In face of increasing opposition from MPs to Brexit “deal” - Theresa May writes 'heart and soul' plea to nation

Theresa May cleared one major hurdle in the steeplechase that is the journey to Brexit in the early hours of yesterday morning, 25 November, in Brussels.

The Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration documents – the result of 18 months’ hard bargaining between the UK and EU - were endorsed by the remaining 27 European leaders at an emergency summit meeting – a meeting that was almost postponed at Spain’s reluctance over Gibraltar.

The next step is to win majority votes in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in favour of each of the documents.  The Commons vote looks likely to come on 12 December.  It cannot be postponed as there are timebound constitutional steps to be completed in the UK before Brexit can be implemented on 29 March 2019 – even if the vote is in favour of accepting the deal.

Authoritative and insider observers put the number of Conservative-DUP MPs that will vote against the deal as it stands at over 87.  At this level, the Withdrawal Agreement looks to be heading not just for defeat - but for a big defeat.

Small wonder that Prime Minister, Theresa May, has appealed over the heads of MPs and written a “letter to the nation” setting out why she thinks the public should back her Brexit deal.

We understand the reasoning, but having studied the Political Declaration, both it and the letter are long in sentiment and hope but short in detail.

Political Declaration can be found at https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/37100/20181121-cover-political-declaration.pdf

 Theresa May’s letter in full letter dated 25 November 2018

"When I became your prime minister, the United Kingdom had just voted to leave the European Union.

"From my first day in the job, I knew I had a clear mission before me - a duty to fulfil on your behalf: to honour the result of the referendum and secure a brighter future for our country by negotiating a good Brexit deal with the EU.

"Throughout the long and complex negotiations that have taken place over the last year and a half, I have never lost sight of that duty.

"Today, I am in Brussels with the firm intention of agreeing a Brexit deal with the leaders of the other 27 EU nations.

"It will be a deal that is in our national interest - one that works for our whole country and all of our people, whether you voted 'Leave' or 'Remain'.

"It will honour the result of the referendum.

"We will take back control of our borders, by putting an end to the free movement of people once and for all.

"Instead of an immigration system based on where a person comes from, we will build one based on the skills and talents a person has to offer.

"We will take back control of our money, by putting an end to vast annual payments to the EU.

"Instead, we will be able to spend British taxpayers' money on our own priorities, like the extra £394 million per week that we are investing in our long-term plan for the NHS.

"And we will take back control of our laws, by ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK.

"In future, our laws will be made, interpreted and enforced by our own courts and legislatures.

"We will be out of EU programmes that do not work in our interests: out of the Common Agricultural Policy that has failed our farmers, and out of the Common Fisheries Policy that has failed our coastal communities.

"Instead, we will be able to design a system of agricultural support that works for us, and we will be an independent coastal state once again, with full control over our waters.

"The deal also protects the things we value.

"EU citizens who have built their lives in the United Kingdom will have their rights protected, as will UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU.

"A free trade area will allow goods to flow easily across our borders, protecting the many skilled jobs right across the country that rely on integrated supply-chains.

"Because our European friends will always be our allies in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, the deal will ensure that security co-operation will continue, so we can keep our people safe.

"As prime minister of the United Kingdom, I have from day one been determined to deliver a Brexit deal that works for every part of our country - for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, for our Overseas Territories like Gibraltar, and also for the Crown Dependencies.

"This deal will do that.

"Crucially, it will protect the integrity of our United Kingdom and ensure that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland - so people can live their lives as they do now.

"It is a deal for a brighter future, which enables us to seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

"Outside the EU, we will be able to sign new trade deals with other countries and open up new markets in the fastest-growing economies around the world.

"With Brexit settled, we will be able to focus our energies on the many other important issues facing us here at home: keeping our economy strong, and making sure every community shares in prosperity; securing our NHS for the future, giving every child a great start in life, and building the homes that families need; tackling the burning injustices that hold too many people back, and building a country for the future that truly works for everyone.

"On 29 March next year, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.

"We will then begin a new chapter in our national life. I want that to be a moment of renewal and reconciliation for our whole country.

"It must mark the point when we put aside the labels of 'Leave' and 'Remain' for good and we come together again as one people.

"To do that, we need to get on with Brexit now by getting behind this deal.

"Parliament will have the chance to do that in a few weeks' time when it has a meaningful vote on the deal I hope to strike today.

"I will be campaigning with my heart and soul to win that vote and to deliver this Brexit deal, for the good of our United Kingdom and all of our people."

As readers of this insight series know, we have been focusing business on preparing for a no-deal cliff-edge Brexit on 29 March – and any such contingency planning will not be wasted in any event as it may be needed at short notice at any time later.  Now seems a good moment to repeat our mantra that prudent organisations need to “plan for the worst, and hope for the best”.  A no-deal Brexit represents a commercial advantage for those who are prepared – survey after industry survey is demonstrating that there is every chance that your competitors will be caught out with less than one-third of businesses declaring a credible Brexit program.

Will there be an alternative deal?

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, advised UK MPs to vote for the deal on the table, suggesting that a “no” vote could damage negotiations on the future relationship…Now it is time for everybody to take their responsibilities.”

European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “I would vote in favour of this deal because this is the best deal possible for Britain…I’m sad because watching the UK leaving the EU is not a moment for jubilation but a moment of deep sadness and we make everything possible in order to have this divorce being as smooth as possible. but there are no smooth divorces.

“This is the deal, it’s the best deal possible and the EU will not change its fundamental position when it comes to this issue so I do think the British parliament – because this is a wise parliament – will ratify this deal.”

French President, Emmanuel Macron described it as “not a day to celebrate.”

Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, warned MPs that no better deal was on offer from the EU, urging them to back the agreements that Theresa May was bringing back to parliament.  “If I would live in the UK I would say yes to this, I would say that this is very much acceptable to the United Kingdom…you know I hate [Brexit] but it is a given.  No one is a victor here today, nobody is winning, we are all losing.”

Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, had threatened to withhold support unless Britain conceded that the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, over which the Spanish have a long-running territorial claim, would be covered by a future trade deal only with Madrid’s consent.  British Ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, had given that commitment in a letter on Saturday afternoon - prompting outrage across the political spectrum by what was described as a “betrayal” of the Rock.

Lithuania’s President, Dalia Grybauskaitė, said:  “There is nothing good for any side because it is withdrawal from the European Union.”

The European Parliament of 785 MEPs now has to give its consent to the deal by simple majority (including the UK MEPs) in a vote expected in January.  According to its President, Antonio Tajai: “We will vote for the agreement, there is a majority in favour”, he said. “This is a message to our friends in the British parliament: this is a good agreement for both.”

In our next insight, we will look at the options and very real obstacles to some of those options that appear to have been ignored by their proponents.

 
John ShuttleworthComment