After the excitement of our first ever Green Great Britain Week last week, it was back to Parliament this week where the focus is on the final stages of Brexit negotiations.
The Prime Minister updated the House of Commons on Monday that the Withdrawal Agreement is now 95 per cent agreed, with the only outstanding issue the question of a backstop – how we guarantee that, in the unlikely event our future relationship is not in place by the end of the Implementation Period, there is no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which neither side wants to see. We will need to hold our nerve, but I am confident that we have the right woman for the job leading us through these tricky final stages. Of course, our ambition is that the backstop will never come into play, and we already have a broad agreement on the structure and scope of the future relationship, particularly on the important issues of security, transport and services.
But that does not mean that we should be overconfident, and whilst we don’t want to end up in a ‘no deal’ scenario, it is only responsible that work is ongoing to prepare us should we be forced to leave the EU without a deal. All Government departments have been making extensive preparations for a no deal scenario, and we have robust plans to ensure minimal disruption to people and businesses. I presented the plans for how we will manage our climate change commitments and energy security before a House of Lords Committee on Tuesday, and was happy to reassure the Committee that we are making good progress on our preparations. We have undertaken ‘day one’ stress tests with our partner organisations, and have been reassured that there will be no significant risks.
The other hot Brexit topic is, of course, the calls for a second referendum, after the significant turnout at the ‘People’s Vote’ march in London last weekend. Personally, I do not support the idea of another Referendum. We held a ‘people’s vote’ in June 2016, and on the very rare occasions where, as a country, we ask people to make a decision on matters of such national significance and vote on it, I believe it is the duty of Government representatives to deliver that decision. Any attempts to undermine that decision will create more uncertainty, stalemate and dissent at a time when businesses and citizens want certainty and reassurance. The time for ideological hand-wringing on this question is over: now is the time to make pragmatic decisions to best deliver on the people’s decision.