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To Prorogue or Not To Prorogue… That is The Question!
Since the dawn of Parliamentary Democracy, Prime Ministers have had the discretionary power available to them known as ‘proroguing power’ and as a traditional power it’s held without any restriction whatsoever; The ability to prorogue or suspend Parliament for any reasonable length of time and for any purpose — whether for ‘evil’ or for ‘good’ is via the prerogative of the Prime Minister.
Of course, it depends upon your view of ‘evil’ or ‘good’.
If for example, you’re a Conservative MP and a Conservative Prime Minister prorogues Parliament you’re likely to see his or her prorogation in favourable terms. But a Labour backbencher may see that same prorogation in different terms.
Although there have been times through history when both the sitting government and the opposition party have agreed on the need for the Prime Minister to suspend Parliament. So much better when it occurs that way!
Also relevant to this discussion is; ‘What constitutes a reasonable length of time?’
The ‘Use-it or Lose-it powers’ of a Prime Minister
Some powers held by a Prime Minister are clearly identified and strictly enforced by both Parliament and the courts, and that’s as it should be.
Prime Ministers shouldn’t be able to make-off with billions of pounds of ‘The People’s’ tax revenue, for instance.
But other powers such as the power to suspend Parliament fall under the scope of discretionary, or ‘use-it or lose-it’ powers, therefore, if several PM’s in a row decline to use their discretionary powers it becomes increasingly difficult for future PM’s to use them. Eventually, PM’s would lose the power to prorogue Parliament for one example, if it isn’t used judiciously and relatively frequently in the here and now.
I suggest that as long as British PM’s aren’t abusing their discretionary power, why remove it from them? Why punish them for having done no wrong? And why remove that power from future PM’s when they’ve never yet abused such discretionary power?
We can’t just go around removing discretionary power from people just because ‘it could become a problem in the future’ or because ‘one PM out of twenty has abused their discretionary power’, or because we hail from a different political party and prorogation could affect our chances of re-election at the next General Election.
How would you like it if some of your discretionary powers were removed because a fellow citizen abused their discretionary powers? Of course you wouldn’t like it if it happened to you.
You might like to eat a McDonald’s Big Mac once per month, as I do. But because a fellow Briton trashed a McDonald’s last week, is that good enough reason to ban all Britons from eating at McDonald’s restaurants forever? Of course not.
Therefore, courts, Parliaments, and citizens must recognize the right of PM’s to their discretionary powers until the day arrives that every Prime Minister is abusing those privileges and a permanent change must be made to protect the country from its political leaders.
And that means every prorogation should be made public, and be heard and read by Parliament, by the media, and examined (even a cursory examination, in the case of a short prorogation) by the UK Supreme Court.
That doesn’t mean opposition parties should turn it into a political circus to embarrass the government (remember; one day the opposition party might form the government and might need to prorogue Parliament too, so they should examine such prorogations with a fair demeanour and a gentle spirit) rather, HM Loyal Opposition Party should examine the prorogation and satisfy itself that such use of discretionary power hasn’t inflicted any harm on the normal operation of government, and if it does interfere with the normal operation of Parliament, was it warranted?
Prorogation of Parliament in the Case of Declared War
I’ll give you some examples to consider, some of which have actually occurred in the past and some not;
Example: The government declares war on another country and immediately prorogues Parliament.
So, if the government is concerned that enemy snipers may kill Parliamentarians, it’s the right decision to suspend Parliament because MP’s entering and leaving the House of Commons every day would be easy targets for enemy snipers.
In the absence of a sniper threat however, there could still be good reason to suspend Parliament after declaring war on another country;
Such as the public and media may need time to acclimatize to the new (war) reality and it could be that the government could ‘get too far ahead of the people’ by (seemingly) rushing a number of legislative bills through the House — which could make it look like the government was ‘pulling a fast one on the people’ by not giving them enough time to find out the full (either ‘evil’ or ‘good’) reasoning behind the government’s decision to declare war. That’s touchy ground for governments. Civil wars have started on less fog and fuel than that.
