A Brexiteer’s Look At The Arithmetic of May’s Deal

As an ardent supporter of Brexit, it is important to me that this country leaves the European Union. However, I am not naïve. I recognize the need for a deal with the EU in order to provide the much-needed stability that businesses require to invest and flourish in the UK. The Prime Minister has proposed her deal, which has since been accepted by the European Commission and agreed upon by all 27 member states. The main obstacle to the deal now is Parliament. As a Conservative activist, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the parliamentary arithmetic and likely outcomes of Brexit.

Labour have openly admitted that they will vote down any deal that the Government proposes. This is expedient for Corbyn because he knows that failure to agree upon a deal is likely to end in a General Election. Similarly, the SNP will vote against the deal. The Liberal Democrats are also ideologically opposed to Brexit and therefore will unanimously vote against the deal.

The DUP support Brexit but will vote down any deal that treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK. They are currently politically abstaining so it is unlikely that the Conservatives can rely on their support of the deal. It should be noted that during the EU Withdrawal Bill debate, Jacob Rees-Mogg secured an amendment which makes it illegal to have a border in the Irish Sea. This eliminates the Canada+++ suggestion proposed by the EU. Then we must factor in Conservative Remainers, of which there are around 10. The Government, therefore, has an exceptionally narrow majority in the Commons, before we consider any Brexiteer Conservative MPs voting against the deal because it is not ‘hard’ enough. Considering this, it is likely that the Commons will reject the initial deal.

I have had many people ask me “why not just wait for a no-deal by default?” Not only do I believe that a no-deal would be incredibly damaging to our country, but I can also say with a high degree of certainty that a default no-deal scenario will not occur. Parliament has the right to debate any circumstances of our exit and as the numbers outlined before suggest, no-deal has no chance of passing through the House of Commons. Labour is currently tabling a proposition which makes it illegal to leave the Customs Union without a deal and when we consider the fact that all of the Opposition and the DUP are opposed to a no-deal, this motion will pass before we begin to consider the votes of rebel Conservatives. Without a deal, it looks likely that the March 29thexit day would be amended and pushed back by the pro-Remain majority in Parliament.

If the deal is voted down, the Government then has a 21 day period in which to re-negotiate and rectify the terms to satisfy the desires of the House of Commons. The anti-Brexit majority in Parliament will necessitate the ‘softening’ the deal in order get the Bill passed. The second deal would likely include a definitive end date to the backstop arrangement, currently a major point of contention. It seems increasingly probable that the second deal, proposed after amendments, will pass through the Commons.  The fact that the majority of Conservative MPs support Brexit means that we may see increased Conservative unity as more MPs recognise that this deal doesn’t represent an immediate Brexit but does represent a definitive end to our membership of the European Union.

If both deals are rejected, I believe that Labour will proceed by tabling a Humble Address to the Queen. Humble Addresses are voted on inside the House of Commons and become binding if successful. If the Labour party proposed a Humble Address that requested that Article 50 be extended or that a second referendum be held, these motions are quite likely to pass successfully through the Commons. The proposed ‘People’s Vote’ is likely to be a three choice ballot (no deal, May’s deal, and remain in the EU). This splits the Brexiteer’s vote between two options, making it extremely unlikely that Leave would win.

A concern which many people have raised with me is the fact that the UK would not be able to sign trade deals with the rest of the world during the transition period, which ends in 2021. While we cannot sign deals within this period, we are still free to negotiate them, ratifying them as soon as the transition period ends. It is also unlikely that any trade deals we negotiate after 29th March 2019 will be agreed upon within 2 years in any case. The deal removes us from the Customs Union, European Court of Justice and the damaging Common Fisheries and Agriculture Policies, all of which were Leave campaign promises and would be delivered on under this deal. I don’t believe that this deal is perfect, but as a supporter of Brexit, I now see that it represents the only feasible way to exit at all.

Cormac Trigg