I have always argued that a Hard Brexit and no deal are not acceptable outcomes from the Brexit process.
Two weeks ago, I voted for the Withdrawal Agreement, and you can read my statement on that vote here. Weighing heavily on my mind for that vote was 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 in March; this is the default option and would be a catastrophe. Indeed, as businesses say to me, this deal allows us to move forward, protects jobs and rules out no deal.
Since then several things have happened. The Government has struggled to unite the House of Commons, and both political parties are split. The second referendum campaign decided not to put forward an amendment to enact their wishes as there was too little support.
Meanwhile March 29th hurtles towards us and there will be a no deal Brexit if nothing else is agreed.
It has been widely reported that I have been working on the “Malthouse Compromise”. I have always been clear that I would support a deal that allows me to campaign for my vision of the future relationship with the EU. The compromise that I have worked on does not change the fact that once we have agreed a Withdrawal Agreement it would allow us to negotiate a future relationship with the EU27 and makes no prediction about what that might be.
Please be in no doubt that I shall argue for close alignment both on customs and regulation as I have always done – a Single Market and Customs Union style solution.
The compromise makes a hard border in Ireland unnecessary, guarantees citizens’ rights and extends the transition period to December 2021, giving more certainty to people and businesses.
Whilst I know some people are always critical of efforts to find a solution, this is not a sell-out nor bowing to the Brexiteers, who have accepted the financial settlement with the EU, a longer transition period where EU law applies and the need for a backstop style arrangement.
I could not be clearer that I regard no deal as a disastrous outcome for the country and my constituency. People may lose their jobs through the damage to the economy, our international credibility would be devastated, the Good Friday Agreement would be tested to its limit, there would be a legal vacuum with the loss of hundreds of treaties we are party to by virtue of EU membership, and complex supply chains would be disrupted overnight.
The effects of no deal are so damaging that I cannot take any risks advocating solutions that are unlikely to succeed. I am a pragmatist, so I am working with what is possible in the House of Commons. This was made clear last night when the House of Commons both voted against No Deal and in favour of a deal with a revised backstop – the best possible way to avoid no deal is with a deal.
Attempting to extend Article 50 does not stop no deal, non-binding motions do not stop no deal, creating days for debates does not stop no deal, another referendum certainly does not guarantee no deal is avoided. The only way to stop no deal that the House of Commons will support at present is a deal.
It may be that this compromise might not be successful, and if that is the case there will be a chance for the House of Commons to vote on an amendable motion on 14th February. I will take whatever action is necessary and likely to succeed at that point to avoid No Deal.
This compromise also does not mean I am ruling out any other options. I have worked on and investigated other alternative compromises, which ultimately did not gain enough support in the House of Commons.
This country and my constituents need a solution to avoid No Deal and it is only prudent that I pursue options that do this.
Everyone, including the Queen, has urged politicians to come together and find a solution and this is exactly what I am trying to do.