The Latest News on Brexit

Indicative Votes - 1st April 

Once again, the House of Commons had the chance to vote on a series of options relating to Brexit. Below is a summary of how I voted.

 

I voted for the following options.

 

Common Market 2.0

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.

 

A Customs Union

I also held a Parliamentary debate last July on Customs Arrangements, and moved an amendment to the Trade Bill on a Customs Union, and so I voted for Kenneth Clarke’s motion on a Customs Union.

There are two important factors behind my vote on a Customs Union. Firstly, the Government’s own analysis shows the GDP benefit from new Free Trade Agreements would be minimal. Secondly, leaving the EU Customs Union will place a significant bureaucratic burden on businesses, with estimates ranging the costs of this being 4% to 15% of the value of trade. I am not willing to increase the costs and red tape that businesses face.

 

I abstained on the following options.

 

Joanna Cherry’s “Parliamentary Supremacy” Motion

Last week I voted for Joanna Cherry’s motion entitled Revocation to Avoid No Deal. If this motion were tabled again I would have voted for it.

Unfortunately, the motion had changed to mandate a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 to see if a model for a future relationship with the EU with public support could be found. This is not the job of a public inquiry, which is a quasi-judicial process.

Instead this is the job of Parliament, and I find it odd that a motion entitled “Parliamentary Supremacy” delegates one of Parliament’s key roles to an inquiry.

I remain a supporter of Wednesday’s motion, “Revocation to Avoid No Deal”, and would have voted were it tabled today.

 

Confirmatory Public Vote

Many constituents have written in on this point and thank you to those who have engaged constructively with the concerns I have raised.

I have never said another referendum would be undemocratic. But there are outstanding issues about the way in which another referendum could be held, which all supporters of the option must address. 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.

 

The Speaker did not speak any motions on ‘No Deal’, but naturally I would have voted against these.

 

 

Meaningful Vote Three

On Friday I voted once again for the Withdrawal Agreement.

In December last year I set out why I was going to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. You can read this statement here, and my thinking remains the same.

All that has changed since the first and second vote is that the uncertainty has grown and the need to find a way to avoid ‘No Deal’ has become even more pressing. All this uncertainty would have been avoided had the deal passed before, and the impact this is having on businesses reinforces why I voted for the Withdrawal Agreement for the third time.

This is a deal that is supported by the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses and various other industry groups.

I continue to receive letters and emails from constituents from all points of view, some saying this is a ‘Hard-Brexit’, some saying this is “Brexit in name only”, some saying it is a sensible compromise, and many local business owners saying it is necessary to create certainty. 

It is important to note what the Withdrawal Agreement is and what it is not:

The Withdrawal Agreement provides a transitional period, which businesses have been calling for, to allow time for the future relationship to be negotiated. This will keep the UK effectively in the Single Market and Customs Union until 2021, which can be extended.

It ensures that the rights of EU Citizens currently in the UK and UK Citizens currently in the EU will continue to be protected.

The Withdrawal Agreement itself does not set out the future relationship between the UK and the EU. That is to be negotiated next. I shall argue for close alignment both on customs and regulation as I have always done – a Single Market and Customs Union style solution. Indeed, I believe close alignment is inevitable given the need to avoid a border in Ireland.  

I remain of the view that the economic certainty provided by the Withdrawal Agreement and avoiding ‘No Deal’ outweighs the huge risks and uncertainty we continue to see

Weighing heavily on my mind is the fact that if nothing happens, if Parliament and the Government cannot decide any course of action, the UK will leave the EU with no deal eventually; this is the default option and would be a disaster.

If I vote against the deal, and it leads to chaos and ‘No Deal’, I would rightly be held accountable for that outcome. It is not a risk that I am willing to take on behalf of my constituents and the country. 

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. 

In December 2017 I voted against the Government for Amendment 7 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. You can read my reasons for this here. 

In February I led a Westminster Hall debate on EFTA, which you can read here.

My June updates on the European Union (Withdrawal) Act can be found here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3. 

In July I led a Westminster Hall debate on post-Brexit customs arrangements which you can read here. 

In July I pushed my amendment on a Customs Union to a vote in Parliament.

My statement on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration can be found here. 

My statement on January 2019's votes can be found here. 

My February 2019 Update can be found here.

Mid-March 2019 long update.