Tuesday, 15 January 2019



Jim Pickard @PickardJE on Twitter:  His profile says "Chief Political Correspondent for the Financial Times" but he is not blue ticked.  He tweeted "someone has leaked me what seems to be the government line for tomorrow, if it’s of any interest "  Looking at the documents I can't imagine why anyone would have invented them.  And they are entirely in character and as incompetent as one would expect from the Tories. [On the first page alone I have found 5 typos.]  Reading this document carefully in order to transcribe it I inevitably paid more attention to it than I would most documents produced on this level from the Government.  In my opinion it is a shoddy, unprofessional, and contradictory rush job with no meaningful substance but a lot of interesting psychological subtext.

This is my transcript of the leaked documents.  The images from which it was transcribed are at the end of the blog post.


  • Our deal delivers on the referendum, taking back control of our money, borders and laws, whilst protecting jobs and security and providing certainty as we leave the EU.
  • We should deliver for the British people and get on with building a brighter future for our country by backing this deal today.
  • Voting against the deal would just mean more division, more uncertainty, and a failure to deliver on the decisions of the British people.

We have listened carefully to the concerns that MPs from all sides expressed and secured valuable new assurances from the EU including...

  • A commitment to work on our new relationship can begin as soon as possible after signing the Withdrawal Agreement - in advance of the exit day of 29 March - and confirmation that this new relationship does not need to replicate the backstop.
  • A commitment to a fast track process to bring our EU trade deal into force - including that it can be implemented before ratification by other EU countries, making it even more likely the backstop will never need to be used.
  • An explicit linkage between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration - putting it beyond doubt that these come as a package.
  • And confirmation that the UK can unilaterally deliver on all the commitments we set out for Northern Ireland last week.

These letters also...

  • Confirm the legal standing of the December Council conclusions: that the backstop could only be temporary and both sides would act bring it to an end swiftly.
  • And they have legal force and would be used in any further arbitration to interpret the meaning of the Withdrawal Agreement.

They build on wider assurances we have already set out including...

  • New commitments for Northern Ireland - including a 'Stormont lock' so no new areas of law can apply to NI under the backstop over the heads of the NI Assembly
  • A greater role for Parliament - including supporting an amendment so Parliament has a vote on whether to extend the implementation period or enter the backstop if our future relationship won't be ready the end of 2020.
  • A commitment on workers' rights and environmental standards - including to work with MPs on how to implement them, looking at legislation where necessary.

We recognise that these assurances do not go as far as some MPs would like...

  • But these documents contain importance assurances from the EU that both sides are committed to avoiding the backstop, and that it would only ever be used for a short time if it did come into force.
  • The EU have maintained that they will not re-open the Withdrawal Agreement, and it would be wrong to pretend there are different deals available.
  • The exchange of letters do, however, mean the EU has gone further than before in providing assurances and mechanisms to avoid the backstop ever being used, and to swiftly and the backstop if it was ever triggered.
  • And we are convinced that MPs now have the clearest assurances that this is the baest deal possible and that it is worthy of their support.

There is broad support for many of the key aspects of the deal:
  • We will control our own borders and end free movement once and for all.
  • We will protect jobs and security.
  • We will no longer send vast sums of money to the EU.
  • We will be able to strike free trade deals around the world.
  • We will take back control of our laws, ending the jurisdiction of the ECJ in the UK.
  • And we will protect the integrity of our United Kingdom.
'Amendments tabled?'
  • The selection of amendments is a matter for the Speaker.
  • We will look at all the amendments in the usual way.
'Murrison amendment'
  • The assurances published today make clear that both sides remain committed to avoiding the backstop and, if it were ever used, it would only be temporary.
'Benn amendment'
  • This amendment shows the Government's plan is the only one on the table.
  • As with the Labour frontbench, this amendment rejects our deal without putting forward any alternative.
  • It is pure self-interest to try and stop Brexit and overturn the result of the referendum.
'Mann amendment'
  • We recognise concerns raised on the protection of workers' rights and environmental standards.
  • We have committed to addressing these concerns and will work with MPs from across the House on how best to implement them, looking at legislation where necessary, to deliver the best possible results for workers across the UK.
'Swire amendment'
  • We will report in the final half of 2020 on progress made towards the future relationship and make sure Parliament - informed by the Devolved Administrations - will be able to consider whether to extend the Implementation Period.
'Going to win the Meaningful Vote?'
  • We're fully focused on winning the vote on the deal - a deal that delivers on the referendum and is in the national interest.
  • And as the Prime Minister said yesterday, we should deliver for the British people and get on with building a brighter future for our country by backing this deal today.
'Plan B?'
  • We are working to ensure that MPs vote for the deal tomorrow and we deliver on the result of the referendum - with a good deal that protects jobs, security and our union.
  • It is important that we don't see a situation where there is a paralysis in Parliament that risks there being no Brexit.
'When will you come back if you lose?'
  • Our intention has always been to respond quickly and provide certainty on the way forward in the event that the vote doesn't pass, both in terms of setting out our next steps and any subsequent vote, and that is what we will do.
'Alternative EU Withdrawal Bill from MPs if the vote doesn't pass?'
  1. Clearly any attempt to prevent the Government from meeting all the legal conditions for an orderly exit at this moment of historic significance is extremely concerning.
  2. There is obviously a lot of talk of what MPs may or may not do in Parliament.
  3. But right now the focus is on winning the vote today.
'Why is it important that the Government controls the business?'
  • It is a fundamental principle of our democracy that allows MPs to scrutinise Government, whilst allowing the Government to pursue its legislative agenda.
  • Any attempt to change how and when business is arranged could threaten the ability of the Government to deliver on the referendum result, its manifesto commitments and entire legislative program, therefore undermining its ability to govern.
  • It would also be binding on future governments.
'Why is no Brexit more likely?'
  • While no deal remains a serious risk, having observed events at Westminster over the last seven days, we now believe that the more likely outcome is a paralysis in Parliament that risks there being no Brexit.
'DUP says scaremongering over NI in no deal?'
  • We will do everything in our power, whatever the circumstances, to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
  • This is about practicality for businesses and people - no border doesn't happen simply because people say 'well, we won't have a border'.
'Rise of far-right extremism if no Brexit?'
  • We would enter unchartered territory should the vote on the deal not pass through the House, which would risk dividing the country.
  • We're focused on winning the vote that would bring the country back together again.
'Letter from Conservatives ex-Minister says WTO exit better?'
  • This deal gives us an unprecedented economic relationship with the EU and keeps us safe with the broadest security partnership in the EU's history.
  • We can do better than trading under WTO rules, which would mean tariffs and quotas on British goods going to the EU.

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