Tonight’s Indicative Votes
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.