Much better for everyone if the government were to declare war, prorogue Parliament, give everyone a week or two to get up-to-speed on recent events, and then resume sitting in the House of Commons.
But what if the government really were ‘pulling a fast one’ on the people?
That too, could happen in the declaration of war scenario;
If the public were generally unfavourable to declaring war on another country, and the opposition parties were temporarily disorganized, the government could declare war, quickly suspend Parliament, and then get the military heavily involved in the war (“It’s too late to back-out now, we’re in with both feet!”) and without proper oversight by Parliament, we could find the UK in an ill-advised war, based on a wrong-headed ideology, neck-deep in so-called ‘war fever’, or other lapse of cogent thinking.
Which is why I suggest that… proroguing Parliament should be at the discretion of the Prime Minister in conjunction with his or her Privy Council AND require Royal Assent by the Sovereign as an additional ‘check and balance’ on the government AND should be examined and (hopefully) approved by the Supreme Court in the normal course of court business as a ‘check and balance’ on the entire government including on the Head of Government (the PM) and the Head of State (the Sovereign) — where the prorogation is expected to last longer than 14-days.
Therefore, if all three parties agree (the PM/Privy Council + the Sovereign + the Supreme Court) on a longer-than-14-day-prorogation, then the PM has acted well within his or her authority, and that should be the end of it.
But for prorogations less than 14-days, the same process that’s in use today and has been in use for centuries wouldn’t change — meaning no Supreme Court involvement would be required — as short-term prorogation simply happens at the discretion of a Prime Minister, nothing more and nothing less.
Still, out of courtesy, and only after receiving Royal Assent, the government should always inform the Supreme Court of any prorogation of Parliament, no matter how many days it must be, whether fewer than 14-days or longer than 14-days, because circumstances can change and a government may later need to extend the prorogation for unforeseen reasons.
Note: Almost every Commonwealth country follows the same prorogation procedure in the case of prorogations lasting less than 14-days.
Proroguing Parliament to Prevent Filibuster of Government Business (The People’s Business!)
Governments have also prorogued Parliament because opposition parties were filibustering the government, a situation where opposition speaker after opposition speaker rises and speaks for many hours, thereby preventing the House of Commons from passing any legislation whatsoever, especially the piece of legislation the opposition find so offensive.
In that case, proroguing Parliament serves to punish the filibustering MP’s and their party, and returns the House to normal operation so that the people’s business may continue to be administered by the government.
It’s one thing to teach the government a lesson about acting in a high-handed way — in that case, a bit of filibuster can be a good thing! — but it’s quite a different thing if it goes beyond bounds and becomes a circus that takes on its own life and prevents other important legislation from consideration, debate, and passage in the House of Commons.
Such abuses and other abuses by opposition parties throughout history are exactly the reason why today’s Prime Ministers have such discretionary powers.
Again, it occurs in every generation that legitimate uses of discretionary power are advisable when the PM, acting in concert with his or her Privy Council, must suspend Parliament in order to assure the continued operation of the government.
And in the case of filibuster (which sometimes unduly prevents the people’s business from being conducted) the above-noted rules should likewise, in the exact same way, also apply to a Prime Minister considering a prorogation of Parliament.
On the Prorogation of Parliament (2019)
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was handed a mess from the previous government — although much of it wasn’t the fault of former Prime Minister Theresa May and her MP’s — as half the blame was the fault of the sometimes intransigent but always on-message EU.
After Britons voted to leave the EU in the June 2016 referendum, a vote in the House of Commons confirmed that the UK would be leaving the EU (via the European Union Bill) that passed with a healthy margin of 498-114, and subsequently, a UK General Election was held in June 2017 where all parties ran on a platform of delivering Brexit and Theresa May’s Conservatives won that election.
