MP’s warning over EU Bill

By Mark Elson   |   Senior Reporter   |
Wednesday 12th December 2018 10:23 am
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FOREST MP Mark Harper warned he would vote against his party for the first time since entering the Commons, as Theresa May delayed a vote on leaving the European Union.

Mr Harper, who became an MP in 2005, had asked the Prime Minister to make changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill before MPs voted on it. 

On Monday, it was announced that the vote on the Bill planned for yesterday (Tuesday) would not go ahead. 

Speaking on the first day of the debate of the Bill last Wednesday, Mr Harper said it was ‘clear’ it would not pass the Commons, while the so-called ‘backstop’ over Northern Ireland remained a part of it. 

The backstop is aimed at preventing a ‘hard’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and would come into effect if there is no deal between the UK and the European Union. 

Mr Harper said the legal advice given to the government made it clear that Northern Ireland would remain in the EU Customs Union, the Commission and European Court of Justice, and the Commission would continue to have jurisdiction, while goods passing between Great Britain and Ulster would be subject to a declaration process. 

He said: “That means that, if a company in my constituency wins an order with a business in Northern Ireland – in our own country – it will have to have the deal signed off by a British bureaucrat, and if our rules in Great Britain have deviated from those in Northern Ireland, it may be told that it cannot ship that order to a part of our own country.  

“I do not find that acceptable,” he said. 

“I think the Prime Minister was right when she said that no UK Prime Minister should sign off such a deal.  

“I still stick to that, which is why I will not be able to support the withdrawal agreement as it is currently set out.  

“This is the first time in my 13 years in this House that I will not be able to support my party. I regret that.  

“I also regret being put in a position where, in order to hold to the promises that we made in our General Election manifesto to the people of our country last year, I am forced to vote against a proposition put before this House by my Prime Minister.  

“But I think it is important in politics that we keep our promises, because that is how we maintain the trust of the British people.  

“Breaking our promises is not something we should do,” added the MP. 

Mr Harper said he was concerned that if the backstop was triggered, the UK would not be able to leave the Customs Union without a future agreement. 

He said: “That is not a contract I would be willing to sign and I am afraid that is why I cannot sign up to this withdrawal agreement.  

“It is also the case that the withdrawal agreement will hand over about £39 billion in an unconditional way. 

“I think that most people who carry out negotiations generally do not hand over all the money until they have a deal.

In the 2016 EU Referendum, 59 per cent of those who voted in the Forest of Dean backed Leave.

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