Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Newspaper column 9 January 2019 - The Meaningful Vote

This week Parliament sits again following the Christmas Recess.

It has been good to be able to be home in Cornwall over Christmas and New Year, not only to be able to have time with family and friends but also to be out and about in the constituency and attend a number of local events.

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch with me recently or has come to speak to me either at my local advice surgeries or when you have seen me around.  I am always so grateful for the welcome Anne and I receive and the kind words of encouragement we so often hear from local people. It is always important to me to hear from you, the people who elected me, so that I am able to effectively represent you in Parliament.

Next Tuesday sees the ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament on the EU Withdrawal Agreement, ahead of our leaving the EU on 29 March.

After having considered the Deal when it was first presented to Parliament in November I was clear that as it stood, I could not support it.

This was primarily due to the ‘backstop’ in the deal, which could leave our country without a set date to cut all ties with the EU, at the mercy of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels to determine when we could finally leave. This would also undermine our negotiating position in agreeing a future deal and I believe would particularly leave our fishing industry in a vulnerable position. As such, the deal would leave us in a no-man’s land of being neither in nor fully out, as well as keeping us indefinitely in the customs union which goes against our 2017 manifesto commitment. 

In the weeks since the Deal was first announced, the EU has given no sign it will be altering its position. Whilst the Prime Minister has been seeking reassurances from the EU, these do not change the fundamental flaws in the agreement. Therefore, as it stands I can confirm that when the Deal comes to the vote in Parliament next week I will not be supporting it.

As the Prime Minister has said many times previously No Deal is better than a bad deal and is still an option. I am pleased to see that the Government is now making the public aware of the preparations that have been put in place for such an outcome should it be necessary. Indeed, should Parliament not be able to agree on a Deal, then No Deal is the default legal position. A great deal of work has already taken place to prepare for a no deal Brexit and it wrong to present this as some sort of cliff edge we are not prepared for.

Whilst leaving without an agreement is not the preferred outcome, it is not something we as a country should be afraid of. However, I believe that in the run up to March we will see an escalation of scare-mongering for what Brexit and a no-deal Brexit will mean from those who wish to overturn the democratic decision our country made in 2016.

It is important to note that these doom-mongers have been proved to be wrong time and time again. Whether that be those predicting an immediate economic crash should we vote to leave in 2016, or the more recent claims that our drinking water and medicinal supplies are at risk with a no deal outcome (something which the NHS has specifically denied), these people have been proved wrong again and again. I hope people will see these attempts for what they are. Whilst there will of course be challenges should we leave without an agreement in place, we also need to be positive that we are well placed to cope, and the more preparations that are put in place then the smoother our exit will be.

My hope remains that if the Withdrawal Agreement is voted down next week, that the Prime Minister will then return to the EU and get a better deal that delivers on the referendum result and does not tie us indefinitely to the EU. If she can secure this then I will be pleased to support it. However if the EU continue to be unwilling to change their position then we should make clear to the EU leaders that we will be leaving and if that means leaving without a deal then so be it.

I remain committed to delivering of the result of the referendum and doing all I can to ensure we leave the EU in March in the most positive way possible.