As I have been a Brexiteer for over 40 years, I sincerely regret that we did not leave the European Union on Friday 29th March. The Government promised the British people that we would leave the EU within two years of triggering Article 50, as is outlined in international law. To not have achieved this is clearly a failure. Throughout the entire process, I have been determined to hold the Government’s feet to the fire, to secure the best possible Brexit and deliver it on time. Clearly, we have failed to leave on time and now face a second extension to our departure date.
We have now reached the point where the House of Commons is struggling with the Government to take control of the agenda in an attempt to water down the Brexit deal or, perhaps, prevent it altogether. Outlined below are my views on the range of options that many of you have contacted me about.
Second referendum. A second vote would only increase division within the country. It is highly likely that there would be a lower turnout and, if the result was overturned, would probably see the winning side obtain fewer votes than the 2016 poll. Therefore, the mandate would be questionable. The British people had their say in 2016 and voted to leave and the Government of the day made clear that it would implement their decision. I will not support moves to force them to think again.
Customs Union. Leaving the customs union was explicitly outlined during the referendum and in the 2017 Conservative election manifesto. To remain a member of a/the customs union would prevent us from negotiating free trade deals around the world and leave us unable to gain some of the economic advantages of Brexit. As such I will not vote for one.
Revoking Article 50. Having been a Brexiteer for over 40 years, I would not countenance cancelling Brexit. I also think it would create a great backlash from voters who would, quite rightly, feel ignored.
‘Common Market 2.0’. I do not believe this proposal, also referred to as ‘Norway Plus’, comes close to fulfilling the outcome of the referendum. One of the core promises of the referendum, which was then incorporated into the Conservative and Labour manifestos, was that freedom of movement would end. This would not be possible under this proposal and so I will vote against it.
No deal. I still believe that no deal is better than a bad deal; this should be the basic principle behind any negotiation. The term itself is somewhat misleading as it really means leaving with multiple, smaller deals which, in many ways, would be preferable to a single wide-ranging deal. I have voted in support of this option in the past and would readily do so again. However, Parliament is clearly against this, and has voted to block it on multiple occasions already.
The Prime Minister’s Deal. Since it became clear that no deal had been taken off the table, the issue for backbenchers has been a political one. Reject the deal in the knowledge that no deal would be ruled out and a lengthy extension forced upon us by the EU which could lead to no Brexit at all; or, vote for the deal so to guarantee our departure at the earliest opportunity. Accepting this reality forced me to vote for the Deal at the second and third votes.
This week, the Prime Minister announced that she would work with Jeremy Corbyn to negotiate a soft Brexit deal which the Labour Party may agree to back. I do not agree with this strategy and believe the result will be more obstruction and a deal which does not satisfy the will of the people. I will withhold judgement to see what the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition produce but will not sign a blank cheque of support. Based on what the Labour Party has been proposing in recent weeks, I find it very doubtful that I will be able to support any likely proposals.
On the matter of Mrs May’s position, as you may know I voted against her in the confidence motion last December. I believe it is vital that a new leader negotiates our future relationship with the EU and was pleased to hear the Prime Minister announce her early departure last week once the first phase of the negotiations is complete. However, if there is to be further capitulation, it may be necessary for a change of leadership earlier than that.
I will always use my votes to deliver what the country and my constituency voted for: to leave the EU.
I recognise that some of you will have supported remain and will find this article disappointing, but I feel that it is essential that we deliver on the referendum result, otherwise the trust between the elector and the elected will be severely damaged putting our democratic processes at risk.