I continue to receive a high volume of correspondence from constituents expressing many different views on the current process of our withdrawal from the EU. As you can appreciate this is a very fluid situation and at this stage I cannot give a clear answer to all the points raised.
However, if it is helpful, I will set out what I have done this week. Given the impasse in Parliament and the difficulty in passing the Withdrawal Agreement, I supported the amendment on Monday to enable the process of so-called ‘indicative votes’ which would allow MPs to vote on all the available options and see what could command a majority. This measure will force MPs who, until now, have been very specific about what they don’t want, to face the music.
In the votes on Wednesday, I supported ‘Common Market 2.0’ to which I could lend my support if the original deal does not get through, and also a form of customs union as part of the future relationship with the EU. Many people said to me during the referendum campaign that they supported Britain being in the Common Market but felt that this had morphed into a political union with which they did not agree. This offers an alternative which would see us outside the EU and taking control of our waters and agriculture but able to trade freely.
I remain convinced that the UK must leave the EU in accordance with the referendum result. But in doing so it must be in a managed way which means agreeing a deal. I continue to believe that the deal negotiated by the Prime Minister is a good deal which both honours the result of the referendum and guards against the concerns of those, like me, who are fearful of a no-deal exit. In answer to those who have written to me demanding that I reject the deal in favour of a no-deal exit, I repeat that this is something I cannot support. Many businesses in West Berkshire rely on free and frictionless trade with the EU and whilst in time there would be different measures put in place, as things stand now they are not in a position to withstand the severe disruption that a no-deal exit would bring. This is why I voted on 13th March to stop no-deal from happening and then for an extension to Article 50. It is also why I have voted (twice) in favour of the Prime Minister’s deal.
Whilst I understand that many support the calls for a second referendum because they wish to reverse the decision of the first, and this is a perfectly legitimate position to hold, it is one that I do not share. A second referendum would take many months to organise. It would require an Act of Parliament. This would mean lengthy discussions on what question should be asked, how much money could be spent by each side and many more highly contentious matters. At the end of it we would have a more divided nation and, I fear, forces of nationalism and extremism unleashed, the like of which we have never seen in the UK before. I stood in the 2017 election on a commitment to honour the referendum result and secured the highest popular vote in the Newbury constituency’s history. I cannot forget that fact.
We have to break the Parliamentary logjam and I believe compromise on all sides is required.