Of the two great questions to-day, I am resolved on one and undecided on the other. I’ll take them in reverse order.
First on the proposed withdrawal agreement, I’ve had well over 200 emails in the last 24 hours, about half of them demanding that I reject it so that we can leave the EU with no agreement, and the other half demanding that I reject it so that we can remain in the EU.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the same course of action will not deliver both outcomes.
My prejudice is with those who would leave without an agreement. Frankly, I’d prefer an agreement but I don’t much care for this one: It surrenders our chief bargaining card (money) before the key negotiations on our future relationship even begin; it leaves us in a potentially indeterminate transition beyond our control; and it treats Northern Ireland differently.
I have to weigh-up my dislike for this proposal however, against two risks identified by the PM: leaving the EU without agreement, or not leaving the EU at all.
On no agreement, before I can come to an assessment I will need to be much clearer as to the state of our preparations, and I will need to scrutinise in detail the position papers that the Government has released.
On the risk of no BREXIT, I asked the PM to-day how that might come about, her answer didn’t give me much to work with. The law and parliamentary procedure are clear: we leave on 29 March-whatever. We would nevertheless be in uncharted political territory with the Government, having lost its flagship measure, proceeding towards a no-deal Brexit, perhaps opposed by a determined majority in Parliament. Who knows what might happen next.
I am certain of one thing: this deal, however bad, is much better than staying in the EU. Whilst it constrains our economic autonomy it nevertheless gets us out of the super-state, freed from ‘ever closer union’, freed from common fisheries and common agriculture, and released from unrestricted freedom of movement.
I’ve read all 185 pages, before I come to a decision I need to read some of them more carefully, digest them, reflect on them, discuss them, and I won’t be hurried.
Now, to the other question of the day: will I be writing a letter the Chairman of the 1922 Committee asking for a no-confidence ballot?
No I won’t. My assessment is that the PM would win such a ballot, in the meantime it would add another uncertainty and distraction to our politics at a critical time.
If my assessment is wrong, and were such a ballot triggered, and the PM were to lose it, it would potentially add an even greater distraction and uncertainty, and I doubt that it would deliver us a different proposed deal to deliberate upon at this late stage.
I’d prefer to concentrate on resolving the first question, and that would also be assisted if I were to receive fewer emails, well –if you don’t ask…