March 28, 2019
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.
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.