I supported the Prime Minister in the House of Commons last week when she made her statement on Brexit.
I fear that there has been much confusion between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Future Relationship with the EU.
Transition or contingency arrangements are being mistaken for our permanent new relationship with the EU, which has not yet been fully negotiated.
Britain will leave the EU on 29 March next year. We will leave the political institutions, Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. Our MEPs will go.
There will be a temporary transition period until 31 December 2020. During this time, we will remain in the single market, giving business certainty and continuing frictionless trade while we agree a new free trade area with the EU.
Much of the controversy has centred around the ‘backstop’, a mechanism which will only come into play in the event that we haven’t completed the new trade deal by the end of December 2020, and if we don’t choose briefly to extend the transition period instead.
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The backstop aims to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Fears have been expressed that this would trap us in a customs union with the EU forever, but we could exit it via an independent review mechanism, and legally it can only be temporary.
My point in the Commons was that if we get hung up on legalistic arguments about a backstop we never want to use, we lose sight of our Future Relationship with the EU, which is what will really matter. This will enable us to control immigration, end large payments to the EU, and do trade deals around the world.
Some MPs are opposing the Withdrawal Agreement because they want a harder Brexit, even favouring ‘no deal’ which I believe would be extremely damaging to our economy. Others are opposing it because really they want to stop Brexit through a second referendum.
I have consistently said that the referendum result should be respected, and that we should be guided not by ideology but what is in the national interest, aiming for maximum access to the EU’s market to protect jobs and investment.
I have been appalled by the behaviour of a minority of Conservative MPs towards Theresa May, who I believe deserves our support, especially at a critical moment for our country in the negotiations.
You can find further information, including the highlights of my diary each week, on my website: www.nickherbert.com.
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