The Draft Withdrawal Agreement Vote (Brexit)

The Draft Withdrawal Agreement Vote

I’ve received hundreds of emails and phone calls from constituents on the Brexit deal. Some of these ask me to totally reject the deal and vote for a ‘No Deal Brexit’. Others ask me to support the PM and support the deal brought forward, whilst a smaller number of people are asking for a second referendum. I think it is pretty clear that whichever way I vote, I’m not going to please everyone!

Let me try to explain my thoughts on what I am going to do in the vote and the reasons why.

First of all, this deal IS NOT about our future trading arrangements with the EU. The EU has been quite clear from the outset that they would only discuss this when we have left the EU. This deal therefore is only about our withdrawal and the transition period.

There are several other things that are poignant and need noting:

  1. As part of the Act already passed, any scenario has to be taken to a ‘Meaningful Vote’ in Parliament.
  2. The PM does not have a majority in Parliament, so any deal that is brought forward, has to be able to get through a vote in Parliament or at least a deal where the majority of MP’s will vote for it.
  3. The thing that hasn’t been settled yet in Parliament is, ‘what is a meaningful vote?’ The Government’s idea is that Parliament votes on the substantive motion first (so, ‘deal or no deal’), we then discuss amendments, which under this process would mean that any amendment agreed by Parliament is NON binding. The Speaker and many MP’s, on the other hand, have made it clear that they will not accept this process. They want amendments first, which means that amendments become binding to the substantive motion.
  4. The EU are not prepared to re-open negotiations.
  5. It is my view as a Government Whip (although this is solely my view and not the view of Government), that there is not enough support within Parliament to pass a No Deal Brexit. Bearing in mind that amendments may become binding, this is where a vote on a ‘No Deal scenario’ could potentially be voted upon. There just aren’t the votes for this to happen.
     
    It is with the above in mind, that I have come to the following conclusions:
     
    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 get 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.

It is for these reasons that I will be voting to back the deal and will back the Prime Minister.

Questions about the deal

The role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ)

Bearing in mind that we are talking about the withdrawal and the implementation period NOT about any future Trade agreement, this in my view is a bit of a red herring. If a UK company has a trade dispute with, say the Americans, it would be the Supreme Court in America who dealt with the dispute, so it is no surprise that it would be the ECJ who dealt with disputes with EU countries. Our courts will deal with disputes against any UK company, hence giving our courts the supreme say, which has not happened since we joined the EU. This of course will be the case when we develop our future trading agreement with the EU.
 
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 2 years to negotiate a Withdrawal Agreement, who of ‘sound mind’ believes we will have a future trading agreement 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 2nd 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.  
 
In relation to the rest of the deal, as I have said, I am quite pragmatic about it and just to reiterate, I will be voting for the Deal and supporting the PM.

Craig Whittaker MP

November 2018