Thursday 11th April 2019
Pauline Latham OBE MP: Brexit Update
I would like to take this opportunity to set out my views and voting positions on Brexit in recent weeks. I voted to leave the EU in the 2016 European Referendum, as did the majority of people in Mid Derbyshire and the UK as a whole. In addition, in the 2017 General election 85% of votes cast were for party manifestos which committed to delivering Brexit. In Parliament, I have always voted to honour the referendum result, which means that we leave the European Union and its institutions, including the Single Market and the Customs Union.
Opposition to the deal
When the ‘meaningful vote’ on the Prime Minister’s Deal was first brought to the House of Commons on Tuesday 15th January I voted AGAINST it and it was defeated by a record 230 votes. The deal does not fully honour the spirit of the referendum. I have concerns about the £39 billion exit bill, the extended jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the Northern Irish Backstop, which may tie us into the Customs Union unable to make our own trade deals.
Supporting the deal conditional on the removal of the backstop
On Wednesday 29th January a series of amendments were presented to the House. I voted FOR the ‘Brady Amendment’ which indicated that members would support Theresa May’s deal subject to the removal of the Northern Irish backstop, which should be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard boarder.
The deal was brought back to the House on Tuesday 12th March, following a meeting with the EU where the Prime Minster attempted to receive legally binding assurances in relation to the backstop. Unfortunately the legal status of the backstop was unchanged and the deal was substantially the same. Therefore, I felt unable to support the deal at this stage. It was again defeated again by a significant margin.
Voting to keep no deal on the table
Following the second defeat of the deal, the Government brought forward a motion which essentially ruled out no deal but noted that at that point, no deal was the legislative default if a deal was not agreed. A successful amendment by Caroline Spelman hardened this position and unequivocally stated that MPs wanted to take no deal off the table. I voted AGAINST this. I believe that this position is misguided. To take no-deal off the table undermines our negotiating position.
Opposition to an extension
Subsequent to the vote to take no deal off the table there was a vote for a short extension of Article 50 to ensure provisions could be made for a deal. I opposed this motion, however, unfortunately, it was approved by Parliament and later ratified by the EU. It has been three years since we voted to leave the EU and I believe people want us to get on and deliver not dither and delay. We should have left on Friday 29th March as promised.
Parliament takes back control in an attempt to compromise Brexit
On Monday 25th March the Commons accepted an amendment by Oliver Letwin to allow Parliament to take control of the order paper rather than the Government. I have consistently voted against such a proposal because I believe this is an attempt by ‘remainer MPs’ to manipulate parliamentary business to press for a soft Brexit or no Brexit at all. Following this decision on Wednesday 27th March there were a series of indicative votes, listing various positions. Parliament failed to come to a conclusive outcome. All indicative votes were lost.
I would like to highlight that the indicative votes are selected from a long list by the Speaker. The vast majority of the indicative votes selected have been from remainers.
Reluctantly supporting the deal
The Prime Minister brought her deal back to Parliament on Friday 29th April for a third time. This time the vote was just on the Withdrawal Agreement not the Political Declaration. It was again defeated. This means that the current default leaving day is now 12th April. If it had been approved it would have been 22nd May.
On the third occasion, I decided to reluctantly vote FOR the deal. Whilst I hold strong reservations about the deal, I decided to vote with it, because at least if it had passed we would be leaving the European Union, even if it is not under the conditions I had hoped. It was my view that once we had left we could look to make changes, under new, positive and optimistic leadership.
Following the defeat of the deal for the third time, on Monday 1st April there was a further series of indicative votes. Again all of these votes failed. The Prime Minister made a statement on the 2nd April stating that she would work with Corbyn to help get a deal through Parliament. Talks are ongoing. I am disappointed by this decision as I believe that this will lead to an even softer Brexit which could get through Parliament on Labour votes.
Meanwhile, Yvette Cooper presented a Bill to Parliament which was approved by a majority of one. This has put in place legislation against No-Deal and for a further extension to Article 50. This was an attempt to subvert the democratic mandate presented by the people in the referendum.
On Wednesday 10th April Theresa May attended an emergency summit in Brussels where an extension of up to 31st October was granted. My heart sank when I learnt that this extension had been granted. After the leave vote in 2016, I was convinced that we would move forward and depart the EU on March 29, just as Theresa May had assured us. Sadly, the Prime Minister has failed to deliver a withdrawal deal and it now seems possible we will have European elections next month.
I believe that Mrs May has tried her best and is sincere in her approach but failed to deliver on her promises. Therefore, it is time that somebody else should be given the opportunity. It is essential that we move quickly to establish certainty over the UK’s future because business deals are already stalling. This is a cause of huge concern in Derbyshire where many firms, including our biggest, are at the forefront of exports from the UK.
Kicking the can down the road has done nothing to alleviate the anxiety of business leaders who fear that we are going to be in the same situation in October that we are currently.
Mrs May should announce when she plans to leave so that the party can prepare for a leadership contest.
I still believe that leaving the European Union is the right thing to do. We should do so as soon as possible. It is clear that we need a new leader to make it happen.