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22 Oct, 2019 13:49

It’s their JOB! MPs shouldn’t complain about having no time to read Brexit bill

It’s their JOB! MPs shouldn’t complain about having no time to read Brexit bill

MPs claim they haven’t got time to read the Brexit Withdrawal Bill. As a former legislator myself, here’s why I have little sympathy for their complaints.

The latest delaying tactic in the Brexit saga is MPs complaining that they don’t have enough time to read the 115-page Withdrawal Agreement Bill. I’ve seen people jumping on the bandwagon, suggesting that we want MPs to be ‘ordinary people’, but then we expect them to scrutinize complex legislation in a short period of time, working overnight.

Anyone saying that is probably a little out of touch with everyday life. As a former teacher, I’m acutely aware of the stress felt by teachers when they know there’s an Ofsted inspection coming the next day. Our police have had leave cancelled to deal with Extinction Rebellion protestors, having to work very long hours. At short notice, medical professionals will often have to work incredibly long hours at a high level of concentration. Students putting together dissertations for a degree, small business owners getting their tax returns sorted, salespeople meeting targets - we all have times when something goes wrong.

MPs could - and should - be expected to know the tools of their trade. We don’t expect an MP to be able to fit a new boiler, but we would hope that a plumber would do so. It is reasonable to require of an MP to be able to read a legally-binding document at short notice, in unusual circumstances.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t an easy task to read and study such a document. I should know: I’ve done this, or similar, many times before. If anything, the volume of legislation going through the European Parliament was far worse. I’d often have 30, 40 or even 50 lengthy reports or pieces of legislation to scrutinize in that period, some as long as this Bill - and many of them would have dozens of lengthy and technical amendments.

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MPs don’t even have to do this task on their own, either. They have staff whose sole job is to help them deal with precisely such matters. They have certainly needed to work on this at short notice, but it’s been known for six months already that the UK is due to leave the EU on October 31st. What else did they expect?

Of course, those MPs complaining the loudest that everything is being done last-minute and in a hurry are generally the ones that have done everything possible to frustrate Brexit. They are the authors of this situation; they can’t have it both ways. Likewise, the same MPs who ripped up Parliamentary procedure to ramrod the Benn Act through in a single day cannot now reasonably complain that the government intends to push the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons in three.

Their final argument is the lack of economic impact assessments. Given the abject failure of previous assessments, it’s difficult to see how they would help any progress to be made. Such projections have consistently used faulty logic, the wrong criteria (GDP rather than GDP per capita) to assess prosperity, circular reliance on previous studies, failed to consider any positives of Brexit, and - as researchers at Sweden’s Central Bank recently found - are generally subject to a pro-EU ‘propaganda bias’. No economic assessment now could possibly assist with the task of Brexit, even if that assessment were absolutely fair and unbiased.

Normally I would have every sympathy for a desire for greater democratic scrutiny, but we have already had three and a half years for that. When one side of the debate seeks incessant and interminable delay, sooner or later the time comes when patience must surely run out.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.