Q&A on Brexit

I receive many hundreds of emails each day about Brexit. Although I read them all, and have done my utmost to answer them all, that is becoming impossible. Most of the letters and emails I receive contain the same range of questions, and so I provide a short Q&A below which covers most of them.

 

•Please support a second referendum / revoke Article 50 / cancel Brexit

I addressed these issues in a speech to parliament. https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2018-12-05b.899.0#g981.0

In my speech I said;

“There are many in this House who share my views about the deal but whose answer is to press for a second referendum, which would be madness. There was a consensus at the time of the referendum that the outcome would be honoured. Solemn promises from the PM were echoed on both sides of the House.

We all remember some people brashly saying that it did not matter how people voted because the EU would never let us out anyway. I remember those people being dismissed as if they were lunatics, but that did happen in Denmark, France and the Netherlands, and I think it happened twice in Ireland. I was one of the people who dismissed those concerns as conspiracy theories. How extraordinary and how depressing that there is now a real chance those people could have been right all along.

I understand that some people remain mortified by the outcome of the vote, and of course this place is filled with extremely clever people who could potentially find a clever way of stopping Brexit one way or another, but it would demonstrate a remarkable lack of wisdom. A failure to honour the referendum would surely cause an irreparable breakdown in the relationship between the people and the authorities. It would usher in a new era of extreme politics.

There is no reason why the UK should be immune to the trends that are plaguing almost every other country in Europe: in France, where Le Pen leads in the polls; in Germany, where the Alternative für Deutschland, founded in only 2013, is now the biggest Opposition party in Parliament; in Austria, where the Freedom party is part of the Government; and in Italy, Spain, Sweden, Greece and so on.

If the gut fear that so many people have, the feeling that the political elite simply cannot be trusted, is utterly and completely confirmed, where will those mainstream voters go? It is madness. It could possibly, potentially, perhaps be justified if something truly seismic had happened, but it has not. Millions of pounds have been poured into a campaign to undermine the referendum and make people fear every aspect of Brexit, but the polls have barely moved; they are still within the margin of error.”

My views have not changed. I believe failure to honour the referendum would be catastrophic for our democracy and our country.
In addition to the arguments I raised, there are serious practical considerations. Could there even be a consensus on the question? If not, then the process would lack any credibility and would be over before it began. For example, many of those asking for a second vote (including the new Independent group of MPs and many Lib Dems) are suggesting it should be the PM’s deal versus Remain. Were that to happen, it would simply be boycotted. 

•Your constituency voted for Remain, why are you not representing it?

Of course I acknowledge that a majority of local residents voted ‘Remain in the referendum. Each of us cast a vote of equal worth in a way that we individually felt best reflected the interests of our country.

But I believe it is also important to acknowledge that the referendum was a national, not a local exercise in direct democracy. 

In addition and like other Conservative MPs (and Labour MPs) I was elected on a very clear manifesto promise to honour the outcome of the referendum. 

My own position was also well known before I was elected, and I was elected on that clear understanding. I think it matters that MPs do what they are elected to do.

•Why did you support a ‘No Deal’ Brexit?

I am not in favour of a no deal Brexit. Indeed virtually no one wants a no-deal exit – not here, and not in the EU. But as I have consistently said, I think it is madness to remove it from the table in the negotiations, and until an agreement is reached we are still in negotiations. Doing so dramatically weakens our negotiating position as it is a signal that we will ultimately accept any rotten deal to avoid ‘no deal’. I have no doubt that if the EU believed we were ready and willing to leave on WTO terms, some of the concerns around the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement – such as the Backstop - could have been addressed by the EU. For that reason, I will not vote to remove ‘no deal’ from the table.

However the very fact that I reluctantly voted for the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, despite being critical of it, demonstrates that I want us to honour the result of the referendum, and to do so in an orderly way.

•17.4m people voted to leave. The Government has broken its promise and is betraying the people.

I absolutely share the general anger and frustration with politics today. I cannot put forward a counter argument because there isn’t one. This Government and this Parliament have covered themselves in shame, and the damage to our democracy is incalculable. 

I believe that as a result of Parliament’s indecision, it is likely we will be forced into a General Election. When we are, I believe Jeremy Corbyn will win with a working majority. For some people that is welcome news. I believe it is the greatest threat this country has faced for generations. In our area, we have never had a Conservative Government without also returning a Conservative MP, so I feel a particular responsibility.

•Why did you support the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement? It is a betrayal of Brexit.

I am on the record in saying that the PM’s deal is deeply flawed and I have not changed my mind. But – with a great deal of disappointment – I did vote for it last time because it is quite clear that under this Parliament and this Government the alternative to the PM’s deal will likely be far worse.
If I could identify an alternative – one that broadly reflects promises we were elected on and which has a realistic chance of being passed by Parliament, I will vote against this deal and embrace that alternative. But at this stage I cannot. I can only see months and probably years of wrangling, indecision, paralysis and delay. And I don’t believe our country can cope with that.

•You will be voted out at the next election.

Fundamentally my job as an MP is to do what I think is right for the country and that is what I try to do. Were people to look at the emails I have received over the past few weeks, they would see that there is no single position on Brexit that commands anything like a majority. I have had letters vehemently demanding that the Government honour the referendum by leaving on the 29th with ‘no deal. I have had others demanding simply that Brexit is cancelled, and still more demanding a second vote, and numerous asking me to back the PM’s deal to bring an end to all this. 

I hope in time people across the board learn once again to disagree with one another politely and in a civilised manner. But for now, all I can do is to do what I believe is in everyone’s interest and leave it to constituents at the next election to take a view.