I have been clear from the outset that I would work to deliver a pragmatic Brexit which protects our prosperity. That is why I have supported the Prime Minister’s deal. It is also why I’ve supported backbench efforts to build a consensus around the idea for a Common Market 2.0.
I have had many discussions with colleagues in Parliament who see things differently, but I have also had countless emails from constituents telling me to vote in a variety of different ways. I cannot be all things to all people, however I have tried to do what is right for my constituents and our country.
There were 14 amendments, but only 7 were selected by the Speaker for debate. The process by which he decides is private, and not open to appeal, but in general he tries to select a set of amendments which represent the range of views in the House and which have wide, often cross party, support.
The reason he doesn’t select every amendment, even on matters as important as Brexit is one of practicality. Every division takes around 20 minutes. It makes little sense to delay proceedings while the House votes overwhelmingly against proposals that do not enjoy the support of a substantial group of MPs. Likewise sometimes amendments are functionally very similar – there were a number on ending the backstop – therefore voting on each would be repetitious.
As with many aspects of the Speaker’s role it is more art than science. He selected 7 amendments, and the others were not considered – despite whatever merits they may or may not hold.
Of the amendments selected, I voted for the amendments B, G, I and J. I was not able to support amendment A, N and O.
When the Prime Minister’s deal was rejected I said that I would support moves to build consensus in Parliament for how to deliver Brexit. My support for amendments B, G, I and J was based on this commitment. The amendments I supported, when taken together, would have allowed for more time to come to consensus, allowed time to debate the extension of Article 50 if no deal becomes an imminent risk. They are all aimed at ‘de-risking’ the Brexit process.
None of them sought to undermine Brexit or prevent us leaving – they only seek to ensure that we leave in an orderly and managed way.
Unfortunately the only amendment that passed was amendment I. This added to the end of the motion a rejection of a no-deal Brexit. While it is reassuring that there is no majority for a no-deal Brexit, this amendment has no legal force and MPs will have to pass further measures in order to stop it in practice.
I did not support amendments A and O which were proposed by the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party respectively. Labour’s amendment was unrealistic and epitomised their utterly delusional Brexit policy which promises all the upsides of EU membership, with none of the downsides. Likewise I could not support the SNP amendment, which was an explicit rejection of our precious union with Scotland.
I was also abstained on amendment N which sought to alter the backstop because in my view it asks the Government to negotiate something unachievable. The EU has ruled it out consistently and to reopen the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement now risks us having to trade away the wins of the deal in order to remove a backstop which is unlikely to ever have practical effect.
I did not want to vote against it because I recognise this is a source of concern for some colleagues however these are not concerns which I share.
My votes on this motion have been to deliver an orderly, pragmatic Brexit. They have also sought to make a no-deal Brexit less likely. I will continue to work to deliver Brexit but am unable to accept that we should leave without a deal as this could be economically calamitous and against the national interest.
I hope that this explains my votes this week and that it puts at ease your concerns about the Brexit process.