We take no pleasure from this position. We want an orderly exit from the EU and we want stable government for the UK. Yesterday summed up the chaos which has been the hallmark of this Prime Minister.

Despite our warnings, she trundled along towards an historic defeat on the Withdrawal Agreement. Then at the last minute she backed away from a vote. 

Wednesday 14th November was arguably the high-water mark for the Withdrawal Agreement when the Prime Minister received the backing of Cabinet for the deal. That support only came however, after a five-hour marathon meeting. 

Since then there have been Cabinet resignations and an almost daily series of MPs announcing that they cannot back the deal. It has been clear for several weeks now that the Withdrawal 

Agreement did not have the support of the House of Commons and clear for many days that it was facing heavy defeat. 

Some of us used the last two weeks to argue that the Prime Minister needed to look beyond the current Withdrawal Agreement and seek a better deal. We were ignored by No10. The Prime 

Minister did not listen.  That time has now been wasted. Instead, the Government roadshow toured the UK and online adverts were pumped out telling us the only choice was between the Prime Minister’s deal or a so-called “no deal”. That was a foolish strategy. 

The Attorney General’s advice on this legally binding text laid bare that the backstop would not be temporary and how the Withdrawal Agreement failed the Prime Minister’s own previous commitments. Still we were told the Withdrawal Agreement was as good as it gets.

Those arguments by the Prime Minister now lie in tatters. 

Yesterday the Prime Minister told us she would return to Brussels to seek reassurances about the backstop but at the same time told us that this was a good deal for the UK. We don’t need more reassurances. 

No reassurance will prevent, as the Attorney General said, Great Britain being “essentially treated as a third country by Northern Ireland for goods passing from GB into NI.”

The Prime Minister should have known before the Withdrawal Agreement was signed that it would not work. Last December, we advised her not to sign up to the Joint Report containing a commitment to introduce backstop arrangements which could create barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. She was aware of why there was an insistence by the DUP that 

Paragraph 50 should be inserted into the Joint Report. That paragraph however and its impact were not translated across to the Withdrawal Agreement. 

The focus on the dangerous backstop continued despite statements from all sides that no-one would erect the so-called ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland. London, Dublin and Brussels all agree they will not build a border in any circumstance.  

If the Prime Minister was actually listening, she would realise that the problem is with the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement.

Mrs May will go to Brussels without having held the meaningful vote in Parliament. She cannot return to Parliament having secured only meaningless assurances from the European Union. 

If the Prime Minister uses this deferrement to simply repackage the Withdrawal Agreement she will suffer more trouble on her return. 

The backstop is as unacceptable now just as it was last December. It is not a continued defence of the Withdrawal Agreement that is required, but substantive change of this legally binding text which is required. That can be the concrete proof that Parliament and the public requires to prove the Prime Minister really is listening.



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