Westminster Diary: Brexit’s back on the Commons agenda again

Daisy Cooper. Picture: St Albans Cathedral

Daisy Cooper. Picture: St Albans Cathedral - Credit: Archant

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper offers her take on a week in Westminster...

For the last six months, coronavirus has displaced Brexit as the number one issue of public and political debate but it was firmly back on the agenda at Westminster this week.

Time is simply running out to agree a replacement deal with the EU. And with the triple threats of Brexit, coronavirus and the climate emergency intensifying, this autumn is set to be a turbulent time for the country.

Since the start of this year, many of us have been calling on the government to extend the Brexit transition period whilst it managed the pandemic. This would have enabled the government to put all its efforts into tackling the pandemic first, before putting all of its efforts into securing a replacement trade deal second. But the government has stubbornly refused.

This refusal has significantly increased the chances of our country crashing out without a deal at the end of this year. This would inflict huge damage on our economy, supply chains and the NHS, which are all already under substantial pressure. Even the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier admits that a trade deal now “seems unlikely”.

The Conservatives said it would be the easiest trade deal ever, and the government won its majority just last December on the promise of an “oven - ready deal”. Yet here we are, with nothing yet agreed.

To make matters worse, Boris Johnson announced new legislation which seeks to override the Brexit withdrawal agreement on Northern Ireland. This doesn’t only have economic impacts, but it also looks set to undermine the Good Friday Agreement. And in an astonishing admission, a government minister himself said at the Commons dispatch box: “This does break international law.”

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In the space of a few days, the Conservative government appears to have changed course from wanting a trade deal with the EU and the US, to undermining the chances of either.

With our global reputation hanging in the balance, how on earth will we be able to persuade future international partners to work with us?

This, all in the same week as COVID testing seemed to grind to a halt with residents in St Albans being asked to travel to Oxford, Brighton and even Aberdeen to get tested.

With schools and family life severely disrupted by the lack of available testing, just a few days into the new school term, the question on everyone’s lips is, has the government even got a plan?