At that point, there was no talk of overturning the 2016 People’s Vote to leave the EU, nor of overturning the European Union Bill of February 2017, nor of overturning the results of the June 2017 General Election.
Then, the Withdrawal Bill happened.
From the day the EU announced that a ‘backstop’ would be required for Northern Ireland, relations between the UK and the EU plummeted and some British MP’s seemed intimidated by the EU’s insistence on a backstop, while some Britons seemed even more determined to get Brexit done — even former Remainers!
If it was a ‘divide and conquer’ tactic that the EU planned to destroy UK unity of purpose it worked — but only by a half measure.
But the other group of (non-MP) Remainers became convinced of the necessity to fulfil the result of the democratic referendum, the European Union bill vote, and the 2017 General Election result.
Three missed Brexit deadlines came and went in the spring of 2019, and the EU decided that October 31, 2019 would become the new Brexit date.
Now, after £69.5 billion in costs due to economic uncertainty — including the annual payments to the EU that amount to £12.2 billion (net) for 2019 alone — and a gestation period that would impress a brontosaurus, many Britons just want out of the EU. Even former Remainers are for turning… these days.
Yet, some British MP’s seem increasingly afraid of delivering the Brexit the country voted for and the Brexit that they themselves approved when they voted en masse to approve the European Union Bill.
Some things defy explanation to put it mildly.
With all of that (disastrous) recent history, opposition parties in the UK House of Commons then voted to remove power from the Prime Minister to put paid to the Brexit that voters have been waiting for since 2016, and have voted-down the PM’s call for a General Election, and were increasingly working with the supposedly impartial Speaker of the House to nullify the government’s best efforts to deliver either a Negotiated Brexit or a Hard Brexit. (EU in the driver’s seat regarding those two choices)
What’s a Prime Minister to do?
And this, in the context of having to be in a constant state of readiness to dash off to the continent — perhaps being summoned to a meeting in Brussels at 5:00am with no advance notice of any such meeting as former PM Theresa May was — to negotiate some tiny particle of a new Withdrawal Agreement.
How can a new UK Prime Minister get himself up to speed on his new job, keep himself in that state of readiness for a sudden trip to the continent, work with government ministers and others to plan out a workable Withdrawal Agreement, keep ahead of his House of Commons commitments, deal with the media, stay on the right side of Brexit deadlines, get the country ready for perhaps a Negotiated or Hard Brexit depending on the whim of the EU negotiators that week, and deal with defections by his own MP’s and the shenanigans of Remainers and anti-Brexit types on both sides of the English Channel?
Really people, we need to cut this man some slack! You wouldn’t want to be him!
The poor man probably needed sleep due to exhaustion, needed to give his people some quality time to work on Brexit delivery plans, some time for him to visit EU leaders to ascertain their level of interest in agreeing a new Withdrawal Agreement and test the waters for a future trade agreement/future relationship, to conduct some media interviews, and talk to regular Britons on the High Street about their thoughts on Brexit.
And now, some want him in the stocks for proroguing Parliament? Give me a break!
Boris Johnson hasn’t had a good set of choices from which to choose since he became PM. In fact, his greatest gift so far, is that he’s been the master of choosing the least bad of the available choices.
I think these are extenuating circumstances occurring during uncommon days and he’s done well considering the mess he was handed, and is doing his best to make good on the government’s promises to citizens, to business, to Parliament, to our EU partners and is trying to meet all legal requirements on both sides of the Channel. Very admirable.
Where Do We Go From Here?
“Every day we teach others how to treat us.”
And if we’re teaching the new PM that he’s not allowed to deliver Brexit even after a majority of voters and after a majority of MP’s voted for it, and that he’s not allowed by his colleagues to hold an election to determine who’s in charge of the government, and that he’s not allowed to prorogue Parliament, and that he’s not allowed to succeed in reaching a satisfactory Withdrawal Agreement with the EU (because it is likely to get voted-down for no reason other than MP’s are suddenly afraid of their responsibility to deliver the Brexit their constituents and they themselves voted for) then what are we teaching this poor man?
