It would be foolish to gloss over the vote last night in the House of Commons on Brexit. It was a huge vote against the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the Government and the EU, and historically extraordinary. Of course it’s a serious blow.
The impact is less easy to gauge. I was struck, having been outside Parliament to see those who had come peacefully to demonstrate, that those who wanted to Leave, no matter what, and those who want a second referendum, because they think the country will decide to Remain in the EU, both cheered loudly at the result. So both knew what they don’t want, and both expect that the result made their option more likely.
They cannot both be right.
The Government and Parliament must now try to find a path to something which it will endorse, and which will be agreed by the EU, if we are to leave with an agreement, which remains in my view the best option of all others. I hope the PM will be talking widely and urgently to colleagues in her own party and across the Commons to get from them their own and constituents’ views about where next. I doubt that an Agreement on exactly the same terms as the one rejected will be acceptable in the future, so there must be some flexibility demonstrated.
In return, MPs must accept that we cannot all be right, and cannot insist that only our own version must become Government policy. And our constituents have also to accept that they themselves may not see their version of Leaving or Remaining winning out. I remain resolutely of the view that for the U.K. to move forward, we ought to continue to try everything possible to reach an Agreement to Leave, to acknowledge the Referendum result for the 51.9%, but in terms for a secure future with the EU, to respect the 48.1%.
I hope the Government will win the vote of confidence today, and I intend to vote for the PM and the Government. I do not believe that an election is what the country needs today.