Rosie's Brexit Diary
12 December 2018
Theresa May Remains
Today Theresa May survived a vote of no confidence. What’s that?
Theresa May is the leader of the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party has the most MPs and so she is Prime Minister.
When enough Conservative MPs write a letter to complain about her, a vote of No Confidence is held by the party. It is a secret ballot. Before the vote Theresa May went before her MPs and told them with tears how she was doing her best and would bring the nation together. Her emotional manipulation seems to have convinced a fair few people, both MPs and members of the public.
Total Conservative MPs 330
Votes for Theresa May 200
Votes against 117
Of the 200 who voted for Theresa May to remain, 139 are ministers and junior ministers - with extra pay. Prime Ministers also promote their supporters into the House of Lords. The strongest supporters of the EU find that their political careers continue in Brussels where they have very high salaries, many perks, and an extra-low tax rate. EU supporters also get air time on the BBC and other media outlets.
Find out how they voted here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/12/13/tory-mps-backed-may-no-confidence-ballot-split-remainers-brexiteers/
A minimum of 12 months must go by before another such No Confidence vote may be held.
‘Withdrawal Agreement’ - quick recap
This is the long document which Theresa May is trying to get through Parliament. It would put Britain under the control of the EU in all important areas of laws, trade, our natural assets and army and borders, and probably the police as well at some stage in the future. The agreement is long and deliberately obscure.
Remainers hate it because it is not the same as remaining within the EU (Britain gets no vote and no say over EU policies).
Leavers hate it because Britain is even less free and sovereign than before.
Theresa May is trying to tell EU supporters that the Withdrawal Agreement gives them Remain.
She is trying to tell Leavers that the WA does mean leaving.
She is trying to tell the whole nation that it is just too difficult to Leave, it can’t be done, and to bore the nation into acceptance- a strategy, to judge from opinion polls, that is working (polls suggest that 40% of the population support the ‘deal’)
So - to some detail.
Bill Cash (MP for Stone) explains here why he voted against Theresa May
The article paraphrased by Rosie:
1 Theresa May has broken her promises
At Lancaster House in January she said “we will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws”. Under the Withdrawal Agreement, European laws will be imposed on us by the other 27 Member States - and Britain would not be consulted nor given even given information about who said. Rulings of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) will still apply. We will not fully repeal the European Communities Act 1972 (which took Britain into the EU) - despite being in direct contradiction to the Withdrawal Act 2018 (which is an Act that set the leave date at 29 March 2019.) An Act of Parliament is of a higher legal status than a treaty (the Withdrawal Agreement is a treaty) but the supporters of the Agreement continue regardless of Britain’s constitutional law.
2 Theresa May has abandoned the Conservative Party election manifesto of 2017
All Conservative MPs stood on a clear manifesto of leaving the European Union in accordance with the 2016 referendum result. This includes leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market. Mrs May’s deal fails to free us of EU trading rules and would keep us in a permanent Customs Union. It would create great uncertainty for British business and stop us making trade deals across the world.
3 Theresa May has bypassed Cabinet. She did not follow the rules and did not inform them of her plans.
4 Theresa May would split Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom despite having pledged to protect “our precious union”.
5 Theresa May has not published the full legal advice and many fundamental legal questions remain unanswered and unresolved.
6 Theresa May has undermined the referendum result by seeking compromise and by capitulation has contradicted the clear will of the electorate to leave and govern themselves.
Note that the USA and the EU itself (via Donald Tusk) have offered Theresa May a proper free trade agreement - and many other countries had been hoping to do the same. Britain does not in fact need any trade agreements as most global trade takes place under the WTO arrangements. Former MP Peter Lilley helped to establish both the WTO arrangements and the Single Market - so he should understand them both - and he tells us that for Britain to switch to WTO would be “cashing in” not “crashing out” and the transition would be no more of a problem than the Millennium Bug. Tariffs (a type of tax) would be much lower under WTO than the EU and the cost of basics such as food, clothing and shoes would fall substantially.
Owen Paterson (MP for North Shropshire) has published his letter of no confidence in full
Dear Sir Graham,
I write to inform you that I no longer have confidence in the Prime Minister. It would be a travesty if the democratic verdict of the 2016 referendum – the largest in British history – were not delivered, yet the Prime Minister’s proposed “deal” is so bad that it cannot be considered anything other than a betrayal of clear manifesto promises.
These broken promises typify more than two years of poor Government decision-making. It was a mistake not to begin intense preparations for leaving on WTO terms the moment the result was delivered, approaching the negotiations with a stronger hand, positioned to walk away without a deal and consequently much more likely to secure a good one.
It was a mistake for our EU negotiations to be led by a career civil servant with no business experience when the Government had on hand a vastly experienced international trade negotiator, Crawford Falconer.
It was a mistake to create a new Brexit Department only to keep two secretaries of state so in the dark that they had to resign over a policy one would have thought they were overseeing. Trying to bounce Cabinet ministers into supporting her White Paper on the Future Relationship before they had a chance to consider it fully – as the Prime Minister did at Chequers – is simply an intolerable way for a Prime Minister to govern.
It was a mistake to treat Brexit miserably as a problem to be solved rather than an exciting opportunity to be grasped. The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy. We are a key NATO member, a permanent UN Security Council member, a Commonwealth realm, a nuclear power.
We are the source of the English language, the common law and occupy the ideal time-zone for global trade. Yet from the outset we have approached these negotiations as a feeble and unworthy supplicant. As Falconer said, future historians will ask in exasperation: “Why were we so negative about our future?”
These mistakes have eroded trust in the Government, to the point where I and many others can no longer take the Prime Minister at her word. Almost two dozen times, she has ruled out membership of the Customs Union, yet the Withdrawal Agreement’s “single customs territory” sees us locked into it in all but name.
She has repeatedly said “no deal is better than a bad deal”, but it is clear her objective was to secure a deal at any cost.
The backstop would see the whole UK remain in a customs union with the EU, with Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and Single Market. This could see new internal UK borders in breach of the Belfast Agreement’s Principle of Consent and the requirement to consult the Northern Ireland Assembly.
It breaches the Acts of Union 1800. The UK would not have the unilateral right to end the arrangement. We could be locked into it indefinitely as a permanent rule-taker while paying £39 billion for the privilege.
European customs experts regard the Withdrawal Agreement’s customs arrangements as woefully out of date, proposing physical stamps and paper systems not used for nearly 20 years. They are so vague that it would be impossible to put them into practice.
Eleventh-hour “reassurances” on this issue are mere warm words if the legal text is unchanged. In any case, there is much more besides the backstop making the Withdrawal Agreement unacceptable.
No amount of tinkering will yield a majority in Parliament for this deal. The Government needs to consider more boldly the possible alternatives which might command that support. President Tusk offered just such an alternative in March: a wide-ranging, zero-tariff free trade agreement.
That deal foundered on the question of the Northern Ireland border, but existing techniques and processes can resolve this. From my October meeting with Michel Barnier, I know that a willingness exists on the EU side to explore these possibilities more fully. The meeting also confirmed that Tusk’s offer is still on the table.
Throughout this process, I have sought to support the Government. The conclusion is now inescapable that the Prime Minister is the blockage to the wide-ranging free trade agreement offered by Tusk which would be in the best interests of the country and command the support of Parliament.
I, therefore, have no confidence in Theresa May as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party and ask that you hold a vote of no confidence.