Wednesday 27th March - How I voted on the Indicative Votes
Thank you to everyone who has written in with their views on today’s indicative votes. These are momentous times and if there is one positive it is that so many people are engaged with democracy and the political process right now.
I have said from the outset that I would respect the result of the referendum but that I would oppose a ‘Hard Brexit’ and ‘No Deal’. Therefore I have voted for the Withdrawal Agreement as the best way to stop ‘No Deal’. I suspect we will vote again on the Withdrawal Agreement soon and I support it again the reasons I set out previously, which you can find here.
Today the House of Commons had the chance to vote on a series of motions and so I voted for the following options.
Common Market 2.0 and EFTA/EEA
I have long been an advocate for the Common Market 2.0 option, also known as EFTA/EEA. I argued for this in a Parliamentary debate last February and in a number of newspaper articles, for example this piece in the Guardian arguing for a return to Common Market principles.
Common Market 2.0 is an off the shelf, already tested model, which delivers on the result of the referendum and would protect the economy, jobs and businesses.
It would allow the UK to remain in most parts of the Single Market but be removed from the more controversial parts of EU membership, such as the pursuit of an ever-closer union and the common justice and home affairs policies. It would be a return to the economic principles which were behind the UK spearheading the creation of the Single Market.
It is an option that is entirely consistent with the Withdrawal Agreement and would only require a change to the Political Declaration.
Revocation to Avoid No Deal
In the last General Election, I promised my constituents I would work to avoid a Hard-Brexit or ‘No Deal’.
No Deal would be terrible for our economy. It would devastate our international credibility, test the Good Friday Agreement to its limit, lead to a legal vacuum with the loss of hundreds of treaties we are party to by virtue of EU membership, and completely disrupt complex supply chains overnight.
This motion calls for the revocation of Article 50 ONLY if there has been no deal agreed with the EU two days before ‘exit day’. If it gets to this stage, the decision will be revocation against no deal, and revocation would be best option to protect jobs and the economy. I also note that over 20,000 of my constituents have signed a petition to this effect.
This motion would take ‘No Deal’ off the table, and is entirely consistent with my desire to achieve a good deal with the EU. This motion DOES NOT stop Brexit and I remain convinced the best course of action is to approve the Withdrawal Agreement.
I abstained on the motion calling for a confirmatory public vote. I still have serious concerns about the way in which another referendum could be held, which have not been addressed. In short these are:
- What is the exact referendum question – would ‘No Deal’ be on the ballot paper? If it is, that is a huge risk. If it is not, the referendum may have a low turnout with questions about its legitimacy.
- If the Withdrawal Agreement is approved in the referendum what instruction does this give about the future framework, which is yet to be negotiated? The debate will continue between a Norway, Canada, or different Brexit. Another referendum would not resolve those questions at all and could lead to the same impasse we see now.
- Under what rules would the referendum be conducted? Many argue for another referendum given issues with digital campaigning and donations in the 2016 referendum. The head of the Electoral Commission has said no new referendum should take place until the laws around the use of social media and campaign funding have been significantly tightened – this cannot be rushed in case similar mistakes are made again.
- It would not resolve the current tension between direct and representative democracy which is currently putting our political system under such strain.
However, I have always said I do not rule out any options when it comes to avoiding ‘No Deal’, and that is why I did not vote against this option.
I voted against the following options.
- To leave with No Deal.
- Labour’s unachievable and non-sensical Brexit plan.
- To leave with a basic Free Trade Agreement.
Tuesday 26th March
Yesterday the House of Commons voted to take control of tomorrow's Parliamentary business to pave the way for “indicative votes”, which will allow MPs to choose between various options.
I believe indicative votes are needed to break the impasse, but I did not vote for this amendment as I judged the assurances from the Government to provide this were sufficient, following a meeting with the Prime Minister.
Two weeks ago, the Government promised to “provide a process by which the House could form a majority on how to take things forward” and yesterday the Prime Minister stated “in order to fulfil our commitments to the House, we would seek to provide Government time in order for the process [of indicative votes] to proceed. It would be for the House to put forward options for consideration and to determine the procedure by which it wished to do so.”
Given the strength of these commitments I made the judgement that it is worth retaining my influence as a Minister as this process proceeds. This is only the first step of this process, and I will use my voice in Government and Parliament to argue for the process to proceed smoothly tomorrow and make the case for free votes – as this is the only way we will know what can truly get through the House of Commons. I am pleased that a Government Minister said last week that he would expect there to be free votes.
Some will only be happy if I vote against the Government and resign. However, the reality is more complicated than this. While I have shown I will vote against the Government when necessary, losing my position as Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party in the process, most of the positive developments I have worked on with colleagues have not needed rebellions or resignations. These are developments such as:
- Ensuring we have the legal mechanism to extend Article 50 in the Withdrawal Act.
- Ensuring the House of Commons would have a vote on extending Article 50.
- Achieving commitments in legislation to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland, as well as protections for refugee rights and environmental standards.
- Ensuring that there was a procedure and timetable should the Withdrawal Agreement be rejected. This gives opportunities for the House of Commons to amend the Government’s Brexit motions and have its say. The amendment yesterday could not have passed had this not happened.
- Protecting the rights of EU Citizens.
We now await to see what options will be put to the House of Commons to vote on tomorrow. I will continue to keep you updated.
I believe the House of Commons must get behind a single credible option to avoid ‘No Deal’ and a ‘Hard Brexit’. I will be working with colleagues from all sides of the House to find this option and I rule nothing out.
Monday 25th March
This will be a decisive week in Westminster and things will move incredibly quickly. I am very well aware of the number of signatures on the “Revoke Article 50” petition, which reflects the fact Wimbledon voted 71% to remain.
Throughout the week I will try to update this webpage each day for my constituents, with the latest news and to explain my actions.
I want to make clear that I still regard ‘No Deal’ as an unacceptable outcome. That is why I voted to extend Article 50 last week and that is why I continue to support the Withdrawal Agreement. You can see my full reasons for supporting the Withdrawal Agreement here.
If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved in the next few days then it is highly likely there will be some form of “indicative votes” with MPs choosing between various options.
There is a risk with these '"indicative votes" that no single option gets a majority. Therefore the House of Commons must get behind a single credible option to avoid ‘No Deal’ and a ‘Hard Brexit’. I will be working with colleagues from all sides of the House to find this option and I rule nothing out.
Finally, you can find my previous Brexit updates below.
Other Brexit articles and speeches
My speech in the House of Commons at the Second Reading of the ‘Article 50’ Bill, which you can read here.
You can also read my comments on the Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill here.