We’re teaching him to fail, that’s what we’re teaching him. And that isn’t what we should be teaching British Prime Ministers.
Now, let’s resolve to become part of the solution and not part of the problem and help this man to deliver what the majority voted for, what Parliament voted for, what the country is crying out for (including many former Remainers) and help him obtain a withdrawal deal that the UK and the EU can both live with.
Parliament and all concerned parties; Give our man a way forward! Please!
And the only thing we should be asking of him — other than, “How can we help?” — is “Henceforth Mr. Prime Minister (and all future PM’s) could you please inform the Sovereign and the Supreme Court if you need to prorogue Parliament and we will do our utmost to facilitate your request?”
Anything other than that is on us, for (quite innocently and unaware) trying to turn this UK Prime Minister and every subsequent Prime Minister into quiet, paper-shuffling, do-nothing bureaucrats. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” will be their new mantra if we’re not careful.
In short, we’re teaching him to be the anti-success, the anti-hero, the least accomplished; And that, my friends, definitely ISN’T what built the great United Kingdom we see today!
Therefore, let’s get on with delivering the Brexit the people voted for on June 23, 2016 and that Parliament approved on February 1, 2017, and by extension voters re-approved via the General Election result on June 8, 2017.
And give our man a hand. He needs your help to get the country across the line.
Has The Speaker of the UK House of Commons Overstepped His Authority?
According to all known laws, traditions and conventions under which the UK House of Commons operates, the Speaker of the House serves as the Sovereign’s representative to the Commons and the Speaker is to remain 100% neutral on all political matters.
This requirement forms part of the job description and includes times when the Speaker isn’t in Parliament, including all hours of the day and night when he or she is anywhere about the country or the world.
It’s a clear instruction set that all present and previous Speakers are obligated to observe at all times during their term(s) as Speaker of the UK House of Commons.
“Speakers must be politically impartial.” — PARLIAMENT.UK
“Once assembled after a General Election, MPs, led by the Father of the House, go to the House of Lords where they receive a message from the Queen (or King) asking them to elect a Speaker.” — PARLIAMENT.UK
“On the day following his or her election, the Speaker-elect goes to the House of Lords to receive the Queen’s (or King’s) approbation from a Royal Commission.” — PARLIAMENT.UK
“The Speaker of the House of Commons chairs debates in the Commons Chamber and the holder of this office is an MP who has been elected by other MPs.
“The Speaker is the chief officer and highest authority of the House of Commons and must remain politically impartial at all times. During debates the Speaker keeps order and calls MPs to speak.
“The Speaker also represents the Commons to the Monarch, the Lords and other authorities and chairs the House of Commons Commission.” — PARLIAMENT.UK
What’s All This, Then?
John Bercow, the presently-serving Speaker of the House of Commons has inserted his opinion, viewpoints, and political leanings into the House of Commons narrative (he’s a confessed ‘Remainer’ — which, admitting even that point is against the rules for the Speaker of the House of Commons) and worse, Mr. Bercow has expounded on his political views to mainstream media and to politicians and negotiators from other countries. Tres gauche!
On ‘Majoritarian Dictatorships’ Led by (the supposedly) Impartial Speaker of the House
Harry Yorke of The Telegraph titled his recent piece: John Bercow accused of running a ‘majoritarian dictatorship’
“A senior Tory MP has accused John Bercow of running a “majoritarian dictatorship” in the House of Commons, as he proposed radical reforms to limit the Speaker’s powers.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, a member of the Commons constitutional affairs committee, has warned that the office of the Speaker has become “irretrievably politicised and radicalised” on Mr Bercow’s watch.
Hitting back at Mr Bercow, who on Thursday appeared to liken Boris Johnson to a bank robber, Sir Bernard claimed that MPs needed to reform the role to limit the Speaker’s “enormous power.”
