This article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News on 16 January 2019.
A very happy New Year to all Weekly News readers. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas break.
Politically, 2019 has begun in precisely the same way 2018 ended: Brexit remains the dominant issue, a state of affairs that will continue for at least the first half of this year.
At the time of writing, we are awaiting the outcome of the vote on the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement, which is due to be held on Tuesday. I shall be voting against it, on the grounds that it would not produce the Brexit that 17.4 million people voted for in 2016. It would keep us tied to the EU regulatory system, destroy our ability to conclude free trade agreements around the world and, most importantly, maintain the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, the institution in which EU sovereignty resides.
If the Agreement is rejected by the Commons, as I expect it will be, the question is: what happens next? Under the strict provisions of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the UK should simply leave the EU on 29 March, the departure date specified in the EU (Withdrawal) Act.
However, as a consequence of some extraordinary Parliamentary developments last week, in which the Speaker departed from Commons precedent and apparently ignored the advice of the Clerk of the House, the Government is obliged to make a statement within three sitting days on the steps it intends to take.
Some rebellious Conservative MPs are even threatening to attempt to have the negotiations taken out of the hands of the Government and transferred to the chairmen and chairwoman of the Commons Liaison Committee: in other words, a power grab.
All this is no doubt very entertaining for students of the British construction, but it will undoubtedly dismay those who, not unreasonably, expect politicians to deliver what people voted for in the referendum.
If Brexit is frustrated by those who have never become reconciled to the outcome of the biggest democratic process in our history, trust in politics will be shattered. And that will be bad for us all.