March 15, 2019
There have been a number of Brexit votes this week. I thought at this stage it would be helpful to clarify again how I voted as your MP and why.
As promised, I voted against taking “no deal” off the table indefinitely as an option. I am against no deal, but while we continue to negotiate, I do not think we should put ourselves in a position where we have to take what we are given by the EU.
I did vote in favour of the Government asking for a short extension, in the event that the Withdrawal Agreement is passed next week and more time is needed to pass the necessary legislation. I am uncomfortable with delay, but I think it is more important that we leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way, rather than crash out with no deal.
I voted against a second referendum; against an attempt for Parliament to take control, and against the Labour proposal.
As a result of the recent votes, we now know that our elected Parliament is:
- against the Withdrawal Agreement,
- against leaving without a deal,
- against a second referendum,
- against Parliament taking control,
- against the so-called Malthouse proposal,
- against Labour’s Brexit proposals, and
- for a time limited extension, if the Withdrawal Agreement is passed.
From this, I take it that there is a potential majority in Parliament for a deal which delivers on the referendum, even if slightly delayed.
Next week, the PM will bring back the Withdrawal Agreement. As the other options are rejected by Parliament it becomes more and more clear that it is the only real deal on the table. The PM still has a mountain to climb to get a majority, but I am increasingly thinking it is possible and will continue to support her.
If the deal fails again, I am unclear what will happen. I would expect a process to start to try and establish what kind of agreement would command a majority in Parliament. My instinct is that would be an agreement that leaves us in a similar position to Norway in relation to the EU. It will also mean a delay. To my eyes that option is worse than the Agreement that the PM has reached.
However, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For the moment, my priority is to support the PM in securing an agreement that delivers on the referendum and allows us to leave the EU – but in an orderly way that minimises the risk to jobs and security.
March 13, 2019
I represent a constituency that voted very narrowly to Remain. However, I believe that we have to respect the narrow majority nationally who voted to leave the EU in the Referendum. I stood in the last election on a manifesto that was clear about the need to “ deliver a smooth and orderly departure from the EU.” I have now voted twice for a withdrawal agreement that will allow that smooth and orderly departure on 29 March, which was the will of Parliament when we voted to trigger Article 50.
I am very frustrated that Parliament continues to oppose an agreement, which to my eyes is good enough, and certainly better than the alternatives. However, I accept that we now have to understand what Parliament will support. This is a confusing and frustrating process which we have to take a step at a time.
I am now being asked to vote on whether we should leave with no deal. I have been very clear that I am opposed to us crashing out without a deal on 29 March. I think it is a terrible irresponsibility to leave such an important relationship, without an agreement on the next stage. It will cause disruptions we are not prepared for; it will cost jobs and it will take unnecessary risks with our security arrangements. I do not believe that is what people voted for, and it is not what I stood for at the last general election.
The Government has published various impact statements on the impact of no deal and has today published information on what will happen in that eventuality (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/implications-for-business-and-trade-of-a-no-deal-exit-on-29-march-2019, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tax-information-and-impact-note-for-the-uk-tariff-2019/tax-information-and-impact-note-for-the-uk-tariff-2019–2 & https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eu-exit-avoiding-a-hard-border-in-northern-ireland-in-a-no-deal-scenario). I believe that this is a scenario we should do everything we can to avoid.
However much I dislike a no deal scenario, and resent the money and time we are wasting in preparing for it, I do not think we can or should rule it out forever, as some MPs will argue today. It remains the default position in law unless we ratify an agreement. I do not want us to be in a position where we are forced to accept a deal which is worse than the one already negotiated.
So my position is to support a Government motion that says we should not leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement and a framework for the future relationship, specifically on 29 March 2019. I think we have to keep working towards an agreement. However, I will not support amendments that rule out no deal forever, as that could undermine our chance of securing an acceptable agreement.