It comes after the Speaker used a speech in London to launch a personal attack on the Prime Minister, warning that Parliament would step in if he tried to bypass a law on seeking a Brexit extension.” — Harry Yorke
Watch UK Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt. Hon. John Bercow as he speaks at the Sixth Annual Bingham Lecture on September 12, 2019 (Begins at 42:00)
The Speaker Asks a Question
“What conceivable moral force do the people’s elected representatives have in seeking to […] disregard a law enacted by Parliament?” (John Bercow, paraphrased)
I hate to break it to the Rt. Hon. Speaker of the House, Mr. John Bercow, but the moral force that he seems in question of is that ‘The Will of The People’ trumps ‘The Will of the House of Commons’ by a significant margin.
In fact, ‘The Will of The People’ trumps Parliamentarians by such a large margin, IMHO, it’s almost as if he’s just arrived from a different universe.
MP’s on either side of the House of Commons are nothing more than the formalized ‘servants of The People’ and the Speaker is nothing more than the formalized ‘servant of the Head of State’ (a.k.a. ‘the Queen’) and whatever dithering goes on in the House of Commons, whatever grandiose verbosity is employed superfluously in the House of Commons, whatever grandstanding goes on in the House of Commons, and whatever arcane debates occur in the House of Commons, ‘The Will of The People’ is far and away more important.
Let me remind him just how badly the UK House of Commons has ‘duffed-up’ the twice-expressed will of the people and the (far less important) will of the House of Commons.
- On June 23, 2016 Britons voted to leave the EU in a legally-held and UK government approved referendum.
- On February 1, 2017 British MP’s voted to follow the instructions of UK voters, voting 498 to 114 to pass the European Union Bill (voting to leave the EU) by a healthy margin of 384 votes.
- On June 8, 2017 the incumbent Conservative Party won a General Election on a pledge to deliver Brexit in an election where all parties ran on a platform of delivering the Brexit that Britons voted for in the 2016 referendum.
- On three separate dates Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was voted-down by British MP’s and no other deal has replaced it.
- On March 31, 2019 the UK House of Commons failed Britons by failing to deliver Brexit on by the promised date.
- On April 12, 2019 the UK House of Commons again failed Britons by failing to deliver Brexit on that promised date.
- Subsequent to the third failure of Theresa May’s WA and two missed Brexit deadlines the EU ruled that Brexit would be delayed until October 31, 2019. Pathetic!
- On July 23, 2019 former Prime Minister Theresa May lost her position as UK Prime Minister.
- On July 24, 2019 Boris Johnson became Prime Minister of the UK with a promise to deliver Brexit.
- On September 3, 2019 British MP’s voted to remove the right of the sitting government to choose policy and to offer legislation to the House of Commons for debate and consideration by the House, and give it to themselves — thereby giving themselves the power over how Brexit is to unfold. Unprecedented! Now the Brexit which they all promised their constituents (to get themselves re-elected in June 2017) cannot happen unless it meets one of their three criteria; 1) Unless the House votes to approve a No Deal Brexit, a No Deal Brexit is now illegal, 2) Brexit may only happen if a new Withdrawal Agreement is agreed prior to October 31, 2019 and the UK House of Commons and the EU Parliament approve it before that date, 3) A new Brexit date is set by the EU.
If they can’t agree a deal with the EU over the past 3-years, what makes them think they can get a deal approved by both countries by January 1, 2020? Hello!
Meanwhile, British Citizens Haven’t Done One Thing Wrong in All of This!
All these years later (1176-days, to be exact) Britons continue to wait for the Brexit they voted for, having done not one thing wrong and in the meantime, all the political meanderings, indecision, recriminations, grandstanding, showboating, one-upmanship and other political games played by British MP’s have cost the UK economy approximately £1 billion per month due to economic uncertainty, in addition to the average £10.5 billion annual net overpayment paid to the EU by UK taxpayers since June 2016 together totals an obscene £69.5 billion.
