Today, Barry sent out his fifth Brexit letter to all constituents who have contacted him regarding the issue. Below you can read this letter:
Brexit Update from Parliament
I am once again writing to update you on recent Brexit events.
For many of you this will be the fifth Brexit letter you have received from me in the past two years. As before, I will avoid going over old ground.
Since my previous letter we have seen
- A change of Prime Minister,
- The publication of Yellowhammer papers showing the potential damage of a No Deal Brexit to the UK,
- The expulsion of 21 MPs from the Conservative Party,
- An attempt to illegally prorogue Parliament,
- The decision of the Supreme Court,
- The Benn Act,
- The conclusion in principle of a different agreement with the EU,
- The Queen’s Speech,
- Nine consecutive defeats for the Government,
- The Prime Minister sending the letter to the EU to ask for an extension,
- The introduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill
- Its successful passing through 2nd reading,
- The defeat of the Government’s timetable which sought to curtail scrutiny and amendments.
At each stage I have begun to draft a further update to you, only to find that events have moved on so swiftly as to render the information out of date!
In these updates, I have tried to write with as little party-political bias as possible. The language of some politicians and the division in our country has upset me greatly. As you know, I voted and campaigned to remain but I believe that if we are to leave, it should be with a deal that protects jobs, environmental and social standards, and above all the peace process in Northern Ireland. That is why I have done all that I can to prevent a No Deal exit.
I shall try to set out the major elements of the agreement that the Prime Minister has negotiated and what I consider to be the problems with it.
Other than in the relation to Northern Ireland, the Johnson agreement makes no changes at all to the Withdrawal Agreement which was rejected by all sides in the House of Commons three times. This means that the UK still pays the ‘Divorce Bill’ of £39 billion and citizens’ rights and the transitional arrangements are unaffected.
However, the changes to the Irish Protocol are significant and I believe worse.
The Johnson agreement creates a separate customs area for Northern Ireland (the so called border down the Irish Sea) and leads to higher costs both here and there. It also means that if the UK does diverge from the EU in its rules and standards over time, it will be more difficult for Northern Ireland to remain a fully integrated part of the UK without introducing a hard border between itself and the Republic. This would be contrary to the Good Friday Peace Agreement. I will not risk that.
The Johnson plan also removes the safety net of trusted rules and laws that have protected us in the past (against the wishes of the Trade Unions and environmental organisations). It explicitly rejects any possibility of negotiating a new customs union with the EU (against the wishes of our businesses and trade unions). It prevents a close future relationship with the Single Market and increases barriers to trade with the EU opening up the danger of a Trump style trade deal with America that could damage our National Health Service. (Please find a link to my speech on the danger to our NHS here: https://www.barrygardiner.com/recent-news/2019/10/24/barry-closes-for-labour-during-the-queens-speech-debate-on-the-nhs/ and to a recent Dispatches Programme about the secret meetings the government has held on these matters here: https://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/on-demand/70263-001.)
The proposed Bill in a little more detail
The proposed Bill has no clauses on workers’ rights and this paves the way for deregulation of existing protections. Ministers could either cut existing EU derived rights (Schedule 5A(1)(b)) or decide not to keep pace with evolving standards (Schedule 5A(3)(bii)). The Bill does not even provide a way of allowing Parliament to oppose such deregulation.
Clause 30 of the Bill and the Withdrawal Agreement provides a pathway for the UK to fall onto hard Brexit WTO terms with the EU at the end of the transition period in December 2020. Ironically this is why some Conservative MPs have said they support Johnson’s deal.
The idea of Parliament having greater oversight over the negotiations of the future partnership was subverted in this Bill to empower the Government rather than parliament. Rather than implementing the Snell/Nandy amendment (which called for Parliament to be able to “set the negotiating mandate for the future relationship”), Clause 31(3) reduces Parliament to observer status and bakes in the terms of the Political Declaration.
In Brief Summary
The Johnson Bill:
- Explicitly rules out a customs union – endangering peace in Northern Ireland.
- Clears the way for UK/US trade deals – endangering our National Health Service.
- Removes the objective of close EU alignment, increasing barriers for UK companies
- Weakens basic protections for workplace, consumer rights and protections.
All of this has major consequences for our country and for us here in Brent North. And even though the government secured enough votes to let its proposals move forward in parliament they tried to rush it through parliament without giving us the time to read the small print. When MPs demanded more time the Government decided not to proceed with it and brought back the Queen’s Speech Debate.
At the beginning of this letter I remarked on how quickly events keep moving. Since I started drafting this letter to you, parliament has voted for a General Election on December 12th. Labour will be the only party that goes into that election committed to giving YOU the final say on Brexit. The Tories will support the Johnson deal outlined above. The Lib Dems say that even if a second referendum voted to leave they would ignore it and revoke Article 50. Labour believes the public should have the choice between a credible Leave deal that would protect jobs and peace in Ireland, and the option to remain in the EU.
That is the bottom line on Brexit: Only Labour will give YOU the final say.
I will continue to work in the best interests of our community here in Brent North and our country as a whole.
Member of Parliament for Brent North