Sam Gyimah MP writes: Why it would be a fatal error for Parliament to pass Boris Johnson’s Deal in three days

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.

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11 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Oct '19 - 3:56pm

    Give the people the final say.

  • And inform the people!

  • Paul Barker 22nd Oct '19 - 7:54pm

    I think this means that there will be no Election this Year, the schedule was already pretty tight & now further discussion of The WAB is “Paused” till The 27 respond to the Extension request.
    Thats a huge relief to me at least, we are not yet ready.

  • It’s difficult for me to understand, why after more than three years of waiting, few weeks more to scrutinize the deal properly would be an issue? Unless the very reason of the haste is to prevent the scrutiny.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Oct '19 - 11:21pm

    The timetable motion was defeated, as per Layla’s tweet, forwarded by BBC tv.
    Boris now consulting the EU27 Heads Of Government.

  • I am angry that so many MPs could vote for Boris’ deal in principle, but pleased a majority voted to try to give time for proper scrutiny. Whatever happens, are we and other remainers able to spell out in understandable ways the consequences of the deal to the general public ? Will they believe us ?
    While I am convinced we should try to spell out the reasons why remain is the best and simplest solution (and hence call for a people’s vote), how practical is that now ? The mood in the country seems to be to get it over with by crashing out. So many people no longer trust MPs to make the decisions, yet they cannot get their heads round the complications of leaving with a good deal, so even in a referendum they may well be split yet again between the two ‘simple’ solutions of remain or crash out without a deal.

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Oct '19 - 8:10am

    @Patrick
    “It’s difficult for me to understand, why after more than three years of waiting, few weeks more to scrutinize the deal properly would be an issue? Unless the very reason of the haste is to prevent the scrutiny.”

    Exactly! Bojo was trying to prevent MPs from doing their jobs properly by scrutinising this bill properly. Which is why passing the 2nd reading vote wasn’t a big deal – because the next stage would (if Bojo hadn’t pressed the pause button) have been proper scrutiny.

  • David Allen 23rd Oct '19 - 1:30pm

    “I don’t believe ‘Johnson’s rush’ had any purpose other than ‘SELF.’”

    I think we’re being a bit gullible here. Why did Johnson spend all summer running down the clock, only to discover the Irish Sea Border option during a stroll with Varadkar a couple of weeks ago? Why, because he had planned it that way for months, of course. Every time Johnson lied about expecting a last-minute concession from the EU, he must have been chuckling to himself about his cunning plan to make the last-minute “concession” himself.

    And what did these panic tactics achieve? Well, they annoyed the EU side, who had to race around to get a watertight text that protected their interests. They didn’t make any concessions, and they probably didn’t fret too much about the mess that it left the UK in. So the panic didn’t affect the negotiation with the EU. It wasn’t designed to. It was designed to bounce the UK Parliament.

    “Die in a ditch” and “Octber 31st” were heavily trailed in advance. There was a reason. Johnson knew that his deal would be full of holes and hidden traps. Johnson knew that if enough of the traps were discovered early enough, his deal would be rejected. So, panic mode was designed to gain approval before the problems came to light.

    Sam Gyimah describes some of the problems very clearly. I doubt whether most MPs have been following. No Deal will still be on the table if this “Deal” is approved. Indeed, it is a likely outcome. Triumphant Brexiters, if returned to power, will set about aggressively offering free trade deals to accept US chlorinated chicken and the like. The EU, shot of us at last, and finally able to speak their minds, will hit back hard. It will get much worse – If we cannot force changes now.

  • Bernard Aris 23rd Oct '19 - 3:52pm

    Dear Mr. Gyimah,

    As the D66 parliamentarian Brexit Watcher, I was very much impressed with your performance on BBC Newsnight the other night, putting your rational, calm performance against the excitability of most Brexit supporters, and coolly analysing , disecting what the Brexiteers say and purport, which often flummoxes them.

    The LibDems being the rational, truly pragmatic and principled (internationalist) voice in the whole Referendum & Brexit debate, you truly have found your political home; and we LibDems can be extremely proud of having welcomed such a powerful representative of that attitude and role.

  • @David Allen – I think we’re being a bit gullible here.
    I agree, my reading of Boris’s threats to give up on Brexit before yesterdays Parliamentary session, was more to get the Brexiteers in a row and hence deliver an outcome in yesterdays vote he was wanting…

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