Heads should roll!
But quite unlike other professions, there’s no accountability.
Politicians talk about accountability and indeed, many MP’s do great work for their constituents and those MP’s are much to be admired!
But there are some to whom life is but a stage on which to hold forth and stroke their own egos, and those are the MP’s who’ve blown Brexit (so far) and are directly responsible for the loss of over £69.5 billion (and counting) since June 2016. To them, it’s all just a game, and those are just numbers on a page. Sickening!
There are real consequences for citizens in all this economic uncertainty which was/is caused by endless political dithering, arcane (and unimportant) political debates, and the ridiculous fixation on ‘getting a deal’ with the EU.
The People didn’t vote for or against a deal, they voted to Brexit.
And there is the fiduciary duty of politicians who run on a platform (to deliver Brexit) in a reasonable timeframe. And 3-years is not upholding their responsibilities to their constituents. Not even close.
What matters is MP’s delivering what they’ve promised in a reasonable timeframe. What matters not is the opinions of MP’s about Brexit nor the Speaker’s political musings.
MP’s need to understand that there’s no one else to blame for the obscene (and still accruing) £69.5 billion cost to the UK economy on account of their Brexit dithering.
MP’s need to understand that EU membership was never legal to begin with as (a previous UK Parliament) gave away (some amount of) sovereignty to a foreign country which clearly contradicts the UK’s constitutional framework and therefore the legal term ‘ab initio’ applies, which means that EU membership for the UK was always contrary to the UK’s constitutional documentation and therefore, the membership was never valid in the first place so MP’s should stop obsessing about how the UK could ‘legally’ leave the EU. (‘ab initio’ = as if it never happened)
According to the UK constitutional framework, the UK couldn’t legally join the EU, therefore, it was never really a member. So, just leave! You weren’t a real member anyway. Stop obsessing!
According to democratic process, leaving aside ‘ab initio’ for a moment — Britons voted for Brexit and British MP’s have a fiduciary duty to their constituents to deliver such service as they’ve been contracted to perform.
According to the economic impact to the country after 3-years of Brexit shenanigans and dithering, the shocking economic losses to the country (which I conservatively calculate at £69.5 billion, so far) should create enough guilt to motivate British MP’s to deliver the Brexit they’ve so often promised.
Remember; A promise is nothing but a lie until the promise is fulfilled.
And those living a lie don’t deserve their seats in the House of Commons and I fervently hope that any MP who worked to frustrate Brexit doesn’t win their seat in the next election, whenever that election may occur. And good riddance to them! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
The People have spoken. Everything else is mere commentary.
- Tories bid to depose Speaker Bercow after Commons revolt (BBC)
- Commons Speaker John Bercow to stand down (BBC)
- Hero or villain? Bercow’s notoriety is a consequence of parliament’s crisis – not its cause — (The Guardian)
Boris Johnson’s First Speech in Parliament as Prime Minister
New UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s first speech to the House of Commons
July 25, 2019 | Transcript courtesy of The Spectator
“Mr Speaker, I with permission, shall make a statement on the mission of this new Conservative Government. But before I begin, I am sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to my Rt Hon Friend the Member for Maidenhead – for all that she has given in the service of our nation.
From fighting modern slavery to tackling the problems of mental ill-health – she has a great legacy on which we shall all be proud to build. And our mission is to deliver Brexit on the 31st of October for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our great United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth. And when I say the greatest place on earth, I’m conscious that some may accuse me of hyperbole. But it is useful to imagine the trajectory on which we could now be embarked.
By 2050 it is more than possible that the United Kingdom will be the greatest and most prosperous economy in Europe – at the centre of a new network of trade deals that we have pioneered. With the road and rail investments we are making and propose to make now – the investment in broadband and 5G – our country will boast the most formidable transport and technological connectivity on the planet. By unleashing the productive power of the whole United Kingdom – not just of London and the South East but of every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – we will have closed forever the productivity gap and seen to it that no town is left behind ever again; no community ever again forgotten. Our children and grandchildren will be living longer, happier, healthier, wealthier lives.
