I voted last night to support the Letwin-Cooper Bill which requires the Government to seek an extension to the Article 50 process and avoid a no-deal Brexit.
Let me make clear what this vote is not, and what it is. I have not voted to stop Brexit. I have voted to leave the EU consistently since accepting the result of the Referendum. I will continue to vote for the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, or an alternative which takes us out of the EU. But I have also said repeatedly, publicly and privately to constituents, that I could not support a no deal Brexit, and more, that I would do what I could to prevent that. My vote last night was consistent with those views.
As I said yesterday, I agree with PM May that, after trying repeatedly but failing to get an Agreement through our coalition colleagues in Parliament, it is time to try something different. She is looking across the parties to do this, and has also made clear that she intends to avoid a no deal Brexit by acting on alternatives, as I have also argued for recently. But crucially this determination on behalf of Government depends on reaching an agreement with the Opposition. If this does not happen, the risk of no deal returns. This is why I thought it necessary to vote for an insurance policy in terms of the Letwin-Cooper Bill.
I did not do this lightly, and don’t regard the process as one to be used except in very serious circumstances. The Prime Minister, as I posted yesterday “has not (rejected no deal) because she is a ‘remainer’, or that she is advocating ‘project fear’ or because she wants to stop Brexit. She did so because as Prime Minister she has been given the details and understands the real concerns, from constitutional to economic, which would flow from such a position.” This includes advice from the Cabinet Secretary that the UK would be “less safe” in the event of no deal.
I hope, having guarded against this, we can now proceed - get an agreement to Leave, with a deal, and look forward to getting on with it soon in a secure and understandable manner.
More, undoubtedly, next week!