Politicians on all sides are showing their true colours
So what have we learned from the publication by the Government of the draft withdrawal document? Two key things I think. First, that the terms of the withdrawal aren’t great – more on that later. Second – and in fact this has a great bearing on the first point – that this is possibly the worst crop of politicians in living memory. For David Davies to be so openly critical of the document he had the biggest part in negotiating is almost laughable. Michael Gove spoke in support of the withdrawal document when it was presented to cabinet, and then immediately after came out to the press and spoke against it. At time of writing, he was still considering whether or not to resign. Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson have been vocal in their condemnation of the document, yet curiously quiet on suggestions of a viable alternative. What we see, it seems, are politicians who have badly let the country down, and who continue to badly let the country down – being more concerned with their own PR than the needs of the country.
Things are no better on the other side of the House, with shadow Brexit Minister Baroness Dianne Hayter saying that, having read the draft document, her party has found it wanting. She conceded that Theresa May was dealt a pretty poor hand, “with no trump cards and a few jokers in the pack” but added: “You don’t end uncertainty by voting for the wrong thing.” Yet where is the opposition with a viable alternative? And even if the Labour party felt it had been largely excluded from the negotiations, why did that stop it putting forward some meaningful suggestions other than some woolly comments on six tests that the draft agreement should pass?
Where do we go from here? Will there be a leadership contest in the Conservatory party? That would first require 48 letters of intent to be submitted by MPs to trigger a no confidence vote. On the day of publication of the draft agreement, Jacob Rees-Mogg said he had written his, and 47 others had been submitted. Almost a week on, and with nothing like 48 letters having been received, a no confidence vote and an immediate leadership contest seems less likely by the day. And even if they were, could the Euro sceptics really muster the support of 159 MPs to elect a new leader. Surely if that were to happen, the economic upheaval in ripping up the draft withdrawal document and starting again would be unthinkable.
What this all feels like to me is politicians positioning themselves so that in the aftermath of Brexit they can hold up their hands and claim: “This had nothing to do with me. If I can been in charge...” In short, they are all out to deflect blame from the probable passing of a deal which is far from optimal, but which in the end will probably be voted through because, at this late stage, the alternatives are even less palatable. Perhaps if they’d all worked a little harder for the past couple of years, with a little more cooperation, we’d all be feeling a little more confident for the next 12 months and a little less unsure of what the longer term future will hold.
Mark Simms Editor