Our United Kingdom of 2050 will no longer make any contribution whatsoever to the destruction of our precious planet brought about by carbon emissions – because we will have led the world in delivering that net zero target. We will be the home of electric vehicles – cars, even planes, powered by British made battery technology being developed right here, right now. We will have the freeports to revitalise our coastal communities, a bioscience sector liberated from anti genetic modification rules, blight-resistant crops that will feed the world – and the satellite and earth observation systems that are the envy of the world. We will be the seedbed for the most exciting and most dynamic business investments on the planet.
Our Constitutional settlement, our United Kingdom will be firm, will be secure. Our Union of nations beyond question. Our democracy robust. Our future clean, green, prosperous, united, confident, ambitious – this my friends is the prize, more still the responsibility that it falls on us to fulfil. And to do so, we must take some immediate steps. The first is to restore trust in our democracy and fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people by coming out of the European Union – and doing so on 31 October. I and all ministers in this Government are committed to leaving on this date, whatever the circumstances. To do otherwise would cause a catastrophic loss of confidence in our political system. It will leave the British people wondering whether their politicians could ever be trusted again to follow a clear democratic instruction. I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal. I would much prefer it. I believe that is still possible even at this late stage and I will work flat out to make it happen. But certain things need to be clear.
The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by my predecessor has been three times rejected by this House. Its terms are unacceptable to this Parliament and to this country. No country that values its independence and indeed its self-respect could agree to a Treaty which signed away our economic independence and self-government as this backstop does. A time limit is not enough. If an agreement is to be reached it must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop. For our part we are ready to negotiate in good faith an alternative, with provisions to ensure that the Irish border issues are dealt with where they should always have been: in the negotiations on the future agreement between the UK and the EU. I do not accept the argument that says that these issues can only be solved by all or part of the UK remaining in the customs union or in the single market. The evidence is that other arrangements are perfectly possible, and are also perfectly compatible with the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, to which we are of course steadfastly committed.
I, my team, and my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union are ready to meet and to talk on this basis to the Commission or other EU colleagues whenever they are ready to do so. For our part, we will throw ourselves into these negotiations with the greatest energy and determination and in the spirit of friendship. And I hope that the EU will be equally ready and that they will rethink their current refusal to make any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.
If they do not, we will of course have to leave the EU without an agreement under Article 50. The UK is better prepared for that situation than many believe. But we are not as ready yet as we should be. In the 98 days that remain to us we must turbo-charge our preparations to make sure that there is as little disruption as possible to our national life. I believe that is possible with the kind of national effort that the British people have made before and will make again. In these circumstances we would, of course, also have available the £39bn in the Withdrawal Agreement to help deal with any consequences.
I have today instructed the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to make these preparations his top priority. I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to mobilise the Civil Service to deliver this outcome should it become necessary. And the Chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. I will also ensure that preparing for leaving the EU without an agreement under Article 50 is not just about seeking to mitigate the challenges but also about grasping the opportunities. This is not just about technical preparations, vital though they are. It is about having a clear economic strategy for the UK in all scenarios, something which the Conservative Party has always led the way, and it’s about producing policies which will boost the competitiveness and the productivity of our economy when we are free of the EU regulations.
Indeed, Mr Speaker, we will begin right away on working to change the tax rules to provide extra incentives to invest in capital and research. And we will be now accelerating the talks on those free trade deals. And we will prepare an economic package to boost British business and lengthen this country’s lead as the number one destination in this continent for overseas investment. A status that is made possible by the diversity talent and skills of our workforce and,
Mr Speaker, I also want therefore to repeat unequivocally our guarantee to the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us. I thank them for their contribution to our society – and for their patience – and I can assure them that under this government they will have the absolute certainty of the right to live and remain.
