I am aware that I repeat myself in this column, but then the main item on the nation’s the political agenda keeps repeating itself. We are shortly to debate and vote on the PM’s EU withdrawal agreement for the fourth time.
Furthermore, a significant number of my constituents repeat themselves persistently in the emails that they address to me, almost as if I hadn’t answered the point that they made in my last reply to them.
It’s happening again this week. A whole stack of people are emailing again to tell me to vote down Prime Minister’s “deal” so that we can leave the EU on World Trade Organisation terms.
So, I repeat: There is no ‘deal’: The PM has not negotiated one; the ‘deal’ doesn’t begin to be negotiated until we’ve actually left the EU.
What the PM has agreed (and now seeks parliament’s approval for the 4th time of asking) is the Withdrawal Agreement which merely covers the next 20 months or so after we’ve left the EU or until we have negotiated the real ‘deal’.
Whilst I have all sorts of reservations about the Withdrawal Agreement, it’s no good telling me it’s a rotten deal, because we haven’t got a deal yet. Who Knows, the deal, when we actually get it, might turn out to be mutually advantageous. Alternatively, be could end up being completely shafted. It’s a risk, but that negotiation lies ahead.
What my correspondents want is for us to avoid that risk by just leaving without any agreement and trading just on World Trade Organisation rules (of course, that involves a quite different set of risks).
Again, I repeat myself, I’ve said it to them before. On the balance of risks, I would indeed oblige my correspondents: voting down the agreement and leaving without an agreement if that choice was open to me, but it isn’t: The one thing that Parliament has found a majority for is that it will not approve leaving without an agreement. So I just cannot deliver what they are asking, no matter how much I might wish to.
I conclude that, on the balance of all the risks, the greatest is that we end up not leaving the EU at all. It is for that reason I will support the PM’s agreement with all its defects. Then, once outside the EU, we can join battle over the nature of the ‘deal’ that we then have to negotiate.