How to force Theresa May ignore Jacob Rees-Mogg

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A no-deal Brexit would be an unmitigated disaster for our country.

That’s not just my view. Listen to the warning from the prime minister who said last week that with no deal “we would have no implementation period, no security partnership, no guarantees for UK citizens overseas and no certainty for businesses and workers”.

Listen also to the businesses that told my select committee that no deal would lead to economic ruin. Honda warned every 15 minutes of delays at the border could cost some manufacturers up to £850,000 a year. The Food and Drink Federation described how European businesses could “hoover up the markets that have previously been well served by UK companies”. And pharmaceutical companies such as Lilly UK said that no deal would push up the cost and reduce availability of life saving drugs.

Listen as well to the government’s own economic analysis, which estimates that a no-deal Brexit will cost 9.3 per cent of GDP over 15 years, as well as threaten jobs and push up prices in the shops.

Despite these risks, and the catastrophic defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit deal last week, the prime minister refuses to rule out leaving without a deal.

On Monday, we heard the same old guff. No softening of her red lines, no public vote and no extension of Article 50.

Maybe the prime minister does privately want to rule out no deal – but the reality of the situation is that she is too weak to do so; boxed in by her hardline colleagues such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and his allies in the European Research Group.

The dangers of this strategy are clear for all to see. Unless parliament agrees some form of a deal before 29 March, the UK will crash out of Europe without a deal, making every single one of us poorer and less safe.

Some on the hard right of the Conservative Party seem not only sanguine but positively enthusiastic about a no-deal Brexit. But I believe that the vast majority of MPs want to avoid it at all costs.

It has now emerged that “dozens” of ministers are apparently ready to quit in order to prevent such a situation occurring.

It’s time, therefore, to demonstrate once and for all that a no-deal Brexit should be taken off the table. The cross-party amendment that I have tabled to the prime minister’s motion does exactly that.

Supported by Hilary Benn, Dominic Grieve, Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb and the SNP’s Drew Hendry among others, it calls on the government to extend Article 50 in the event that it can’t get a deal through parliament by 26 February.

The amendment doesn’t revoke Article 50, “subvert the constitution” or stop Brexit. It just gives us more time – time that we badly need.

It’s a simple motion that, if passed next Tuesday, would show that there is no majority in the House of Commons for no deal; compelling the government to extend Article 50 and giving parliament the space to work out the best way forward.

I hope MPs from across the political spectrum – those who want to leave, remain or have a “people’s vote” – will support it.

That’s because if you voted Leave and want to see Brexit sorted but are worried about the pitfalls of leaving without a deal, this amendment takes away that risk.

If you’re pushing for a Norway Plus or “Common Market 2.0” solution, it keeps open the possibility of the UK remaining in the single market and retaining our current customs arrangement.

If you’re looking to protect environmental standards, consumer and workers’ rights with a comprehensive customs union and strong single market deal, my amendment allows you to continue making that argument.

And, if you want a people’s vote and nothing less but you accept that the priority now should be to take no deal off the table, then this amendment helps you to get us there.

There are many different Brexit models being advocated right now. Who knows which will eventually prevail. So, let’s first unite on what we can agree on and fend off the worst of all worlds: a chaotic and financially ruinous no-deal Brexit.

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