It has been hard to keep pace with developments over the last week.
The decisions of MPs to leave their respective parties might not have been a great surprise, but it is always a shock. Leaving a party as an MP is an immense decision, as an MP's life, social and support circle may have been largely constructed around their party, probably for decades. You should not miss the impact of such a decision on Westminster, well out of sight of the headline writers.
Whether the ructions inside the parties has impacted on the Brexit changes of the past couple of days is difficult to tell. Labour, as far as anyone can tell, now appears to back a second referendum, though what it will say and whether it has the backing of its MPs and could actually come to fruition is anyone’s guess.
Much more significant is the Prime Minister's decision yesterday to signal that she recognises the risks and dangers of leaving the EU with no deal, as MPs made clear through a vote in Parliament last month, and from representations made to her by a number of MPs and Ministers, including me, over recent weeks.
Such a recognition does not fundamentally change any calculations. A vote against ‘no deal’ is not, as some claim, a vote against Brexit. Delay is not to ‘prevent Brexit’. If Parliament still wants to leave the EU on 29th March it can do so with a deal, by voting for the Prime Minister's Withdrawal Agreement when it returns, likely with some amendment following her efforts with the EU in the last ten days or so.
I would urge my colleagues to do so. There is much to discuss about our future arrangements with the EU during the transition period the Agreement sets out. However leaving with a deal brings some certainty to our businesses, which are locally expressing to me increasing concern over leaving with no deal, which is why I am dead against it. The Government paper released yesterday only confirms the state of unreadiness throughout the country should we leave with no deal.
My own position remains the same. The Referendum said we should leave the EU. The manifesto I was elected upon said that we should leave with a deal in an ordered way. We don’t need to compare the ‘bad deal or no deal’ it also mentioned because we already have a good deal agreed between the U.K. and the EU, we just need Parliament to agree. We have a chance to put what appears to be increasing polarisation and bitterness behind us, and look to a new future. Words like traitor and saboteur are back this morning from people who should know better.
As the warmest February day ever reminds us of climate change, as nuclear armed India and Pakistan are at risk of squaring off, and as terrorism still stalks our world taking innocent lives, it’s time we put all this in perspective and moved on. The U.K. and the EU have much to do in a complex and dangerous world. We can both make a significant contribution in the years to come.