Helen De Cruz on Theresa May’s no confidence vote and how Brexit has been sucking energy away from everything else in Westminster.
• Tory rebels reached the threshold (48 letters) required to trigger a vote of no confidence in Theresa May.
• Theresa May faces a vote of no confidence this evening.
• Defiant Prime Minister made a statement outside Number 10 this morning to say she will fight on.
Theresa May’s main selling point of Brexit is now: the people want us to get on with it and pay attention to more pressing point.
Let me tell you about my visit to Parliament a few days ago to dispel this myth. Brexit will not allow us to get on with anything...
I was in a meeting about how to evaluate asylum claims of people claiming religious persecution. The Home Office has no scripts, done ad hoc, with bias toward rejection. The meeting was about how the Home Office can make fairer rules and procedures to evaluate such claims.
For example: Muslims who converted to Christianity (where this is forbidden) claiming asylum are asked questions such as: “What colour is the Bible?” Apparently the caseworkers are unaware bibles come in different colours. Humanists are asked to explain who Plato and Aristotle are, etc.
So, these are important issues, but no MPs attended. We did have five members of the House of Lords though. Why did no MP attend the event? Answer: Brexit. Brexit is sucking all the life out of UK politics.
As we were having our discussion, there were screens warning the vote on the deal was off...
And while we were meeting, simultaneously, there were other meetings in Parliament. On housing, the economy, child poverty, etc. All poorly attended because MPs are now too busy with Brexit. All things Theresa May said we should now focus on, rather than Brexit. There is a problem with her argument.
Can we honestly believe that if Brexit goes on now we will finally get on with it?
For one thing, the Withdrawal Agreement does not specify how the future relationship will go. And the Withdrawal Agreement was supposed to be the easy bit.
Free trade agreements take years to negotiate. Take the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the Canada-EU free trade agreement which took 7 years and was nearly scuppered by the Walloon parliament. Now, this was a negotiation that started on a friendly, mutualistic basis, which is usually the case.
By contrast, the EU-UK free trade agreement does not start on a diplomatic friendly footing. UK politicians have repeatedly threatened not to pay their outstanding commitments (Dominic Raab and others), have threatened hunger in Ireland (Priti Patel), likened the EU to the USSR (Jeremy Hunt). So these will be difficult negotiations.
If Brexit goes ahead, we will not be able to focus on anything else. Prepare for many years of mostly empty meeting rooms in Parliament on other pressing issues (housing, poverty, etc), while all political energy goes to negotiating a new deal. Prepare for drama years ahead.
You think the Withdrawal Agreement was steeped in drama? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Prepare for drama of free trade deal negotiations.
What do you mean, we will lose access to financial services?
What do you mean we need to abide by rules we have no say in?
Prepare for the UK unwilling and unable to face reality, and make tough choices that will come with ending freedom of movement. It will be exhausting.
You think it is a farce now, just wait and see.🔷
Oh, PS: Brexit will result in a loss in GDP due to reduced market access and immigrants (net contributors) voting with their feet. So all the things Theresa May says we should focus on after we get on with Brexit... we will not have the money for!
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s conscent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)