Prorogation is a sideshow – the withdrawal agreement is the real democratic threat

Remainers are in full cry against the government’s decision to prorogue parliament. Their accusation of it being an “undemocratic” move is wrong and, frankly, besides the point. Their fear that the prime minister is using the prorogation as a means to achieve a no-deal Brexit is also wrong. Here’s why.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly stated that he wants a deal with the EU. He wrote a beseeching letter to the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, on 19 August making it clear that, if the Irish/Northern Irish backstop were to be removed, the UK would be able to achieve a deal. 

The backstop is a construct of the withdrawal agreement. To stress the point, it does not exist in isolation. By implication, he was making it clear that without it he would be content with the rest of that reckless agreement organised by his predecessor in Number 10, Theresa May. 

Moreover, there is simply not enough time before 31 October for a new agreement to be negotiated. The only deal on the table is one that already exists. And, finally, if he were wishing to force through a no-deal Brexit he would have sought a prorogation which neutered parliament until and beyond the critical date of 31 October – he did not. 

The prime minister’s aim is quite different. He wishes to put maximum pressure on the EU to remove the backstop, and then to use the short window of time between 14 October, when parliament will reconvene, and 31 October to bounce parliament into approving the withdrawal agreement, using the threat of no deal in order to prevail. 

The agreement is the equivalent of politically and economically surrendering the UK to the EU. There are too many to be able to list in this short piece, but some examples are particularly worrying.

The deal would lock the UK into abiding by EU regulations on state aid, VAT, employment law, and other tax matters. It would require the UK to open its territorial waters to the EU for fishing. It would require the UK’s financial services sector to maintain equivalence with the EU, without being able to influence the legislation produced by the EU. And, perhaps the most alarming threat: it would effectively empower the European court of justice to be the supreme authority in determining any legal disputes arising from the agreement. 

None of the above makes any account of the huge sums of money we would be handing over and the value of assets we would be leaving behind. By my estimation, this is well north of €50bn.

Moreover, once signed, there is no get-out clause from the withdrawal agreement. It would be governed by international convention on treaties, making it virtually impossible for the UK to ever terminate it unilaterally. The UK would be subjugated to the EU in perpetuity.  

The anti-Brexit lobby wishes to remain in the EU, but I do not imagine for a moment that they would wish the UK to sign up to the deal on the table. So, with all of the above in consideration, remainers and Brexiteers must unite and stand resolutely against Boris Johnson’s government if it seeks to sell the UK down the drain by signing us up to the withdrawal agreement.

Written by Ben Habib

Ben Habib is a Brexit party MEP for the London region.
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