It is likely that Parliament will vote to avoid no deal, at least on 29 March. Parliament is then likely to vote for requesting an extension. This is not what I want, not least as it hands negotiating power to the EU. The fact is that a coalition of MPs, driven by conflicting motives, have voted down the Agreement, which would have delivered a smooth and orderly departure from the EU on 29 March. Parliament now needs to establish what there is a majority for, or else we risk further losing the confidence of the British public, and the pressure for a second, highly divisive and possibly inconclusive referendum will grow.
I want us to reach an agreement and get on with the next stage of delivering a sensible Brexit, not least as there are many other national and global challenges which require more of our attention.
March 12, 2019
We voted to leave the EU, but without an agreed plan on “how.” Our elected Parliament continues to struggle to find a consensus on that question; the major parties remain deeply divided. There has been a lot of noise since my last statement, but the fundamentals have changed very little. My position remains exactly the same. I set it out again, so that you are clear about the position of your elected representative.
I represent a constituency that voted narrowly to remain. That was my personal position too. I now believe strongly that we must respect the referendum result and leave. My strong preference would be to leave on the 29th of March, as this process has dragged on too long, and it is extremely damaging in the division and uncertainty it is creating.
However, I want to leave in an orderly way that minimises disruption to people’s lives and any possible risks to jobs and security. That is why I have always supported the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement. We need to be very clear that it is the only deal on the table. The rest is noise, and it is clear that the appetite of the EU to renegotiate further in a substantial way is nil.
I am not claiming that the deal is perfect – but it is good enough. It delivers on the issues that seemed to matter most to Leave Voters, not least ending Freedom of Movement; giving us freedom from the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies; and ending our payments to the EU once our current obligations are settled. We will clearly leave, but with a transition period that gives our employers time to adjust to the new relationship with our biggest trading partner. That makes sense to me, and I am not surprised that it is supported by most of the groups that represent employers. It is time to give them some certainty and to move on to negotiating the detail of how our future economic and security relationship with the EU will work.
So my single priority this week is to Vote for the Withdrawal Agreement. The fact that the PM appears to have secured legally binding assurances from the EU that we will not be locked into the so-called backstop, makes the case for the deal even stronger.
Some argue that we would be better off leaving with no deal. I do not believe that is what we voted for as a country, nor is it Government policy. I do not believe that there is a majority for this course in Parliament, and therefore doubt that any Government could deliver it. Even if there was, I consider it to be an extremely irresponsible and risky course of action, as I am clear that it will cost jobs and undermine our security, as well as create large scale disruption that I am not convinced we are prepared for. I am under no illusions that there remains widespread opposition to the Deal. However, the alternatives are unappealing.
Alternatively, some argue for a “softer” Brexit, perhaps closer to the relationship that Norway has with the EU. I am not convinced that is a better outcome for us than the agreement which the PM has negotiated. We would still have freedom of movement; we would continue paying large sums of money; and we would have to accept rules set by others.
There are also those who argue that we delay. That only makes sense to temporarily avoid no deal. However, I am not clear that any delay will strengthen our negotiating hand, and the only way to be sure of avoiding ‘no deal’ is to agree a deal. In the real world, rather than Fantasy Brexit, which too many people seem to be playing, I believe that a Brexit deal looks a lot like what the PM has agreed – with a lot to play for in negotiating the next stage.
Finally, of course, there are those who believe we should call the whole thing off and “go back to the people” for a second referendum. I think that would be damaging for our democracy and would risk deepening division, without resolving anything. Likewise, I cannot see how a General Election would change anything in terms of the Brexit fundamentals. Indeed, it risks bringing in an administration that would be deeply damaging to the prospects of our country.
So I am left with only one choice, which is to support the Withdrawal Agreement, now improved with greater reassurances to colleagues worried about our ability to leave the so-called “backstop” arrangements, designed to ensure that when we leave, we do not create a so-called “hard border” in Ireland.
If the Deal is voted down again, I will of course keep you updated on what MPs will have to decide on next and how I will vote. There are too many uncertainties to be clear on that today.
I am always interested in the views of constituents as this important constitutional drama unfolds. Please do not hesitate to contact me with thoughtful opinion. If you are one of those who can only communicate abuse, do not expect a reply.