This week has seen a series of important votes on Brexit. The key votes were as follows:
Tuesday – The Prime Minister’s deal was rejected by 391 votes to 242, majority 149
Wednesday – Leaving with No Deal in any circumstances was rejected by 321 votes to 278, majority 43
Thursday – A 2nd referendum was rejected by 334 votes to 85, majority 249
Thursday – Extending the departure date was agreed by 413 votes to 202 – majority 211
Next week the Prime Minister will try for a third time to pass her deal. If she does so she will then seek a 3 month delay to the leaving date at the EU summit at the end of next week. If her deal fails again, she will then seek to agree a longer delay in accordance with Parliament’s instructions.
Tuesday – for the deal to leave on 29 March
Wednesday – against ruling out no deal
Thursday – against a 2nd referendum
Thursday – against extending the departure date
I have set out previously why I voted against the Prime Minister’s deal the first time around and set out that I would vote for her deal, despite other reservations, if I believed that the deal was changed to ensure that our future partnership could be based on a free trade deal and not customs union membership. This week, reluctantly, I decided the deal represented the best, if not only, chance of delivering a real Brexit. This was for two reasons:
- The further concessions the Prime Minister secured from the EU gave me more comfort on the options for the future partnership. They confirmed explicitly that they would not seek to force us into a customs union against our will, and that the so called Alternative Arrangements for goods trade could be considered. There were also some further assurances on how we could exit the backstop if the EU tried to trap us there. These changes were not perfect, and did not amend the actual treaty, but the legal advice was that they were legally effective. I also sought and received confirmation from Number 10 that this did indeed mean that a Canada-style future deal with the EU could be possible under the Withdrawal Agreement.
- After the PM was forced to concede votes on ruling out leaving without a deal, and on extending our leave date, it was apparent to me that if we did not accept the Prime Minister’s deal, imperfect as it is, there was no prospect of leaving on 29 March 2019. Indeed we would very likely be faced with a long extension, possibly 21 months to the end of 2020, with many in Parliament now seeking aggressively to pursue full membership of the single market and customs union. My fears were borne out by the fact that by clear majorities Parliament did vote to rule out no deal, and to extend our leaving date.
I have not changed my desire for us to leave the European Union and to do so properly so that we can run our own affairs in our own interests. I have always said that leaving with a good deal was the best option and if that wasn’t possible we should leave without one. It is now abundantly clear that our choice is accept the Prime Minister’s deal and leave by the end of June – there’s no way now Parliament could pass all the legislation needed by 29 March – or risk getting trapped into the single market and customs union with all that entails.
For those who ask me about a 2nd referendum – that was decisively defeated last night with more than half of MPs rejecting it. I cannot see there is any realistic chance of such a referendum taking place. I reiterate that it would be a hugely decisive vote that would damage our democracy and is very unlikely to give a clear outcome.
For those who say we can still leave without a deal – that would require the EU to refuse an extension or Parliament to vote against the legal measure needed. An extension requires all other EU members to agree next week so it’s possible they may not, or might only offer terms Parliament would not accept. I have to say that such outcomes are extraordinarily unlikely. There is a large majority in the Commons for an extension, and we know the Lords opposes Brexit.
The Prime Minister’s deal now represents the only likely chance of a real Brexit. I hope it passes next week.
The dates of my upcoming surgeries are:
- Riddings – 22nd March 2019
- Kilburn – 5th April 2019
- Codnor – 12th April 2019
Please contact my office on 01773 744341 to book an appointment for any of the above, or to arrange an alternative meeting.
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Promoted by Nigel Mills MP of Unicorn House, Wellington Street, Ripley, Derbyshire, DE5 3EH.
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