I am well aware that the struggle in our divided Parliament to find a Brexit solution for a divided nation is generating widespread dismay and increasing anger.
The basic position of your MP has not changed. I voted Remain, like the constituency, but I believe we should respect the result of the 2016 referendum. I stood for election on a manifesto that committed to a smooth and orderly Brexit. I want to deliver for the 52% but I also want to move forward on a basis that is acceptable to the 48% – one that takes the least risk with British jobs and security, and allows us to retain good relations with our EU partners. So I support the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration that has been agreed with the EU because I see it as a reasonable compromise – and the least unfavourable option on the table for delivering Brexit.
It has been defeated heavily twice. If it comes back, I will support it again. It is clear that more and more MPs are of the same mind as they look at the alternatives.
On Wednesday, Parliament controversially took control of the proceedings and we had so called “indicative” votes on a number of alternative proposals put forward by MPs. The intention is to try and identify what might command a majority in Parliament.
Here is how I voted in what might be the first round of votes:
I voted against Exiting the EU with No Deal. I have always made clear that I see that as the worst outcome for the country. I was against “taking it off the negotiating table,” but it is clear that Parliament will not support it.
I voted against or abstained on a number of alternative plans, either because I disagreed with them or because they are inconsistent with the manifesto I stood on in the last General Election. I consider all of them to be worse than the deal that the PM is proposing.
I voted against revoking Article 50.
I abstained on the proposal that any deal should be approved by the people in a “confirmatory public vote.” I have been consistent in expressing my profound reservations about another public vote. My strong preference is to deliver on the first vote, which I believe the current agreement does. I continue to fear that another public vote will deepen already terrible division, without giving us certainty. However, I have also said that the longer that Parliament appears gridlocked and disconnected from the public, then the strength of the argument for a second vote grows. That argument gets stronger if Parliament requires a Government to take a new course, which has barely been debated, and which is not consistent with manifesto commitments. A General Election is the other option, and I do not think the country wants that. So I have reserved my judgement, not least to see the outcome of the next few days. To be clear my strong preference is to avoid a second vote. I want to see the gridlock In Parliament broken and MPs voting for a withdrawal agreement that delivers on the first referendum, is consistent with our manifesto, and which has been exhaustively debated in our representative Parliament.
The outcome of the indicative votes was no clear majority for any proposal. The proposal closest to a majority was for us to remain a member of the EU Customs Union. There was also growing support for a “confirmatory public vote.”
What happens next? Tomorrow is the deadline for securing the extension to May 22nd which the EU offered, and which now feels necessary to finalise the details of any deal. The Government will call a vote exclusively on the Withdrawal Agreement (and not the Political Declaration). If it is passed, it is believed that will secure the extension. If it fails, then the key date becomes April 12th.
I will vote for the Withdrawal Agreement.