Whatever your view on Brexit, the British people voted in a free and fair referendum 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. The Government therefore has a duty to deliver the referendum result and I will do what I can to see that it does.
As you may be aware, when the House of Commons voted on the Withdrawal Agreement on the 15th January 2019 I was unable to support it as I had real concerns about the scope and impact of the so called ‘Backstop’. You can find my previous statement on my website in full at: www.stephenmetcalfe.org.uk/news.
Following the Meaningful Vote I was pleased that the Prime Minister listened to my concerns and committed to obtain legally binding changes to the Backstop. These negotiations are continuing and we need to hold our nerve to see what the Prime Minister actually presents to the House when we have our next Meaningful Vote on or before the 12th March 2019.
As I have stated previously, I supported Brexit, I voted for Brexit, I campaigned for Brexit and like most of my constituents I still want to leave the EU. I still believe it is possible to leave on the 29th March 2019.
I also truly believe that this is the aim of the Prime Minister and what she is trying to achieve. However, this is sadly not true of some colleagues across the House who continue to try to thwart Brexit by whatever means possible.
Today (27/02/2019) the Government have tabled an amendable motion to update the House on Brexit progress. Amongst the amendments tabled from all the opposition parties is an amendment that would hand legislative control of Brexit from the Government to MPs. This is not designed to be helpful. If this is passed, MPs could debate a motion that would effectively remove ‘No Deal’ from the table - massively weakening our negotiating position.
It was against these circumstances that the Prime Minister made her statement yesterday. As I have said many times, my biggest fear in this whole Brexit debate is not ‘No Deal’ but ‘No Brexit’.
The PM needed to balance her desire to deliver Brexit in line with the Conservative Manifesto with the regrettable numbers of MPs who could vote to thwart Brexit in the House of Commons. Her statement yesterday was designed, amongst other things, to stop ‘No Deal’ option being removed before negotiations with the EU are completed.
In her statement the PM made three commitments:
First, that there will be a new Meaningful Vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday 12th March, which with appropriate amendment could well command the support of the House. If that passes, then we will leave the EU on the 29th March 2019 and start the process of negotiating our future partnership.
Second, should the motion be rejected, a motion will be placed before the House on Wednesday 13th March stating we will leave the EU without a deal on the 29th March 2019. If that passes then we will leave as stated, however, if it is not approved then we will neither have a deal to leave with or the ability to leave with ‘No Deal’.
So, thirdly, on Thursday 14th March the House will be asked if it wishes to extend Article 50 for a limited period. The aim of this extension would be to allow time for the House to try and find something the majority of the House can agree on.
I appreciate the frustration that is being expressed, sometimes very forcibly, and the concern that this is an attempt by the Government to delay or dilute Brexit, but I do truly believe it is not the case.
I also understand that for many, the outcome of this will define how and whether they vote again in the future and I understand and respect that. All I can do is to remain true to my belief that the Government wants us to leave the EU on the 29th March 2019, and do all that I can to deliver that.