Statement on Boris Johnson’s Deal

Lots of constituents have been in touch to ask my view on Boris Johnson’s new Withdrawal Agreement. I’ll be voting against it, and encouraging my colleagues to do the same.

I continue to believe that leaving the EU is an historic mistake, and that the people should have a chance to reconsider the decision in a confirmatory vote. And in any future vote I’ll campaign to remain.  But if a deal goes before the people, it needs to be one that is credible, and if we are to leave the EU, we need to do everything we can to maintain a close economic relationship.

The Prime Minister had the chance to try and negotiate a deal that would be better for our economy than May’s flawed deal. But the only significant changes are on customs, tariffs, rights and protections (level playing field provisions) – and in every area, this a worse deal than the May deal.

In the new protocol, the Northern Ireland backstop is gone, and has been replaced by new permanent arrangements. The agreement says Northern Ireland is in the UK Customs Territory, but in reality it isn’t. Effectively Northern Ireland is in the EU Customs regime. Goods coming into NI from Britain or Ireland would be subject to EU customs, unless it can be proved they’re not going to leave NI or enter the supply chain as a manufacturing component.

There would be no checks on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but effectively a border between Great Britain and the Island of Ireland would be created, with checks at all points of entry.

It’s just what Boris Johnson said was completely unacceptable just a few months ago.

It’s in the attached political declaration that the changes are if anything even more worrying

May’s proposed “close economic relationship with EU” is gone.

There is no mention of maintaining comparable employment rights, environmental standards or product regulation. There is also no wording even offering the discretion to do this, which the Theresa May deal had. The so-called ‘level playing field’ is therefore gone, and it’s clear the direction of travel is towards a distant relationship from our closest and biggest market.

It’s a bad deal for manufacturing, with rules of origin details now being required and substantial regulatory checks at borders. Just in time supply chains would be severely disrupted.

On services it’s the same as the old deal, i.e. not very much at all.

On security and law and order cooperation it’s also much the same – with no detail, just a wish list for the future

This deal would allow the Conservative Party to pursue an agenda of moving the UK economy from a Western European model to one closer to the United States – deregulation, low corporate taxes, fewer public services and employment rights. That is why they cannot agree to broadly maintain European standards, as it would prevent a UK-US trade deal.

Some people are saying we should support this deal in order to “get Brexit done and move on”. But this would only be the end of the beginning…

This is an exit agreement, which if it were passed, would mean we enter a transition period until the end of 2020. We’d be into a period of negotiating the future trade deal with the EU based on the Political Declaration. Trade deals usually take years to agree, and it’s clear that some Tory Brexiteers want to get to 2020 and then crash out with no deal, if a trade deal isn’t concluded by then. That’s a risk we can’t afford to take.

So this is a deal that cuts protections for the environment and workers rights.  It’s a deal that sells out our economy, our manufacturing base and jobs, and paves the way for deregulation and a sell off of public services. It’s a danger to our economy, and to the union of Great Britain.

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