Today, the House of Commons will again be voting on the manner in which Britain leaves the EU. I want to explain to constituents how I am voting, and why.
Last week, the EU Withdrawal Bill, having already been signed off by the House of Commons, came back for MPs to consider amendments made in the House of Lords. After twelve hours of debate to consider these amendments, the proposal was rejected by MPs and the clauses of the Bill stood as the House of Commons had signed it off. The House of Lords has responded by sending another two back to us along similar lines to those considered or rejected last week.
The most notable is an amendment which would require the Prime Minister to seek the consent of MPs in the event that:
- MPs have voted down any deal on our exit and future relationship which the UK Government reaches with the EU or
- The EU and the UK conclusively agree that we cannot reach a deal; or
- No deal has been reached by January 2019. In reality, this amendment would give MPs the power to force the Prime Minister to go back to the EU if, as is intended, a deal is agreed between the UK Government and the EU which MPs do not consider acceptable.
There are 650 MPs and I am sure we all have a different view on what any EU deal should look like. Some MPs would believe we should not pay a penny to the EU to leave. Some will not accept any deal which means us leaving the EU single market. Some are pragmatic and sit in different places along the spectrum between these two ends. I just do not believe it is practical to expect 650 MPs to effectively become the hand of the negotiators. Our job, as MPs, is to scrutinise and make law. Admittedly, we usually decide to trigger the change as well but, in this instance, Parliament voted to allow a referendum to make that position. That referendum saw a majority of those who voted trigger the decision that the UK should leave the EU.
Given that my objective is for the best possible transaction for citizens in the UK to now take place, I am particularly concerned that the EU negotiators would use any overriding right of MPs to tilt a negotiation to the EU’s advantage. This would ensure that the UK cannot be overly bold in its negotiations, with the EU negotiators relying on MPs to clip the wings of the Prime Minister when the deal or position is returned to the House of Commons. The EU negotiators will confidently tell the Prime Minister that she will not be able to get her terms or position past MPs. It is hard enough negotiating across the table with the EU as it is. We must not weaken our position or increase the chances of terms not being agreed.
As I have stated numerous times, as someone elected by the majority of the vote, I will abide by the decision reached by the majority of all those who voted in the referendum. Accordingly, my job is to now help the UK get the best deal for the future. I passionately believe that however anyone voted in the referendum, putting the national interest first is something which all voters could now unite behind. Not only would this amendment blunt the UK’s negotiation hand, it would also be impracticable because the EU negotiators have to settle a position later this year so its 27 member states, and the EU Parliament, can sign it off. There is no ability for the UK, or the EU negotiators to extend time for the UK to have a further attempt at negotiating, Article 50 sees the UK leave the EU in March 2019.
This amendment is, for the reasons set out above, and for many more, not in the best interests of the UK so I will be voting to reject it today.
For constituents who have not been through my views on the EU withdrawal and referendum process up to now, I would invite you to read through the remainder of the website section devoted to the Leaving the EU. I do my best to update constituents with the latest news and views in order for the process to be understood.