Steve Bullock @GuitarMoog Immigrant, Musician, Sound Engineer, SNP, ex-negotiator for UK in EU. Brother of @JuliaKayPotts. Supporter of @FinalSayForAll. On Holiday. Back soon. Nov. 18, 2018 5 min read

I've been thinking a lot about this argument - that MPs should approve the Withdrawal Agreement as a measure to avoid the possibility of No Deal - and I think it is a serious concern that Remain needs to address properly.

Here's an attempt to. 1/

Note that other excellent commentators have also made this argument, such as @FabianZuleeg. As Fabian (and DAG in the linked piece above) has also pointed out, this is likely to look a more compelling argument to MPs as things get more tense 2/

Despite signals from Tusk and others this week that Brexit can still be stopped if the UK wishes it to be, it’s likely that the message from the #EUCO on the 25th will be that the choice is to agree Withdrawal Agreement as it stands, or reject it. This is also UKGov's stance. 3/

Dreams of renegotiation, whoever they come from, are just that. Dreams. There may be potential to tweak the Political Declaration on the future relationship (I’m still sceptical of to what degree, others think there'd more scope), but there won't be a renegotiation of the WA. 4/

As I’ve argued for some time, No Deal should have been taken off the table as a policy option by UKGov a long time ago. We can argue reasonably about the merits of the WA vs EU Membership, but No Deal is a certain national catastrophe and tragedy. 5/
 https://www.euronews.com/2018/07/25/no-deal-brexit-isn-t-an-option-view 

No Deal is not “sticking it to the EU”, “standing up for ourselves”, or “being strong”. It’s deliberate self-immolation, and it’s understandable and right that responsible MPs will have avoiding this, and the terrible harm it will cause to the UK population, as a priority. 6/

However, the reality is that it now seems very unlikely that the WA can get a majority in Parliament. Public opinion is very strongly against it. It has very little active support outside of Cabinet (and not that much within it). 7/

Still, as Fabian and DAG point out, betting on a solution just emerging from chaos is a dangerous first option. I agree, even if it may well turn out to have to be a last resort. 8/

A way to avoid this though, to rule out No Deal as an option, is to pass the Motion on the WA, but ONLY ONCE it has been amended to require a ratification referendum on it.

(How I hate that Twitter doesn't allow italics.) 9/

Ah, Steve, but what about getting EU27 to agree to an extension to Art50 to allow for it, and what would the question be, I hear you tweet. 10/

The need for an extension gives us the answer, in fact the only possible answer, to the question of the question. 11/

An extension has to be in EU27’s interests for them to agree to it. It would not be in EU27’s interests to prolong uncertainty unless it was for the possilitlty of the worst outcome, (for them as well as, to a much greater extent, the UK) a chaotic No deal, to be ruled out. 12/

Writing the requirement for a Ratify vs. Remain referendum on the WA into the Motion does exactly this. It leaves 2 outcomes that are acceptable for EU27. The WA or no Brexit. (Note, it's not clear which is preferred by EU27 at this point. Possibly the former.) 13/

Most insiders think that EU27 would agree to an Art50 extension on this basis, but not on the basis of a possible no deal further down the line, and would accept a revocation of Art50 if remain was the outcome.14/

In this way, MPs who oppose the WA cannot be seen as wreckers driving us to a possible No deal Brexit (as the ERG clearly are) . Instead, this course would rule out an appalling No Deal Brexit, and break the deadlock in Parliament. 15/

At the moment, such an amendment may not have the backing of enough MPs. By the time we get to debating and voting on it it though, MPs will know that the numbers are not there for the WA to be approved. 16/

This therefore is their best opportunity to act avoid No Deal without supporting a Withdrawal Agreement they believe will be bad for the UK. 17/

This is also the way out for the Government. They can say that this is the best deal they could have got (with their arbitrary red lines, it probably was), but that they cannot countenance a No Deal Brexit that they know (see preparedness notices) will be a national disaster.18/

It gives Labour a way to oppose a deal that very clearly does not meet their Six tests, without being seen either to roll back on their commitment to them, or be portrayed as inadvertently or irresponsibly enabling No Deal (which will be the Govt’s line of attack). 19/

It focusses the debate on the two real, known, and non-utterly catastrophic options that are available, and isolates those who actively wish the harm of No Deal on the population to the margins, which is where crackpot, dangerous, uncaring people should be. 20/

I’m not arguing that if this does't happen, then MPs who think that Brexit on these terms will be bad for the UK should vote for it. Far from it. If they believe that, and it is the only option, they should vote against it. There are other ways to avoid No Deal if they do. 21/

I am arguing though that, if they want No deal to be ruled out at the earliest point, and any responsible MP, I think, should want that, without having to actively endorse a deal they do not want, this is a route to doing so. 22/22

PS, Let's leave no room for doubt. Those that actively want No Deal, either think a) that appalling harm to the UK and its population, with the poorest and most vulnerable harmed most, is, for reasons of their own, fine; or b) they don't understand it.

PPS, either possibility destroys even the thinnest shred of credibility, whoever they are.

PPPS, realised I didn't tag @davidallengreen in a thread triggered by his article, which was rude.


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