These are my thoughts ahead of this evening’s votes on the Government’s Brexit deal.
Today marks another stage in the Brexit process and we can think of this as a chance for Parliament to express its will on the various options in front of us.
Throughout this, I have been mindful of my solemn duty to honour the result of the referendum result, a historic exercise in democracy that saw 62% of my constituents voting to leave the EU.
During my time as your MP I have consistently honoured that result and have supported Brexit legislation as it passes through the House of Commons. Yesterday, I voted to repeal Free Movement of labour, and was pleased to see the Immigration Bill pass through the House. This means delivering on the commitment in the referendum, to have our own sovereign immigration policy that is right for our country, ending uncontrolled immigration from the EU, and to take back control of our borders. This is something that I know many people in Redditch felt strongly about and was an important, though not the only reason, for their desire to leave the European Union.
In my regular engagements with hundreds of constituents in my constituency, every Friday and Saturday when I am back from Westminster, and through the thousands of pieces of correspondence I receive, I am clear that there is no significant change of opinion on either side of this debate. People who voted to remain largely still want to remain, and those who voted to leave still largely want to leave. So, to be faithful to our long-established tradition of democracy, we need to leave, the debate in front of us is how we leave.
In the 2017 general election manifesto which I stood on, and received over 52.3% of the vote, I was elected on a promise to leave the EU with a negotiated settlement to protect jobs, agriculture, security and citizens’ rights. This is why I have supported the Prime Minister’s deal that she negotiated. However, we know that there are a number of concerns over this particular agreement, most often centring on the Northern Ireland protocol, which is why it didn’t pass the Commons previously.
Today a number of groups of MPs have tabled various amendments relating to the main motion, and it is difficult to know at this stage what will command support. We still don’t know which amendments speaker Bercow will accept, he is a law unto himself at the moment.
However, I would like to be clear with my constituents that I stand firm in my commitment to deliver Brexit on the 29th of March 2019. For these reasons I do not support any amendments calling for a ‘People’s Vote’ or second referendum. I continue to believe that this would fail to solve anything and further inflame the damaging divisions surrounding this debate, many of which I have experienced on my social media channels recently.
Further, I do not support any amendment calling to take no deal off the table. To me, with three decades of business experience, including negotiating many deals, you do not remove your bottom line negotiating position. I do not favour leaving without a deal as a primary option, rather, I would like to see us continue to work together to find a way to support the deal that is on the table, that respects the result of the referendum and delivers certainty to citizens and businesses. This is also the view of the vast majority of my constituents and the many small businesses and entrepreneurs that Redditch is famous for.
It is my hope that the ‘Brady amendment’ can today command support from MPs. This amendment seeks to remove the backstop and replace with alternative arrangements that preserve peace on the island of Ireland and do not break up our Union. My view, which I have expressed to Prime Minister directly in my meetings with her, is that with this expression of support in the House, she can go back to Brussels, re-open the legal text if necessary, to achieve a result that is right for the UK, and means we leave in a smooth and orderly way.
Of course, the EU are going to dig their heels in, but she must now remind them that they need a deal as much as we do, and if they don’t want us to leave without a deal, they must find a legal way through that satisfies our democratically elected MPs who are carrying out the democratically expressed wish of the British people. I remain optimistic that despite their rhetoric and bluster they will see we are determined to leave. This is also why we must leave the option to walk away without a deal on the table. Removing it would simply re-affirm their position that they aren’t budging from where they are now.
The Prime Minister has been clear with us that there will be another opportunity for us to vote on the deal in February. So, this is not the final vote on the process. We do need to think of Brexit as a process, not a single event. But the most important single event is getting out on March 29th. I will be supporting the ‘Brady amendment’ tonight in the hope that this can break the deadlock and find us an orderly exit, and allows us to proceed to the next stage of the process, negotiating our future trade deal, which is what the overwhelming majority of my Redditch constituents want.