A more Stodgy than Super Saturday, as MPs passed Oliver Letwin’s amendment, forcing the Prime Minister to send yet another extension request to the EU. Boris Johnson has navigated the terms of the Benn Act as best he could, sending a letter that complies with the law, but making very clear to the EU, though two further letters and calls, that it is Parliament, not the Government, that wants an extension.
Some influential EU figures, most notably French President Emmanuel Macron, have made helpful comments opposing an extension, although there is no guarantee that these will translate into firm action against an extension. The Government, then, must push on with its efforts to pass Brexit legislation by the 31 October, at the mercy of yet more wrecking amendments and fickle support in the Commons. With Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, announcing Labour’s plan amend the Deal to include a Second Referendum, the forces of Remain still pose substantial dangers to British democracy.
That is why MPs must honour their manifesto pledges and vote for the Deal. Yes, it is flawed and puts the DUP in an extremely difficult position. But, as BfB contributor, Martin Howe QC, argues, it is tolerable. The Backstop is gone, as are some of the more egregious commitments to regulatory alignment. The Prime Minister has managed to do what many thought impossible and persuade the EU to reopen Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, vindicating our long-held belief at BfB that the EU would do almost anything to avoid the early loss of the UK’s financial contributions and to avoid heavy tariffs against their food and car exports to the UK. All of this was done in spite of Remainer MPs’ efforts to take the pressure off the EU by means of the Benn (sabotage) Act.
Lord Trimble, one of the architects of Northern Irish peace and repeated BfB contributor, has given the new Deal his seal of approval. He concludes that – unlike the earlier May version – Johnson’s Deal poses no threat to the Good Friday Agreement. The Tory European Research Group and a number of moderate Labour MPs have also concluded that this is the Deal is the best compromise available. We at BfB agree. Now is the time to take the Deal and get Brexit done.
BfB co-editor Graham Gudgin has today written a piece for the Spectator, on ‘Why the DUP should reconsider their opposition to Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal’. Graham sets out the reasons why the DUP should consider changing its mind and supporting the Deal.
“Although both the Northern Ireland civil service and local business have exaggerated the costs of no deal, there will be widespread relief in Northern Ireland if a deal is done.”
You can also now find Graham’s interview with Spiked, ‘There’s nothing complex about the Irish border’, on the BfB website.
On the website this week
Unreasonable Pressures on the DUP, by Graham Gudgin
In this blog, which is an updated version of an article appeared in the Belfast Newsletter immediately before Boris Johnson’s deal was revealed, Dr Graham Gudgin describes the pressures put on the DUP by exaggerated fears of the dangers of No Deal in.
“The EU managed to force its preference for no trade checks within the island of Ireland and with the Benn Act was never under the heaviest pressure. The result has been something the DUP could not accept, and we now wait to see whether this means the deal is voted down in Parliament.”
Some Remainers are arguing that the Prime Minister is somehow violating the Benn Act by writing to the EU discouraging acceptance of an extension request. It has been argued that this would be “frustrating” the Act. Our anonymous legal contributor, Titus, argues that arguments are legally and politically absurd.
“It is as if the Prime Minister has done what private and public bodies often do, that is, when making a proposal deal with ‘Frequently Asked Questions’. In this case the Prime Minister deals with, ‘Is this request a good idea?’”
This flawed deal is a tolerable price to pay for our freedom, by Martin Howe QC
Martin Howe QC, Chairman of Lawyers for Britain, notes that Boris Johnson’s deal, though miles better than Theresa May’s ghastly capitulation, still has some major flaws. Nonetheless, he concludes that overall Johnson’s proposal is just about tolerable. This article appeared in shortened form in the Daily Telegraph on 18 October 2019.
“The progress which has been made by a determined PM in forcing the EU to reopen the text which they previously insisted could not be reopened is proof that a similarly determined attitude throughout the negotiation process would have yielded much better terms for the UK.”
Why I Cannot Support Boris’s Deal, by Caroline Bell
Civil Servant Caroline Bell (writing under a pseudonym) takes a pessimistic view of a future under Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement.
“[I]f the Withdrawal Agreement is passed tomorrow, Remainer MPs would certainly resist all calls for an election. Instead they would use the transition period to thwart negotiations.”
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An Oxbridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge