Boris Johnson is wrong to try to push through such major legislation as his Brexit deal without proper scrutiny, writes Richard Leonard.
The Prime Minister returned from Brussels with a deal in his hand – and thought he could bully Members of Parliament into simply accepting it. He soon found out that Labour MPs and others will continue to stand up against privileged bullies to protect their constituents’ living standards.
No matter how much the Prime Minister stamps his feet, Labour will simply not allow Boris Johnson to make our country poorer. Not only would this go against everything our party stands for, it is the complete opposite of what the public were promised by charlatans like Johnson in the referendum that created this crisis in the first place.
For all of the bluster and briefings, Parliament remains in deadlock. Boris Johnson’s announcement that he will seek an immediate general election is just his latest ruse to force through
Brexit without proper time for scrutiny. We are confident we can defeat his shambolic Government and his catastrophic Brexit plan.
If you are in any doubt over just how bad the deal is, the Prime Minister, who negotiated it, is too afraid to tell the public the damage it will do to their livelihoods. Despite repeated requests from MPs, the Government is refusing to conduct an assessment on what impact this deal will have on the economy. One aspect that we know about is Johnson’s Northern Ireland Protocol, which will increase barriers to trade for business in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, even relative to Theresa May’s deal. The Government’s own assessment of this will lead to “additional administrative costs” estimated at around £15 to £56 per customs declaration.
So, how could any MP be seriously asked to vote through such generation-defining legislation in such a shambolic fashion? No responsible government would seriously ask MPs to pass legislation in the manner that this unelected Prime Minister is.
Our country’s politics has been in a state of paralysis since the EU referendum.
Issues that really impact on ordinary people’s lives have been left out of the media spotlight to be instead replaced with updates on the daily chaos created by the Tories in Downing Street.
Over the last few months, I have held a range of listening events across Scotland. The format is a simple one. We bring community campaigns, faith groups, charities and politicians together in the one room. Instead of me giving speeches, I go round the room and listen to what people have to say about the impact of government policy on their lives.
This is what politicians should do: listen to the people, not preach to them.
That is why, with the Tory Government having failed to break the deadlock, it is time to let the people decide. It should not be for Boris Johnson, or any other politician, to tell the public what their future is. There have been calls for an immediate public vote between Johnson’s deal and remaining in the EU.
Remove threat of no-deal
Scottish Labour supports staying in the EU and redressing the power imbalance between Brussels and Scotland’s communities, just as we support staying in the UK and redressing the power imbalances between Westminster and Scotland’s communities. But with the current arithmetic at Westminster, it looks unlikely that a referendum would be approved at this stage.
We support moving to a general election – once the threat of no deal has been removed – because it is this Tory government which created the mess we are in, and we cannot get out of it without a Labour government. We could then organise a referendum where the people are given a clear choice between Remain and a credible Leave option.
Our future must be shaped by the people of this country – not by an unelected Prime Minister.
The promises made to the people by Johnson, Gove and Farage have proven to be not worth the bus they were written on. They told the country they would deliver more resources for the NHS, cheaper food bills and a Brexit deal that would keep us in the single market.
Better off in EU
In reality, the social care crisis in our NHS has deepened, their ineptitude has weakened our currency, which has increased shopping bills, and we are set to leave the single market.
Johnson knows this, and that is why he is refusing to publish impact assessments on his deal. He is trying to force a blind Brexit on the British people, which will hurt communities across the country for generations to come.
It is difficult to envisage a Brexit deal which won’t leave our country worse off than we would be remaining as a full member of the EU. Remaining in the EU will protect peace in Northern Ireland, secure the flow of goods and services across the Channel, and protect the rights of EU citizens who have chosen to make the UK their home. It brings certainty after years of chaos caused by the Tories.
Any deal to leave the EU must be put back to the people, and the people should have the option to vote Remain in such a referendum. If the Tories believe their deal is good enough for our country, they should have the confidence to trust the people who will be impacted by it most.
Members of Parliament have been repeatedly asked to vote for legislation which will fundamentally change our country for generations to come with no time to properly scrutinise it.
We do not need more days and months of protracted debate inside Parliament and inside the courts. The simple solution to this political crisis is to return to the country.