I want to reassure people that I am committed to delivering Brexit in line with the referendum result. I hope you can forgive the length of this post, but it is very important. I will continue to vote in support of the Withdrawal Agreement in Parliament, and I have supported the deal the PM has negotiated with the EU each time it has been brought to the vote. For all its flaws, I think it is a deal that has the potential to unite the country – save for those views at either extreme of the Leave/Remain spectrum. I also think the country would continue to prosper under the terms outlined by that deal (or something similar). I sincerely hope we can leave with this deal on 29th March.
However, political judgements across Parliament have obstructed the progress the PM has been able to make. Several votes, in which I have myself supported the PM and Brexit, on each and every occasion, have been lost. This has created instability and uncertainty, which is damaging our economy and our reputation in the world.
We have seen critical votes delayed and postponed several times recently, the latest delay (the postponement of votes due to be held by February 28th, to March 12th) proved a delay too far. The risk of Britain leaving the EU without a deal by default increased with the proximity of that key vote promised by March 13th to the date of our departure on March 29th. There would simply be no time to change course at that late stage, should a minority of Conservatives, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Opposition succeed in combining forces to vote down the PM’s deal yet again.
Of course I hope the PM will be able to negotiate changes to the Backstop with the EU. I don’t think the changes will be enough to make the passage of the deal easy, but if it is possible to get the deal, with a revised backstop, through Parliament by March 12th I will be delighted. Job done and we will leave on the 29th March.
I have said several times that I will not be party to a government that presides over the country leaving without a deal, for further information please see my three articles at www.margotjames.com/brexit
Some people have challenged the timing of my intervention on the grounds that it has undermined the PM’s negotiating position. My view is that “no deal” is not the killer point in these negotiations that some people think it to be. To be sure the EU would suffer from a no deal Brexit; just not as much the UK would. For the simple reason that the economic, and other harms, would be shared among the EU27, whereas the totality of the pain on the other side would be borne by the UK as a single country. The one exception to my argument on the EU side is the Republic of Ireland. No other member state, even Germany with their massive trade surplus with the UK, would endure the same short term pressures, loss of business and over the long term, reduction in foreign investment that we would incur by leaving without a deal.
Last year I stood for re-election on a manifesto which promised to respect the result of the referendum, to leave the EU in an orderly way with arrangements in place to guarantee a close future relationship with the EU as a third country. I am sorry that some people voted for me on the basis that I would support a Brexit that left us severed from our biggest market with no trading or security arrangements in place, if a deal could not be agreed. I realise that people in this position will feel let down, but that last scenario is one to which I have never been committed. The trouble with the referendum was that it simply asked us whether we wanted to remain a member of the EU or leave the EU. It did not ask us how we wanted to leave.
I am very well aware that my constituents voted to leave in large numbers. Almost 70% of all those who voted, and in a record turnout, voted to leave. I do take that clear result very seriously, hence my voting record on all Brexit legislation since the referendum. But I cannot ignore the national poll, in which the margin was very much smaller, in my view a result that does not provide a mandate for leaving the EU without any deal at all.