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Interestingly, whilst the Conservatives were at their annual party conference, the opposition benches were largely empty.

Strange. Last week, they voted against proroguing Parliament from Monday through Wednesday because they had serious work to get on with.

Or so they said.

As it turned out, only a handful of the diligent, hardworking opposition MPs showed up on those days.

On Tuesday, October 1, a Brexit-related session headed by George Eustice, the minister for DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) covered the draft Common Agricultural Policy from July 24 which would be used for Brexit. The end of the debate is here. It’s a pity that only the opposition agricultural ministers and a couple of other MPs attended:

On Wednesday, October 2, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab headed PMQs — Prime Minister’s Questions — as Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his rousing speech in Manchester to the party faithful.

That morning, the Labour Whips issued a directive to their MPs not to ask Urgent Questions that day:

It was even worse when the afternoon’s proceedings began.

Recall — as if we could forget — that the opposition claim to be the champions of the vulnerable, especially women.

So, it was particularly galling to see that very few of them turned up for the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill:

Only a few Liberal Democrat MPs attended that afternoon. Labour produced more, but could have done much better.

Good grief.

Apparently, this bill and some others have been carried over post-Queen’s Speech on October 14:

Therefore, if this is true, the opposition knew full well that they could have easily prorogued for three days during the Conservative Party Conference but chose not to out of sheer spite. Ditto the Supreme Court when they cancelled Boris’s prorogation.

The main and most moving speech of the debate was that of Labour MP Rosie Duffield. Her testimony of a recent relationship is well worth sharing with your daughters or nieces.

Women cannot be too careful when getting involved in a long-term relationship. If this can happen to an MP, it can happen to anyone. Please watch:

This bill is Theresa May’s. She brought it forward as a backbencher, therefore, before she became Prime Minister in 2016. How slowly the wheels of legislation turn.

Theresa May also gave an impassioned speech for the bill near the end.

Debate continues after October 14.

Attendance improved when Boris appeared on Thursday, October 3, to discuss a new proposal for Brussels, sent to Jean-Claude Juncker the day before:

Note the final paragraph about the Northern Ireland backstop on the first page:

This is the European Commission’s announcement about the letter (click on the image to enlarge text):

Many MPs who offered comments following Boris’s address commented positively. Even most Remainers accepted the proposal, albeit with a request for more details, which will be forthcoming. Only two or three diehard Remainers spoke out against it.

Several MPs hoped that the EU commissioners were watching the positive reaction.

Guido Fawkes has more, including this video of Boris’s speech:

Guido gives us the transcript of Boris’s five elements concerning the abolition of the proposed backstop, the crux of the leaving date delay thus far (italics in the original):

  1. In the first place all our actions are based on our shared determination to sustain the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, the fundamental basis of governance in Northern Ireland the protection of which is the highest priority of all.

  2. And from this follows the second principle – namely that we shall of course uphold all the longstanding areas of co-operation between the UK and our friends in Ireland including the rights of all those living in Northern Ireland, North/South co-operation and the Common Travel Area, which predates both the Good Friday Agreement and the European Union itself.

  3. Third, we propose the potential creation of a regulatory zone on the island of Ireland covering all goods, including agri-food. For as long as it exists, this zone would eliminate all regulatory checks for trade in goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

  4. But fourth, unlike the so-called backstop, such a regulatory zone would be sustained with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, as expressed through the Assembly and Executive. They will give their consent during the transition period as a condition for these arrangements entering into force. Thereafter, the Assembly will vote again every four years – and if consent were withheld, these arrangements would then lapse after one year.

  5. Fifth, it has always been a point of principle for this government that at the end of the transition period, the UK should leave the EU Customs Union whole and entire restoring sovereign control over our trade policy and opening the way for free trade deals with all our friends around the world.

In short: no hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Instead, there would be a regulatory zone covering all goods, including foodstuffs. Northern Ireland’s Assembly and Executive would vote on the arrangements in the near future and every four years after that. (I do not know how that will work if Stormont is not sitting, but, no doubt, the government can find a way.)

I’m guardedly hopeful that Boris is onto something positive with this. It won’t please Brexit Party members, but we were never going to get an absolute No Deal. I’m hoping that David Davis’s Canada ++ arrangement can be revived. Theresa May insisted that his plans be superseded by her Withdrawal Agreement in July 2018, no ifs, ands or buts. Davis resigned as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on July 8 that year. It was all downhill from there.

Davis has not tweeted his reaction, but another staunch Leave MP, John Redwood, offered his thoughts on Boris’s proposal:

Unfortunately, the Twitter replies to that were very angry, indeed.

It is essential to keep in mind that trade and other agreements will be in transition once we leave the EU.

It’s not as if everything will change dramatically on November 1 (God willing) or whenever we leave.

The transition period is likely to last anywhere from two to four years, depending on negotiations.

As for prescription drug shortages, some of which are occurring now in the UK and being blamed on Brexit: several EU countries have been experiencing similar shortages of essential medication for several months now. France and the Netherlands are among those nations. We cannot blame Brexit for that.

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