As somebody who campaigned for a leave vote in the 2016 referendum and who was elected on a Brexit-supporting manifesto at the 2017 General Election, I am committed to ensuring the UK leaves the EU on March 29. I continue to believe that the best way to achieve a smooth and successful departure is with a deal, such as the one negotiated by the UK Government and the EU. However it is clear that the Withdrawal Agreement, in its current form, is not something that a majority in the House of Commons is able to support. I respect this view, and therefore think it is right that the Government continues its dialogue with MPs across the House to ascertain what exactly would be required for the deal to secure a majority.
Questions turn, however, to what happens in the event that these talks are not successful and that no way forward can be found that allows the Withdrawal Agreement to pass. I have had many enquiries regarding my view on proposals for the future and I want to make my opinion clear on each.
Revoking Article 50
At the 2017 General Election I stood on manifesto promising to implement Brexit, as did the candidate who came second. I received over 60% of the vote at that election, and Stratford-on-Avon district voted to leave in the 2016 referendum. I do not believe revoking Article 50 and cancelling our departure from the EU would be compatible with either of these mandates. It would be inherently undemocratic and I therefore cannot support it.
Extending Article 50
To delay our departure from the EU would only kick the big decisions we need to make into the long grass. We would be in exactly the same position coming up to our later departure date as we are now in the run up to March 29. MPs are elected to make decisions on behalf of those who elect them and I think it would be an abrogation of our responsibility if we were to delay making the big decisions in the hope that they go away. They will not, and we need to make them now.
It is also very important to note that MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of triggering Article 50 in 2017. This set in motion an explicitly defined 2 year period after which the UK would leave the EU, with or without a deal. That some MPs who voted to trigger Article 50 are now considering reneging on that vote because a no deal scenario might occur is therefore slightly disingenuous. No deal was always a possibility, and MPs bound themselves to that possibility when voting for Article 50. I am therefore not supporting any efforts to delay our departure from the EU.
A second referendum is not something I am able to support. The decision to leave the EU was taken back in 2016 and the Government and Opposition have now been elected with mandates to honour this result. We cannot keep having referendums ad infinitum until one side gets the result they desire.
As I have already said, a no deal outcome has always been a possibility since MPs voted to trigger Article 50 and leave the EU on 29 March, with or without a deal. So not only do I think that efforts to block a no deal outcome are a little disingenuous, but I also think they are harmful to the negotiation process. This is because the ability to walk away from any negotiation is a vital part of securing a good deal. Without this capability, one could find oneself in the situation of having to accept any deal imposed and would have little control over the terms. This is why I find some MPs’ attempts to use parliamentary mechanisms to block a no-deal so frustrating; they would effectively bind the Prime Minister’s hands and make it even more difficult to secure a good deal, the very outcome these MPs claim to want.
I have always been clear that, personally, I do not think a no deal outcome is the optimal course for this country. My preference for a good deal is patent. But as I have said, it is vital for the negotiations that the UK retains the ability to walk away. And just because I favour a deal does not mean I do not think we could make a great success of a no deal scenario. This is the Government’s policy and is why it has been making preparations for such an outcome.
Deal or no deal, I believe we can thrive outside the EU. The onus is now firmly on MPs to decide the nature of our departure.