Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Newspaper column 6 February 2019 - The Brady Amendment

Last week was another busy and varied week in Parliament.

I spoke in debates, including speaking up for the hospitality and tourism sectors in the Immigration Bill debate, and praising the work of the team behind the Newquay Neighbourhood Plan in fighting inappropriate clifftop development with the Minister for Local Government.

The end of the week saw a surprising heavy snowfall that covered much of Mid-Cornwall, causing disruption. I would like to thank all the members of the emergency services, highways teams, and volunteers who worked throughout the night in very challenging conditions to keep drivers safe and Cornwall running.

At the beginning of the week we saw the latest Brexit votes, with what became known as the Brady Amendment, which calls for the Irish Backstop to be removed from the Withdrawal Agreement, voted through Parliament.  I supported this amendment as a pragmatic way forward and was pleased to see it gain enough support from across the house to be passed. While this was in itself important, we should not under-estimate the significance of the defeat of the other amendments.

There was one overriding message from the outcome of the votes, as all amendments that sought to delay, postpone or thwart the UK leaving the EU on 29th March were clearly defeated. It demonstrates that there is a Commons majority committed to seeing us leave the EU on schedule.  
We have grown used to these Commons Brexit showdowns in recent months, but the rejection of the amendments proposed by Yvette Cooper and Dominic Grieve (which sought to delay leaving the EU and tie the hands of the government)  particularly represents a hugely significant moment for all of us who voted to leave the EU.

It serves as a timely reminder, even though it may not always feel like it, that a majority in support of Brexit has always existed in Parliament, since MPs voted by a majority of 384 to trigger Article 50.
I was also significant and worth noting that those seeking to inflict another referendum on the country withdrew their amendment as it became clear it would have also been resoundingly defeated. I think this shows that despite what some people will try to tell us there is little appetite in either Parliament or the country for another referendum.

Whilst Parliament has also expressed that it wants us to leave with a deal and not a no deal Brexit, last week’s events have not changed the legal position that we leave on the 29th March, with or without a deal.

The votes sent two very clear messages. Firstly, to the EU: If you want a deal, you have to deal with the backstop. As expected, EU leaders have been quick to dismiss the significance of the results. But they know as well as anyone else what is at stake for the economies of the EU and the future of the European project, if they do not return to the negotiating table. 

Secondly, the votes sent a clear message to the Government, that if they want to win votes on Brexit, they need to keep the Eurosceptics on side. Compared to the historic defeat of the Prime Minister’s deal just two weeks ago, the vote for Sir Graham Brady’s amendment was a massive turnaround for the Government. This was only achieved with the support of Eurosceptic MPs, mainly from the Conservative party but also crucially the DUP and a contingent of Labour MPs.

It will be abundantly clear to the Prime Minister that if she is to get a deal through Parliament, this is where the majority lies. These are the people she needs to work with.

I hope the votes will strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand. For the first time, it feels like we are in a position to really negotiate head-to-head with the EU. I hope she will return to Brussels, take up the mantle of courageous leadership we need, with a robust message: if you want a deal, you have to deal with the backstop.

There are still plenty of hurdles to overcome before Brexit day, but last week’s vote was a significant step forward.