Tele column 1st February 2019

On a cold wet miserable evening in Westminster we, once again, trooped through the voting lobbies in an attempt to shape the future of the U.K. I hope that history will look kindly on these attempts but it’s unlikely. The U.K. parliament voted to reject all amendments except an attempt to rule out a no deal and an intention to change the backstop proposal for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The proposals around the border will prove to be particularly sensitive as it affects the Good Friday Agreement. After two and a half years of posturing and prevarication the Prime Minister will now go back to the EU and attempt to remove the backstop and replace it with “alternative arrangements”. It’s worth noting that the EU and the Irish Government have already said they won’t re-negotiate. This may all seem like hypothetical nonsense but in the real world the money markets fluctuated as the amendments were voted on and it’s clear they don’t want a no deal. This mess has come about because of the inability of the U.K. Government to cooperate and consult with the devolved powers of the U.K. combined with their staggering arrogance toward the European Union. As we near the cliff edge, trade organisations have been voicing their concerns, this includes both road and rail freight, health service providers and food retailers. We are not there yet. We shall go through all of this all over again on February 13th. So all is not lost. As the father of the house, Ken Clarke said to me in the voting lobby (yes, Ken was voting with us) “are we planning on having a historic vote every week?” It certainly feels that way but this will end soon and as things are currently going, it won’t end well.

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