MPs must vote for Brexit deal to avoid nightmare scenario

  • A world already facing turmoil in trade and economic uncertainty needs the issue of Britain’s departure from the European Union to be resolved as smoothly as possible
PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2018, 7:37pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2018, 8:29pm

The forging of a deal on Britain’s departure from the European Union, after more than two years of wrangling, might in different circumstances have been seen as a ray of light amid the gloom which has enveloped a world beset by the trade war between the United States and China. Given the tortuous nature of the Brexit negotiations, reaching an agreement of any kind is an achievement. But the draft withdrawal deal struck by British Prime Minister Theresa May sparked yet another crisis. Four ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, resigned in protest. Criticism came not only from ardent supporters of Brexit, but from those who would prefer Britain to stay in the EU.

Meanwhile, hardline “Brexiteers” in May’s own Conservative Party sought – unsuccessfully – to secure enough support to topple her. This response was predictable. The Brexit debate in Britain has been emotive and divisive from the start. The outcome of talks was always likely to be an uneasy compromise that pleases few.

But time is running out. Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 next year. The withdrawal deal is expected to be sealed at a special EU summit on Sunday. A political declaration, to accompany it, has been agreed in principle. May will then face a bigger hurdle – getting approval for the deal from parliament. Many MPs in her own party are expected to vote against it along with opposition politicians.

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There is every chance the deal will be rejected by parliament next month. The main problem with the agreement is that it ties Britain to EU rules and regulations during a 21-month transition period and possibly beyond. Concerns have been raised that it will become a “vassal state”, subject to EU laws over which it has no control.

Reaching an agreement was never going to be easy. The idea touted by some pro-Brexit politicians that Britain could set its own favourable terms for withdrawal was always fanciful. Now, it is time to face reality. The draft deal, for all its flaws, at least offers a basis for progress. May has secured some concessions from the EU, notably on immigration, a key issue during the 2016 referendum campaign. If parliament rejects the deal, the alternatives are fraught with difficulty. An election or fresh referendum – perhaps with an option to stay in the EU – will almost certainly be needed to find a way out of the crisis.

A world already facing turmoil in trade and economic uncertainty needs the Brexit issue to be resolved. The worst possible outcome would be for Britain to depart without an agreement. That would bring more turbulence and doubt. This nightmare scenario must be avoided. The deal is the only one on the table and it offers the best hope of progress. MPs must decide whether to back it or to risk plunging the country into further uncertainty and, possibly, chaos.