I have been consistent in my desire to deliver Brexit as voted for by 17.4m people in 2016. I supported Brexit, I campaigned for Brexit and I voted Brexit and would still do the same again.
However, that is not true for everyone in the House of Commons, indeed I believe there is a majority who, deep down, would either like to remain in the EU or tie us as closely to the EU as possible through a permanent customs arrangement.
Therefore, my vote yesterday was based on my judgement of the feelings of the whole of the House of Commons. I saw the choice as being between getting Brexit with the amended Withdrawal Agreement or potentially losing Brexit altogether.
My biggest fear has always been that the Opposition, who want a 2nd Referendum and permanent membership of the EU Customs Union, supported by the SNP, Liberal Democrats, the new ‘Independent Group’ and a number of my own “Remain” inclined colleagues could take control of the Brexit process and with the connivance of Mr. Speaker, derail Brexit altogether.
You may well be aware that when the Withdrawal Agreement was first presented in a Meaningful Vote on 29th January, I voted against it on the basis that I had great concerns over the so called Irish ‘Backstop’ - a mechanism to ensure no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
I felt that we could be potentially stuck in an arrangement where we were neither in or out of the EU. However, I did vote for an amendment, which commanded a majority in the House, that required the Government to seek legally binding changes to the Backstop to ensure that we would not get permanently stuck.
Yesterday, the Attorney General presented those changes to the House. I admit, they did not go as far as I would like, but a number of the legally binding changes have reduced the risk considerably of being stuck in the backstop.
Therefore, on balance and in the interests of ensuring we leave the EU on the 29th March 2019 and to stop the risk of NO BREXIT, I backed the Withdrawal Agreement.
I fully recognise that is not ideal and that it was nonetheless defeated but I did not want to risk handing control of the Brexit process over to those who want to thwart the will of 17.4m people.
I know other colleagues took a different view and voted against the deal, and I fully understand their reasons, but I could not persuade myself to risk Brexit altogether.
Votes on No Deal or Article 50 Extension
With regards to important votes today, and possibly tomorrow, I will certainly vote to keep No Deal firmly on the table, in line with the current legal position. That being, in the absence of a deal, that the UK leaves the EU without a deal on March 29th.
Today there is also the opportunity to vote for an amendment - the so-called ‘Malthouse Compromise’ which I will support. The Malthouse Compromise offers an alternative route out of the EU, but does require a limited fixed extension to Article 50 for businesses to prepare.
However, if this Compromise fails and tomorrow a motion comes forward to extend Article 50 without any clear indication of what an extension would be for, then I will vote against in the hope that the default legal position of leaving the EU on March 29th remains in place.
On the issue of a Second Referendum, I cannot at present see any circumstance under which I could support this. I believe that when a decision of constitutional significance is made, it is important that democratic processes are followed. Parliament gave the British people the final say on the UK's membership of the EU and that result must be respected.
The ballot paper presented voters with an unambiguous choice to remain in the EU or to leave and the Government sent a document to every household in the UK stating it would implement the decision of the British people. The Government has a duty to deliver the referendum result and it is my duty to see it will do so in the national interest.
As in every election, it was up to the electorate to judge the merits of the different arguments and over 17.4 million voters decided to leave the EU. Turnout was larger than at any election since 1992 and no Prime Minister or party in British history has ever received as many votes as the vote to leave did. Both main political parties also pledged at the General Election 2017 to respect the EU referendum result.
As I have said before, I have heard from constituents who want to remain in the EU; from those fighting for a second referendum; those who are convinced the Prime Minister’s Deal is the only way forward; and those who truly believe the only way to leave the EU is to have ‘No Deal’ and move to WTO terms.
Due to the wide range of opinions expressed, whichever way I voted yesterday it would have been impossible for me to represent everyone’s view. That said, I take into consideration all views expressed and welcome continued dialogue on this most important of issues.