As I travel around my constituency, the refrain I hear most often repeated is: “For heaven’s sake, let’s get Brexit done.”
It is now over three years since this country voted to leave the European Union. Since then, there has been a catalogue of unconscionable delay and obstructionism on the part of certain Members of Parliament seemingly intent on keeping the UK locked in the EU contrary to the will of its people.
All this is very frustrating. It is also perverse: in February, 2017, many of those MPs voted to trigger the Article 50 withdrawal process by the huge majority of 372. However, the closer we have come to withdrawal, the more obstructive they have become, employing all manner of devices to impede the Government in its efforts to secure our departure.
The latest piece of Parliamentary chicanery dreamed up by the obstructionists is the so-called “Benn Act”, which requires the Prime Minister to seek yet a further extension to the Article 50 period if a withdrawal agreement is not concluded by 19 October. The Prime Minister, for his own part, has made clear that, whilst he would prefer to leave with a deal, he will brook no further delay and is determined to leave on 31 October.
The Government has now put forward proposals to address the notorious “Irish backstop” question, under which Northern Ireland would effectively remain temporarily in the EU Single Market, but would, with the rest of the country, leave the Customs Union, enabling the UK to seek enter free trade agreements with third countries. The arrangements would be subject to the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly, thereby – unlike the previous proposals – respecting the Belfast Agreement.
The ball is currently in the court of the EU, which will consider the proposals at the Council meeting later this month. It is to be hoped that there will be a positive response. If, however, there is not, then the Government will do its utmost to leave on 31 October. In those circumstances, all MPs should support it, out of simple respect to their own constituents.