Over the last few months, I have received thousands of emails and phone calls from constituents about Brexit. Some of these ask me to support a No Deal Brexit. Others ask me to support the Prime Minister’s Deal, whilst a smaller number of people are asking for a second referendum. I think it is pretty clear to say that whichever way I vote in Parliament, I’m not going to please everyone.
The failure of Parliament to do its duty and to agree upon a way forward is something that I know you will find both frustrating and worrying. The vast majority of people in the Calder Valley now just want this issue to be resolved and for the country to move on. I share those sentiments. The 29th March and 12th April (the dates on which we were previously due to the leave the EU) have now passed and people, on both sides of the debate, are understandably annoyed that a further extension has now been agreed until 31st October. It remains the Government’s intention to leave the EU with a deal as soon as possible so that we do not have to hold the EU elections in late May. Holding the EU elections would be in nobody’s interests and I sincerely hope that we are able to leave the EU with a deal before these elections take place.
Let me try to explain my thoughts on the current situation and recent events:
- The UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016 after the biggest democratic exercise we have seen in this country for a long time. The Government made it clear that the British people would determine the final result and that this decision would be implemented
- As your MP, I stated that I would uphold the wishes of local people. Calderdale voted 55.7% to leave the EU and so I voted to trigger Article 50 so that we could leave the EU.
- Since then, I have spent most of my time in Parliament serving as a Government Whip (and an Assistant Whip prior to that). Supporting the Government in delivering Brexit has been one of my key roles.
- The Prime Minister’s deal delivers a Brexit which means that we will leave the single market, leave the customs union, take back control of our laws and immigration policy, and stop sending the EU vast amounts of money every year.
- As the Deal is ONLY about the withdrawal and implementation period, I am quite pragmatic about the agreement. I say this as this is purely a stepping stone to getting to another place. Are there things which I am uneasy about? Yes, but not enough to make me think that voting against the Deal is the best option – not least because this could end up with Brexit not being delivered at all.
- For this reason I have voted to support the Prime Minister’s Deal three times when it has come before the House of Commons.
- Events in Parliament over the last few weeks have seen MPs rule out leaving without a deal and vote to extend Article 50. I disagreed with both of these decisions – I voted to leave a No Deal on the table (it is ridiculous to compromise our negotiating position by ruling out a No Deal) and voted against extending Article 50 when this was first proposed to the House.
- However, because both of these votes were passed (No Deal has now been ruled out and Article 50 has been extended twice), the Government’s options are now very limited – remember, the Conservative Party and Theresa May do not have a majority in Parliament and Labour and the Liberals are doing everything they can do try and disrupt the Brexit process.
- As the Prime Minister has not been able to get her deal approved by Parliament, and Parliament have ruled out a no-deal Brexit, the Government are now holding talks with the Labour Party to see if an agreed way forward can be reached. These talks are continuing and we will know in the next few weeks whether an agreement can be reached which will allow a Brexit deal to be approved. Whilst compromise may be necessary on both sides, I was elected on a manifesto pledge to deliver Brexit, to leave the single market and the customs union and so I will continue to vote in accordance to these commitments.
So where do we go from here?
- I am still 100% committed to doing everything that I can as your MP to deliver the Brexit that people voted for. Now that a ‘No Deal’ Brexit has been ruled out, the PM’s deal is the only way in which Brexit can be delivered – this is why I support it. The Withdrawal Agreement will remain the same regardless of the discussions with the Labour Party which are taking place at the moment.
- Many Brexiteers who opposed the PM’s deal at first are now supporting it because although they recognise that it isn’t perfect, they know that it is the only chance that we have of delivering Brexit. If the PM’s Deal is voted down again for a fourth time, Brexit will be delayed (certainly until October but most likely for longer) and may not happen at all. It is for this reason that I continue to believe that we must get behind the PM’s Deal so that we can deliver what the British people voted for.
Questions about the Deal
The Back Stop and no time limit
It has been said that this is the insurance policy to ensure continuity if we fail to reach a future trade agreement by the end of the implementation period. It has also been said that both sides are uneasy about using it and feel it won’t be needed. My concern here is that if it has taken almost three years to negotiate a Withdrawal Agreement, why would we believe that a future trading agreement is likely to be completed in 18 months? I suspect this won’t be the case and the backstop will probably be needed (this is my own view). The only saving grace here, which is what I believe will focus minds and ensure that the backstop is indeed temporary, is that the UK gets all the benefits of the single market with no freedom of movement and no cost. I can’t imagine for one minute the Europeans will allow this to continue indefinitely, hence why I say it will focus minds to have a Free Trade Agreement in place.
A Second Referendum
The 2016 Referendum led to disagreements in families, friendship groups, and workplaces across the whole country as people took different views on the issues at hand. These disagreements are now in the past for most people and all that a Second Referendum would do is open these disagreements up once again. It would take us back to square one. It wouldn’t solve anything because the country would be split down the middle again, and the uncertainty it would create would be bad for democracy and bad for the economy. The vast majority of people in the Calder Valley have accepted the result of the original Referendum and now just want the Government to get on with delivering a pragmatic Brexit. Furthermore, Parliament has voted against a Second Referendum on several occasions.
I hope this helps to explain my thoughts about Brexit and thank you to all who have taken the time to contact me about this important issue. I will be updating this response as the events unfold, so please keep checking if you have further questions as the situation progresses.
Craig Whittaker MP
16th April 2019