Britain’s frustration at the seemingly never-ending saga of Brexit, with its prevarications and political deadlock is entirely understandable. Yet a relatively short delay in considering Boris Johnson’s proposed deal may bring benefits in the long term.
The withdrawal bill before Parliament is an extremely complex one, running to 110 pages. It was unrealistic of the Government to expect MPs to be able to subject it to proper scrutiny in only three days. It should not be forgotten that this week’s vote did not reject the deal, merely the attempt to impose a deadline on the Commons.
Infuriating though that certainly is to Mr Johnson, it remains essential that the plan for leaving the EU is debated thoroughly. The decisions that must be taken are of profound importance to the country, not only for the next year or two, but for generations to come.
Questions about trading arrangements, border controls and workers’ rights must all be considered in depth and cannot be rushed unduly. They simply have to be got right for the sake of the country’s future prosperity and people’s jobs.
Against a backdrop of three-and-a-half years of uncertainty, a likely extension of the Brexit deadline by a few weeks is unlikely to result in harmful effects for Britain.
Its effects on the political landscape, though, may be more sharply felt. Mr Johnson, with no majority, is explicit in his desire for a general election, but hemmed in by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which requires opposition parties to agree.
It is conceivable that such agreement will be forthcoming once a delay is granted and the leaving bill has been debated or subjected to amendments. For now, consideration of the bill and all its implications, rather than the chances of electoral success, should be uppermost in the minds of MPs.