In the House of Commons last night, MPs voted to reject the Prime Minister’s Draft Withdrawal Agreement by 432 to 202 votes.
I wrote before the Withdrawal Agreement vote of the importance of choosing between the two options. Neither was without certain risks or problems.
The most important guideline for me was respecting the vote of 23rd June 2016, in Herefordshire as well as for the rest of the UK.
The first option was to vote for the Deal as it stands, as the Government argued that without a deal, they perceived a threat to Brexit altogether.
I do accept that there is a risk to Brexit because some of the factions in Parliament will certainly try to keep us inside the EU and therefore I will continue to monitor this risk.
The second option, which on balance I decided was the best for North Herefordshire and for the country, was to vote against the Deal, because it did not go far enough to ensure we have properly and sufficiently left the EU.
There are a number of problems with the Withdrawal agreement but most important is the infamous “backstop”. The Backstop would hang over our future negotiations and would have left us in a customs union with the EU, and in some aspects of the Single Market, until the EU permitted us to leave! That is not a good enough and does not seem like a genuine Brexit.
Last night because the Deal was defeated by large majority in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister has until Monday to announce her new plan for withdrawing. The Prime Minister announced that she would consult with senior MPs before announcing her plan in a statement on Monday.
I hope that the Prime Minister is able to return to the EU and demand, in terms which carry legal force, the removal of the backstop, which I have repeatedly said is unacceptable.
Also the Government must immediately step up its preparations for a World Trade Organisation, Clean Global Brexit without delay. WTO is the baseline, the most basic of trade agreements, from which we can mutually agree with trading partners where we are willing to reduce tariffs to encourage free and frictionless trade.
I believe the Prime Minister should inform the EU that the Deal must be amended so as to be acceptable to the House of Commons, including the legal removal of the backstop, or that the UK will leave the EU on 29th March without a Deal.
This means that we will be less willing to pay the £39 billion or move on to the trade talks. However it does not prevent us from returning to try again once we are no longer bound by the EU rules relating to existing EU members.
The EU can then choose whether to accept our terms, or to have a Brexit on WTO terms.
I cannot support any sort of second referendum or attempt to overturn the result of the referendum. This was the largest democratic exercise in our country’s history and it would undermine the value of voting if we seek to avoid delivering the result.
Finally, the Prime Minister invited the Leader of the Opposition to test the confidence of the House in this Conservative Government. The Leader of the Opposition, who has been putting off such a vote for weeks because he does not have an alternative credible plan for Brexit plan but would still like to try to lead this country, finally had to table a No Confidence motion.
This will be debated and voted on today. I fully intend to vote to support our Conservative Government – not only because under Theresa May, we are the only party capable of delivering Brexit, but also because of the huge risk that Jeremy Corbyn pose to our country’s economy, national security services, and our future.
I look forward to the Prime Minister setting out the Government’s position in the coming days.