Brexit Update - 26th March 2019

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.