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.