Today I will be voting to ensure the Brexit Bill at last passes the Commons again unamended , so the government can send the Article 50 letter. I do so because I campaigned to give UK voters a referendum, and made clear before and during the referendum campaign that the people’s decision would be implemented by the government.
I am pleased the Bill has passed with a large majority in the Commons, and trust the two Lords amendments will be removed by the Commons who rejected these views before.
As I stressed in my speech on the Bill, the letter itself marks the end of the UK’s membership. The one thing I agree with Lord Pannick about, the lawyer who led the Gina Miller case in the Supreme Court, is that the notification of leaving is irreversible. Under the Treaty you can only leave legally by notification. Once you have notified you have up to two years remaining in the EU to seek an agreement about the future relationship, but are out without such an agreement at the two year stage, or sooner with an agreement. That provision was put into Article 50 deliberately to ensure the EU cannot delay unduly the exit of a country in order to get more money out of them in the form of their regular contributions as members. The rest of the EU should not be able to delay exit unduly when a country has decided it wants to leave. The EU, after all, is meant to be an association of democratic freedom loving states, so their freedom must include the freedom to cease to belong.
I am surprised to see the rest of the EU is still using the misleading analogy that this is a divorce. It is not. It is a country leaving an international treaty arrangement which no longer suits it, because that Treaty based organisation has changed so markedly compared to one the UK agreed to join in 1972. There are no provisions in the Treaty to make additional payments to leave or to carry on making payments after leaving.
The main question to be settled about our future relationship is whether we trade under WTO Most favoured nation status in future with the EU as we do successfully at the moment with the rest of the world, or whether we carry on tariff free. The UK would be happy to carry on tariff free despite being in large deficit on this basis, so it is a simple choice for the rest of the EU. It is high time UK media started putting this basic question to the other member states and Commission, instead of trying to find holes in the UK stance.
At the same time they could ask the rest of the EU why they have not yet reassured all UK citizens living on the continent they can continue to do so after Brexit, as we wish to do for all continental EU citizens currently settled in the UK. The UK government is not a threat to either tariff free trade or civilised treatment of EU citizens living in a different country to their home one. I find it odd that the EU might be a threat to these straightforward common decencies. Why is the people who most like the EU that have a such a low opinion of its likely conduct?