There will be a vote for MPs to decide whether the deal should be subject to a referendum.
- The objectives for the negotiations on our future relationship with the EU will have to be approved by MPs.
- The Government will be under a legal duty to seek to conclude Alternative Arrangements to replace the backstop by December 2020, so that it never needs to be used.
- A commitment that, should the backstop come into force, the Government will ensure that Great Britain will stay aligned with Northern Ireland.