Wednesday 13th March – No Deal Vote Statement
An unusual situation took hold in the House of Commons last night. I followed the Government Whip and voted against an amendment to the Government motion which sought to prevent the country from leaving the EU without a deal. Regular visitors to my page might find that strange, given my oft-stated view of the risks and dangers of leaving the EU without a deal. You can read more of what I have said about those risks at www.margotjames.com/
I followed the Government Whip because, along with many other MPs, I thought that I would get the chance to vote for the Governments motion afterwards. That motion, as well as being against no deal, also noted that it would remain the legal default.
This was not to be. The Government whipped against its own motion, having been amended by the earlier vote, denying my colleagues and I the opportunity of a free vote on the issue.
I decided to abstain. I was not prepared to vote against something with which I agreed twice in one day. Having fought to get a vote on no deal, I should perhaps have voted for the motion rather than abstaining.
I fully understand the criticism of my conduct made by some Conservative colleagues locally. Abstention can be a rather shabby position to take and I am not particularly proud of myself. However, I did accept the Government view that the substance of the motion had changed – not radically, but the revised motion was stronger against no deal than the original.
In the end, I could not bring myself to vote against something in which I believed, but neither did I want to oppose the Government of which I am a member. During normal times the whipping system obliges ministers to follow the Government whip. These are not normal times.