When Britain secured a six month extension to the Brexit Article 50 deadline in April, European Union President Donald Tusk said “please do not waste this time”. Sadly that is exactly what is happening. The month long internal Conservative leadership contest is a competition between which of the candidates can present a more hardline stance, even shrugging off the very real dangers of a ‘no deal’ scenario.
Just yesterday the Government’s own data showed how foreign direct investment projects coming into the UK has fallen by 14 per cent in the past year, after a contraction in the previous year since the referendum. The blight and uncertainty of Brexit is already taking its toll on jobs and our economy.
What makes this tragedy event more frustrating is the absence-without-leave of the official Opposition, as Labour’s leadership continue to duck-and-weave any real effort to make the case for our European alliances and the crucial trading and social links that are at stake. The Shadow Cabinet keeps kicking the can down the road on both whether a People’s Vote should take place and whether Labour is in favour of remaining in the EU or not.
So rather than hang around any longer, I have been working with other backbench MPs such as Conservative Dominic Grieve who have spotted an opportunity for the Commons to assert the majority view that we shouldn’t crash out without parliamentary authority.
On Tuesday the Government have to get authorisation from MPs to raise revenue for the functioning of many Whitehall departments, in something known as the ‘Estimates’ financial process. That’s because – for all their talk of ignoring Parliament – in our system the legislature should outrank the executive branch. Dominic Grieve and Margaret Beckett have tabled an amendment which I have supported seeking to place a condition on this financial authorisation, which would force Ministers to come back to the Commons before Brexit to either approve a Withdrawal Agreement or approve (or disapprove) of a no-deal scenario. This is an important chance for MPs to actually take action now, rather than waste any more time and hope that ‘events’ will come along later.
I find it incredible that the Commons is going to twiddle its thumbs in July, go off for a recess in August, and come back only for two weeks in September and then swan off to Party conferences, at the height of this crisis! That’s why I’m looking for every single opportunity to put the question and place safeguards at this vital moment. I will keep trying my best!