Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Recent Developments on Brexit: Statements
I also welcome the decision of the British Parliament in the past half hour to support an amendment to reject a no-deal Brexit at any time and in any scenario. This outcome is not especially surprising. What is really surprising is the very narrow margin - a mere four votes - by which it was carried. It beggars belief that so many people in the House of Commons could contemplate the idea of a no-deal Brexit. From our point of view, it is very frustrating and difficult to understand. It is an indication of the extent to which politics in London has become so dysfunctional across the board.
The decision tonight paves the way for a request to extend Article 50. It remains to be seen whether that will be approved by the EU. It has been made very clear by the EU that this is not an automatic decision. A decision to extend Article 50 will be based on the requirement that there is some point in extending. It is not clear whether there is any point in doing so - whether this is just a play for additional time or there is a likelihood that something will come of an extension. That extension will be quite short - up to just before the European elections on 22 or 23 May. We continue to be frustrated, to have deep fears and to feel a sense of bewilderment regarding is going on in London.
We have spent the past two years contributing to debates here hoping and waiting for sense to prevail within the House of Commons. We have all operated on the basis that there could not possibly be a crash-out and yet the closer we get to 29 March, the greater the possibility is of that happening. One would have to ask questions about what happened over the past few days. On Monday evening, there was an indication that some agreement had been reached, although Mrs. May's body language at the press conference gave a fair indication that she was not exactly at ease. One would also have assumed that Mrs. May would have been provided with the advice of the UK Attorney General on an ongoing basis during those negotiations but the bombshell arrived on Tuesday morning when Geoffrey Cox really put the kibosh on that agreement.
It is quite clear that British politics is dysfunctional at all levels, including the highest level, which poses a significant threat to the well-being of this State and the future of people who are very much dependent on exports to the UK. The developments this morning regarding the Treasury proposal regarding tariffs are quite extraordinary. It seems as though a unilateral decision was taken without any reference to the EU. The implications of that for this country are horrendous. That proposal must be resisted out of hand. Obviously, there are significant implications for our exports to the UK, particularly agricultural exports, in light of the massive tariffs they would face. What they saying about us being able to export and the free movement of goods across the Border from south to north is utterly simplistic because that opens up an EU frontier along our Border. The implications of this are significant in terms of the lack of security on an EU border, us having to police that frontier and how we maintain standards, particularly food standards, in the context of a UK policy of moving towards cheaper food of poorer quality. These are significant issues. The cost of doing that, if it comes to pass, must be met by the EU. This is something I have not heard the Government mention. While the responsibility would rest with us, the cost must be covered by the EU.