Mr Speaker, I want to end by making clear that my commitment to the 31 October date for our exit. Our national participation in the European Union is coming to an end. This reality needs to be recognised by all parties. Indeed, Mr Speaker today there are very many brilliant officials trapped in meeting after meeting in Brussels and Luxembourg when they could be better deploying their talents in preparing to pioneer new trade deals and promoting a truly Global Britain. I want to start unshackling our officials to undertake this new mission right away.
So we will not nominate a UK Commissioner for the new Commission taking office on 1 November – though clearly this is not intended to stop the EU appointing a new commission. Mr Speaker, today is the first day of a new approach, which will end with our exit from the EU on 31 October. Then I hope we can have a friendly and constructive relationship – as constitutional equals, as friends, and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead. I believe that is possible and this government will work to make it so.
But Mr Speaker, we are not going to wait until 31 October to begin building the broader and bolder future that I have described. We are going to start right away, providing vital funding for our frontline public services, to deliver better healthcare, better education and more police on the streets.
Mr Speaker, I am committed to making sure that the NHS receives the funds that were promised by the last Government in June 2018 and that these funds go to frontline as soon as possible. This will include urgent funding for 20 hospital upgrades and winter-readiness. I have asked officials to provide policy proposals for drastically reducing waiting times and for GP appointments. To address the rise of violent crime in our country I have announced that there will be 20,000 extra police keeping us safe over the next three years, and I have asked my Rt Hon Friend the Home Secretary to ensure this is treated as an absolute priority.
We will give greater powers for the police to use stop and search to help tackle violent crime. I have also tasked officials to draw up proposals to ensure that in future those found guilty of the most serious sexual and violent offences are required to serve a custodial sentence that truly reflects the severity of their offence and policy measures that will see a reduction in the number of prolific offenders. On education, I have listened to the concerns of many colleagues and we will increase the minimum level of per pupil funding in primary and secondary schools and return education funding to previous levels by the end of this Parliament.
We are committed to levelling up across every nation and region across the UK, providing support to towns and cities and closing the opportunity gap in our society. We will announce investment in vital infrastructure, fibre rollout, transport and housing that can improve people’s quality of life, fuel economic growth and provide opportunity.
Finally, we will also ensure that we continue to attract the brightest and best talent from around the world. No-one believes more strongly than me in the benefits of migration to our country. But I am clear that our immigration system must change. For years, politicians have promised the public an Australian-style points based system. And today I will actually deliver on those promises – I will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to conduct a review of that system as the first step in a radical rewriting of our immigration system. I am convinced that we can produce a system that the British public can have confidence in.
Mr Speaker, over these past few years, too many people in this country feel that they have been told repeatedly and relentlessly what we cannot do. Since I was a child I remember respectable authorities asserting that our time as a nation has passed, that we should be content with mediocrity and managed decline. And time and again – even the sceptics and doubters – by their powers to innovate and adapt the British people have showed the doubters wrong.
And Mr Speaker I believe that at this pivotal moment in our national story we are going to prove the doubters wrong again. Not just with positive thinking and a can-do attitude, important though they are. But with the help and the encouragement Government and a Cabinet that is bursting with ideas, ready to create change, determined to implement the policies we need to succeed as a nation. The greatest place to live. The greatest place to bring up a family. The greatest place to send your kids to school. The greatest place to set up a business or to invest. Because we have the best transport and the cleanest environment and the best healthcare, and the most compassionate approach to care of elderly people.
That is the mission of the Cabinet I have appointed. That is the purpose of the Government I am leading. And that is why I believe that if we bend our sinews to the task now, there is every chance that in 2050, when I fully intend to be around, though not necessarily in this job we will look back on this period, this extraordinary period, as the beginning of a new golden age for our United Kingdom. And I commend this future to the House just as much as I commend this statement.”