In the almost 10 years I have been an MP, I have never seen the timetable for debating a Bill become such an issue.
But, it’s not just because it’s to do with Brexit.
Let’s be clear…the Deal we are debating is a constitutional treaty between the UK and the EU and its 27 member states that will set the foundations for our lives for decades to come. It is not like any deal that most people have been familiar with or negotiated in their time.
There are actually two deals here – two Brexits being negotiated. We have the deal for Northern Ireland, which is soft-Brexit, and the deal for the rest of the UK which is clearly a hard-Brexit.
So, we are being asked to analyse each deal on their own, how they interact together and how they link us with the EU in three days?
It shouldn’t be acceptable for the Government to give us this little time to properly scrutinise their plans. Nikki Di Costa, an expert on Parliamentary procedure and close advisor to Boris Johnson, said only a few months ago that four weeks isn’t enough time to debate Theresa May’s deal, so 72 hours is absolutely shocking and an affront to our democracy.
To put this in perspective, we will have spent longer discussing the Wild Animals in Circuses Act, something which affected 19 animals at the time of debate, than debating the future of our country.
A line often used by Brexiteers is that we have had three years to debate this. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
This is the first time we have seen the actual wording of the deal. What we have been debating up until now are the different ways we could leave the EU, but the Deal we have been presented with this week is the first time we have seen the actual plan and the legal consequences that flow from that and it needs proper scrutiny.
The Government is trying to weaponise the emotional aspect of this debate by saying ‘Get It Done’. But we have to get real and understand what this Deal will mean in the months ahead.
Boris Johnson will be able to go for No Deal in December 2020 and Parliament will not be able to stop it – all he has to do is fail to present any Free Trade Deal to Parliament and we will simply crash out.
Simply put – rather than getting Brexit done, we would have only moved the cliff-edge from October 31st to Christmas next year.
It’s actually worse than this.
People say that all we need to do is to get out and then we can focus on the future – but the new EU Commission does not come in to office until December, so new negotiations cannot begin until Spring 2020 and, by July 2020, we will have to decide whether or not we can land a Free Trade Agreement in the remaining 6 months of the year or have to extend the transition period.
Everyone knows that negotiating a Free Trade Agreement in less than a year is ridiculous. So, as with everything with Brexit so far, the Prime Mister will capitulate and push for an extension in July and this will come with an extra cost of 10bn Euros. So all that extra money for the NHS will be needed to pay the EU.
This will be toxic and will be the case because Boris Johnson, once again, failed to be straight with the British public.
The major argument Brexiteers give for Brexit is about taking back control and to make Parliament sovereign – but instead they are trying to by-pass any scrutiny the House of Commons can place on Boris’ deal. We are doing our job and it is therefore wrong to say voting against this deal is a vote to block Brexit.
We need realism injected into the debate – passing this Deal will not heal the division we see in our society.
Only giving the people the final say can do this.
* Sam Gyimah is the MP for East Surrey. He has held a number of Government positions culminating in a term as Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation. Sam defected from the Conservative party to the Liberal Democrats in September 2019, when he was welcomed on stage in Bournemouth by Jo Swinson.