The Government’s own analysis of Theresa May’s Brexit deal found it would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, so no wonder Boris Johnson is refusing to publish an assessment of his own harder deal, writes Ian Murray MP.
There is always an air of excitement when Sky Sports has a Super Saturday of football. Last weekend we had our own in parliament. Unfortunately, it turned out to be less Super Saturday and more of a dull no score draw with a replay on Tuesday night.
The Prime Minister was determined to get his new Brexit agreement through parliament in Meaningful Vote 4. An amendment from former Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin deferred the decision until the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) becomes law. Many hardcore Tory Brexiteers had signalled that the deal could be used to deliver a no deal, so the Letwin amendment passed with a big margin. Nobody trusts this Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson’s response was to try and have the very same vote again, but on the next parliamentary sitting day. Mr Speaker invoked the well-used convention from 1604 that says a Government can’t seek the view of parliament on the same question in the same session unless there is a material change of circumstances. It’s interesting that the Prime Minister keeps testing the will of parliament on the same issue but refuses to allow the public a final say with a People’s Vote.
Johnson responded by introducing the WAB to parliament and tried to railroad it through in just three days. To put this in context, the EU Maastricht Treaty debate went on for 23 days and the Scotland Act 2016 had nine full days. It was truly desperate.
To make matter worse, Johnson and his Government refused to publish an economic impact assessment. They won’t tell us the price they are putting on my constituents’ jobs and livelihoods. I think we all know why.
Toys out the pram
The only guide we have is that this deal is a harder Brexit than Theresa May’s and that proposal, according to the Government, would have taken anything from 2-9 per cent from GDP and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Parliament is doing its job by holding the Government to account. Although I voted against the WAB it passed to Second Reading. That means that the principle of the Bill can go forward, but many MPs would look to amend it at the next committee stage. I co-sponsored many amendments from trying to prevent a no deal at the end of the transition period to the Labour Party policy of a public vote on the deal with the option to remain.
It was the first vote Johnson has won since he became Prime Minister. That didn’t last long though as parliament refused to allow the short timetabling motion. It resulted in the Prime Minister throwing his toys out of the Downing Street pram again as he decided to pause the Bill pending discussion about what he would do next.
His mantra is “get Brexit done” – that seems contradictory to pausing the Bill. He should have conceded in allowing parliament more time and moved forward on that basis. It may have required a short Brexit extension of a mere few weeks from the EU.
What happens next is unknown but Johnson has taken us into a cul-de-sac of options. It feels as though a hungry brown bear is charging towards us and all we have to defend ourselves with is a pea shooter with one pea left.
It is disappointing that – in the week where I’ve been leading the People’s Vote campaign in Scotland, and working around the clock to maintain the cross-party coalition that’s defeating Johnson’s disastrous Brexit – Unite the union decided to make me the only sitting Labour MP in the UK who they want to deselect.
My priority has always been the 80,000 people from Edinburgh South regardless of who they vote for, or if they even vote at all. They are my boss and they decide if I stay as their MP, not Unite.
I’ve always been independently minded in order for me to be able to represent my wonderful constituency.
Unite would do well to refocus their priorities on saving their own members’ jobs rather than trying to get rid of mine and those of my superb local team.
They won’t win and I’m grateful to all the other trades unions who support me locally.
Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South.