Throughout the complex and lengthy Parliamentary processes over Brexit, it has remained true that there are effectively only 3 options: leave with a deal, leave without a deal, or do not leave at all. Given the democratic consequences of revoking the outcome of the 2016 referendum when all serious politicians said they would abide by it, or the economic consequences of leaving with no deal, I continue to prefer the option of leaving with a deal. It is now apparent that a revised deal in which the UK gets everything it wants is a fantasy. That should have been obvious from the start. That is why I support the deal the Prime Minister has negotiated. It is far from perfect, but it is much better than the current debate would suggest.
This deal will deliver what the British people voted for in the Referendum – control of our borders, law making capacity returned to Westminster and cessation of large payments to Brussels. At the same time however it preserves the ability of our job-creating businesses to trade across European borders, as many will wish to do for the foreseeable future, while allowing us to negotiate trade deals with others too. We will leave the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy.
I believe that honouring the referendum result is incompatible with staying a member of the single market (and thereby accepting the ongoing free movement of people across our borders) or a member of the Customs Union (and thereby giving up our right to negotiate our own trade deals). I also believe that a second referendum on our membership of the EU would be perhaps more divisive than the first in a country already badly fractured by this debate, and may well not prove conclusive. It is those beliefs and conclusions, set out when I sought re-election in 2017, that have driven my voting last week and will drive it this week.
I do not support a no deal outcome, but I cannot vote for amendments that make a deal less likely, or ignore the reality that if Parliament does not choose positive action, no deal will happen on 29th March. I do, however, have to recognise where we are. With 2 weeks to go until the default exit day, even if Parliament vote this week for a deal (as I hope it will) there is now insufficient time to pass the legislation necessary to give effect to it. In those circumstances a short delay is needed, but a long one would continue the uncertainty that so damages business and erode the decision to leave the EU at all, with all the damage to democracy I believe that would cause. Instead I will continue to vote for the deal that enables us to leave the EU with the minimum economic damage, and enables this country to move on.