This week we have seen unprecedented scenes in Parliament. I and other MPs were expecting to be voting on the government’s Brexit deal this Tuesday. But at the last minute the vote was pulled, as the government finally realised it would not be able to garner sufficient support amongst MPs.
While it is good that the government has finally realised that it’s deal will not work, the key question is what it will do now. This should have been a moment for government to reflect on the best interests of the country; and seek to amend its approach accordingly. Instead, the government appears to have listened to a small group of its own members, the extreme Brexiteers, and not to anyone else.
Hence Theresa May has said she will go back to Brussels to seek assurances around those hard Brexiteers’ key problem with her deal- the so-called ‘backstop’.
The backstop would stop an ending of customs union with the EU if either the EU or UK felt that there could be problems at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Hard Brexiteers don’t like it because they fear it could lead to an extension of customs union with the EU.
The Prime Minister is wrong to focus only on this one aspect of her problematic deal. Customs union membership is actually helpful for our country; not least for companies with complex supply chains like BMW Cowley.
So the Prime Minister should be listening to business and accepting that a customs union is necessary, rather than seeking to hasten its end.
There are other major problems with her deal, however, which also need to be tackled. First, there is no clear mechanism in the deal to enable us to coordinate our environmental and working regulations with the EU. I know that many of my constituents are concerned that this could lead to our country becoming the dirty, deregulated man of Europe.
The deal also fails to resolve ambiguities about the treatment of EU residents- especially for vulnerable people who might find it impossible to prove that they’ve been working, studying or have significant personal financial resources. And with a new immigration bill still not yet produced by government, the deal asks MPs to leave the EU without any guarantee that our country will continue to benefit from nurses, doctors, researchers, scientists and other workers from the rest of the EU.
We still do not know when the Brexit deal will come back to Parliament- and I know that this is causing considerable uncertainty to many of my constituents. The vast majority of them have expressed serious concerns about the current deal, and I will continue to do everything I can to voice them in Parliament.