I campaigned to remain in the EU but I accept that our side lost the referendum. I continue to believe that a ‘no-deal’ outcome would be harmful to this country, albeit that we are better prepared to mitigate it than we were in March, and I wish to avoid it. The only sure way of doing that is to agree a deal. I supported the previous one three times, and I shall support the current one today.
We cannot continue to delay a decision further. Uncertainty is damaging business and inhibiting investment, as the Governor of the Bank of England pointed out yesterday. That same message is now consistently coming to me from residents and businesses in our constituency. Of course, not everybody shares that view, but my sense is that it is a strong and growing one. MPs need to take that on board.
Given that my 2017 election manifesto pledged to deliver Brexit in a way that ‘protects businesses and jobs’, I take the opinion of our business leaders seriously.
As well as the Governor of the Bank of England, who made clear the current deal was ‘universally welcomed’ at the G20 meeting he is attending – and added: ‘it is good news that there is an agreement. I would expect the economy to pick up from quite a subdued pace’ - the deal is also supported by the Chair of the CBI, who points out that ‘repeated delay is not sustainable in the long run’; the Director General of the CBI, who said yesterday: ‘this is not a perfect deal but we can work with it’; and Stuart Rose, the former CEO of M&S, and also former Chair of Britain Stronger in Europe, who told the Evening Standard last night: ‘people in the businesses I am involved in (the car, food and clothing sectors), they want to move on.’
That is my conclusion too. All deals involve compromise. A compromise is better than nothing. This deal will enable us to move on to negotiate the actually much more important long-term trading relationship we want with our EU neighbours in the future.
I appreciate that some people want to see a second referendum. With every respect, I do not agree. The outcome of such a vote would be uncertain, and the added delay would not just lead to further economic damage, but also, like it or not, risks undermining faith in democratic politics. It would further stoke the divisions in our country, which in my view have become too deep and bitter already. We need to move on and come together.
For similar reasons, I shall not be supporting the so called ‘Letwin amendment’. It is said to be intended to prevent a no-deal Brexit happening by default. In my view, it does not do that. It presupposes that the EU would grant an extension, which may be the case but is not certain, either on a matter of law, or as a matter of politics. Those of us who keep in touch with colleagues in the EU27 detect an increasing frustration with the perceived inability of the UK to make up its mind, and a strong desire to move on with their own priorities, of which Brexit does not, frankly, rank that highly. Many respected commentators, home and abroad, have picked up on the same point. Steven Erlanger’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times is a good example. Therefore, I am not prepared to run the risk of the Letwin amendment, which may in fact have the reverse effect of what it purports to achieve.
This is, we can all agree, a profoundly important and difficult decision for our country. Each Member of Parliament must exercise their own judgement on this with care. As set out above, I have endeavoured to do so. You may not agree with me, but this is my honestly held opinion on what is in the best interests of our country. This issue has corroded our national life for three and a half years. We need to take a decision and move on.