Brexit

MPs must choose – Withdrawal Agreement or a general election

BY George Bridges   /  14 March 2019

The majority of the House of Commons is opposed to the UK leaving the EU without a deal. This is hardly a surprise. It was obvious the moment the Prime Minister lost her majority in the 2017. True, last night’s vote is not legally binding – but nor is it parliamentary graffiti that the Prime Minister can ignore.

So having removed the no deal option, what options remain?

If the UK is to leave the EU with a deal, Parliament will have to vote for a deal. And the only deal on the table is the Withdrawal Agreement.

That Agreement will not now change. Whether or not we have an extension to the Article 50 process, the EU will not reopen it for further negotiation. The EU’s position is clear: take it or leave it.

In the days ahead Parliament might agree, via indicative votes, that it wishes to join a customs union or the EEA. But if such a compromise is reached in Parliament, the very best that might happen is for this to be reflected in the Political Declaration, which (unlike the Withdrawal Agreement) is not legally binding. Parliament will still have to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, and put it into law.

So what are the alternatives to voting for the Withdrawal Agreement?

Hold a second referendum, which would require a new government to implement and therefore a general election.

Revoke Article 50 which, given the current positions of the Conservatives and Labour, would require public endorsement via a general election (or a referendum, also requiring a general election).

Creating a Parliamentry majority that might support the UK leaving the EU without a deal, which would require a general election.

So any alternative to voting for the Withdrawal Agreement requires a general election.

The consequence of taking no deal off the table means MPs face a simple choice: a general election or the Withdrawal Agreement. Which do they want?

George Bridges MP is a former Brexit minister