Westminster View

Who knows what may have happened in Parliament regarding Brexit by the time you read this, we may even be in a General Election campaign, but I think it’s important I give my general thoughts on the situation.

I cannot support those remain MPs who, I believe, want to use Parliament to try and stop Brexit. I understand they are saying it’s to avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit but there was a deal available, so this cannot really be true. That deal was rejected by Parliament three times and I’m increasingly of the view it’s because this largely remain Parliament cannot bring itself to finalise leaving the EU.

Now, if Parliament had been sovereign on this issue and not given the responsibility for the decision to the electorate in the form of a referendum then MPs would be on slightly firmer ground.

However, it didn’t. Parliament legislated for a referendum and said it would honour the result. For Parliament to continue to ensure we remain in the EU using an ‘unacceptable no deal’ looks undemocratic and dangerous.

And that’s because fundamentally democracy is about having your say, not getting your way. Whatever the issue, whatever the cost; whatever the rules and processes – always.

Now, I very much hope the Prime Minister can reach a new deal with the EU, and I believe he wants one, but I cannot understand why MPs, who say they are opposed to no deal, are undermining his negotiating position and so making it more likely to happen, unless their real goal is no Brexit?

But, perhaps the most striking point and one that’s really worrying me is this: what if Brexit is delayed or already has been delayed as you read this? What then? More of this? More division? More attempts to ignore the referendum result? Can it really go on?

Well, as you can imagine, many people write to me on this issue so I will reprint here the final part of my reply, which I hope conveys my fear Parliament is on a dangerous road, even though I voted to remain in 2016.

I have never hidden the fact that I would prefer to leave with a deal and continue to believe this is the best way forward. Plainly it has to be preferable to leave the EU in a way that does as much as can be done to mitigate the economic effects of doing so.

“I am more than well aware of the economic damage that a ‘no deal’ exit may incur. One of my key roles as a minister was to deal with the plans my department had in place for just such an eventuality.  But this comes down to more than economics.  It is about faith in the political system and, however much I weigh this in the balance against the economic cost, I cannot persuade myself that undermining the fundamental tenets of government by consent is worth the trade.  If we do not leave, we risk enormous disengagement from the political process by millions of people who were told many times their vote would be honoured. I understand others profoundly disagree with me but it is much easier to quantify a cost of an action you can put on a spreadsheet than one whose consequences may be less defined, but potentially more profound.

“As such, if a deal cannot be agreed with the European Union for a reasonable exit, I believe we have no option but to leave without a deal.”