Dear Mark Harper: scrutinise the deal

Yet another letter to my MP, as the country comes apart around me.


Dear Mark,

Boris Johnson returns from Brussels with a deal that, according to the best economic assessments, will wipe 6.4% off GDP, with particularly painful effects on economically depressed areas like our own Forest of Dean.

For no compelling reason, this is being done in a tearing hurry, such that the deal is not able to undergo the scrutiny that any ordinary piece of policy would be subjected to. Clearly 48 hours is nowhere near enough to properly scrutinise documents that will profoundly affect the national identity and economy for the next 50 years.

Whatever your feelings may be about just “getting Brexit done”, you must know that this is no way to do it. I beg you at least to vote to provide Parliament with proper time to analyse the deal documents, to scrutinise an OBR report on the economic implications, and to debate them properly both in the House and in select committees.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mike Taylor

6 responses to “Dear Mark Harper: scrutinise the deal

  1. I am no expert on this issue, so take what follows as educated guesses based on other, similar political situations.
    It seems to me that most politicians (at least those at the top of their respective parties) are likely not interested in examining this deal more closely because this might involve compromise, and compromise is the last thing “Anyone” wants in modern politics.
    I know this sounds cynical, but once a political controversy has continued for this length of time, both sides tend to “Stick to their guns” instead of considering the issues carefully.

  2. Surely since this deal was first introduced by Theresa May (because it is substantially the same), it has had far more public scrutiny and discussion than all the integrationist EU Treaties ratified since Maastricht, put together?

    Each one of those treaties transferred massive areas of sovereignty to EU control, and in doing so certainly ‘profoundly affect[ed] the national identity and economy’; yet I don’t recall the writer demanding MPs scrutinise them carefully. Did I just miss that? Or is there a double standard at work here?

    Did anyone demand an OBR report on the economic implications of the Treaty of Nice or the Treaty of Lisbon? Why not?

  3. I am very confident that no one demanded an OBR report on the economic implications of either of those treaties, and for an excellent reason: the UK voted on them in 2001 and 2008 respectively, and the OBR was not created until 2010.

    This is also one reason why you don’t recall Mike demanding that MPs scrutinize those treaties carefully: this blog was also not created until 2010.

  4. H: it certainly hasn’t had more public scrutiny than *any* EU treaty, let alone all of them. The whole reason EU treaties take years to implement is that they are scrutinized at every level, from the Commission on down through individual national parliaments and in many cases (e.g. Belgium) even down to regional parliaments. This is of course known by Johnson’s own civil servants, because it’s known by everyone who knows anything at all about EU policymaking, but he’s not listening to them.

    This is also why it is utter madness to mandate that a deal with the EU must be done by the end of 2020. The delays inherent in translating legal text into all the EU languages and getting them scrutinized and ratified by so many levels of democratically-elected entities *forces* this stuff to *always* take three to four years: translating legal text is *hard*, and obviously it needs checking against the original to make sure nobody’s mistranslated anything, and then it has to fit into the schedules of every one of those parliaments etc. That’s the absolute minimum time: nothing ever takes less time than that unless you think it acceptable to skip all this tiresome democracy and just force things on people: often it takes longer, sometimes up to eight years simply because of to-and-fro as things are tweaked to everyone’s satisfaction. I cannot imagine what is going through Johnson’s head that he thinks it’ll all be doable by the end of 2020, let alone for something as complex as a trade deal with a major economy. Insane optimism combined with total ignorance, I suspect, as usual. A more likely timescale is five to ten years. That’s right, it might well be 2030 before we have a non-transient trade deal with the EU — one that’s sure to be much worse than the one we have now as a member state.

    — N., *not* a Eurocrat or even a lawyer and even I know this, so why the hell the Tory MPs who *are* lawyers, i.e. nearly all of them, aren’t screaming this at the tops of their lungs is beyond me, given how important trade has long been to the Tory party. I guess competence takes second place to partisanship…

  5. H: it certainly hasn’t had more public scrutiny than *any* EU treaty, let alone all of them. The whole reason EU treaties take years to implement is that they are scrutinized at every level, from the Commission on down through individual national parliaments and in many cases (e.g. Belgium) even down to regional parliaments

    For how many days did MPs debate the Treaty of Lisbon before voting on it?

    For how long did the public get to scrutinise it before we approved it in the referendum on it that Gordon Brown promised us?

  6. Pingback: My MP seems to be running ELIZA code from the 1960s | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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