Theresa May’s deal is dead in the water, and the blame for that lies solely with her, writes Peter Kyle
If the prime minister is to be believed, the backstop arrangement to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland is the overriding concern members of parliament have with her proposed deal. It is the reason she gave for pulling the vote in the House of Commons, and it has been the overwhelming focus of her talks with the European Union negotiators. But as convenient as it might be for Theresa May to focus on just one issue, however important, it is disingenuous to pretend that MPs feel the same.
Of course, the backstop is an issue of genuine and deep concern to many in parliament and outside it, myself included. But it does not give the government licence to neglect all of the other issues, and in fact, the backstop was only the fourth biggest issue mentioned by MPs during the debate. In comparison, national security and migration were both mentioned more often – 101 times and 131 respectively, compared to 78 mentions of the backstop. And the biggest concern was the economy and trade, which was mentioned on 220 occasions, almost three times as often as the backstop.
So when May says she has listened to the concerns of parliamentarians, and gone back to Brussels to seek further assurances to satisfy them, she has not. MPs asked for urgent assurances on vital issues including the European arrest warrant, the impact of new immigration rules on our skills market, and the future of British manufacturing. And most of all, we demanded assurances on the future of our economy. Time after time, MPs spoke in the debate of their fear that the prime minister’s deal would make our constituents poorer, something the vast majority of us would never be prepared to vote for. So where are May’s assurances on that?
From the start, MPs from across the House of Commons have been willing to work together and find consensus, compromising at every stage, so that we can find a way through this for the good of our country. Sadly, the prime minister has not taken the same approach, which is why we are where we are today – after all, even Michael Fallon called the political declaration ‘vacuous’. The withdrawal agreement May is forcing shows nothing has changed, which is why the majority of MPs in parliament cannot vote for it.
Peter Kyle is member of parliament for Hove
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