So, the longest session in Parliamentary history since the end of the war - the English Civil war in the 1640s - closed earlier this week, unless the Supreme Court brings us back. It has been the most remarkable, ultimately depressing, and personally eventful that I have experienced. The chaotic scenes in the Commons in the early morning of the Prorogation captured the mood of country and Commons pretty well.
I will not see it’s like again, as it was almost certainly my last, unless the anticipated General Election is postponed to 2022, the last date under the Fixed Term’s Parliament Act that it can be, though there is no chance of it going that long.
Before I step down as the MP for North East Bedfordshire I will write here and thank my constituents properly for the honour and privilege of representing you in Parliament, but for now let me again do my best to bring you an update of what the last extraordinary week means in terms of Brexit
I attach a link to an article published in the Observer newspaper on Sunday September 8th, so as not to repeat my analysis of where I think the Government strategy went wrong in the last few days. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/08/boris-johnson-tory-rebels-trust-brexit-deal
What has it all meant? Parliament remains divided between 1) those who wish to leave the EU October 31st no questions asked, 2) those who wish to leave on that date, or later, but with a deal, and 3) those who don’t wish to leave at all, either to revoke Article 50, or seek a Referendum. I cannot speak for others, but I think all these options remain possible, including the one constituents know that I favour, which is the second option. Nothing that happened last week prevented the first two options - the new Act which I supported requires the Government only to seek an Extension to our negotiations if it does not secure a deal at the European Council on 17/18 October, or if it cannot persuade Parliament that there is no other outcome available than leaving without a deal. The Act which passed in just a few days, and which was brought forward only due to the Government decision to prorogue Parliament for an extended period, asserted its rights as representatives of our constituents against the Government’s belief it was playing the same role.
I expect the Government to use the period between now and the European Council on 17/18 October to pursue serious negotiations, and the EU must respond. Prime Minister Boris Johnson now knows that he can only fulfil his campaign promise to leave the EU on October 31st if it is with a deal. Despite his claim that the EU will not negotiate until he has a Parliamentary majority for a ‘no deal’, I think the evidence of this week suggests the contrary, and that the EU, Ireland in particular, and the UK now seem to understand even more clearly the serious dangers of a no deal exit for all. The publication of more details of the preparations for such an exit, with the accompanying assessment of risk, should have helped focus minds.
Thus all options remain open, a miserable state of affairs as far as diplomacy goes, with the accompanying uncertainty. We should not be here, and I hope those MPs who stood out against a deal before, Opposition and Conservative MPs alike, will not do so if there is a further chance of a deal. If not, options will narrow.
Finally a personal note.
I am now an independent MP for NE Bedfordshire following removal of the Party Whip in Parliament, along with colleagues such as Kenneth Clarke, Nicholas Soames, Philip Hammond and others. This does not affect my work as your MP, and I continue to deal with matters exactly as before, from your letters and emails to surgeries. My rights to speak and raise issues with responsible bodies are unchanged.
There is much comment in the media about this. I have received many communications expressing support for my position, and a small number from Conservatives who support the Government’s decision.
I think it best not to go on about it at present. It is mostly an internal matter of discipline for the Conservative Party, and as I indicate it does not bear on my work for NE Beds, nor on my future as I will not be standing for Parliament as a Conservative again. However, it has a very severe effect upon MPs who may wish to stand again, and I appreciate the many colleagues who are speaking up to seek a way back for those who wish. However, the irony of being so drastically disciplined - losing the right to stand as a Conservative candidate - by a Government which is only in place because of serial rebellion by Cabinet Ministers against Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, is not lost on many.
I maintain the position I take on opposing a no deal Brexit, but not opposing leaving the EU in itself, is one which is shared by many constituents, on whose behalf I am acting. As I have frequently said it will not suit everyone, as there is no position which will.
I will keep you updated.