Reflecting on the Meaningful Vote

I voted for the Prime Minister’s deal (1) to implement the referendum decision and deliver an orderly, pragmatic Brexit (2) to avoid uncertainty and delay which would be bad for jobs and confidence (3) to prevent no-deal which would be an unacceptable risk and (4) to reject a divisive second referendum.

A large majority of MPs rejected the deal, but they want entirely different things.  One group actively wants ‘no-deal’.  Another wants to dilute or delay Brexit, or even to ditch it altogether by way of a second referendum. 

These two sides can’t both get what they want, or be right about the consequences of their vote.  But since most MPs believe ‘no-deal’ would be damaging and will try to prevent it, it’s more likely that the Commons will move towards a softer Brexit.

I have received many e-mails from constituents who, similarly, want opposite things, some urging me to oppose Brexit and support a second referendum, others wanting me to support ‘no-deal’.

I don’t think it would be right to call a second referendum, and I fear that another narrow result would exacerbate division and uncertainty in the country rather than settle the issue.

I understand the frustration which leads some people to call for ‘no-deal’.  But the implications are far more serious than many appear to realise.

‘No-deal’ would mean suddenly imposing tariff and non-tariff barriers on half of our trade.  It would mean no transition period for businesses to enable them to prepare.  It would mean no reciprocal agreement to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and of UK citizens living in the EU.  It would mean no security partnership with the EU.  These are some of the details which have carefully been negotiated for two years, and for very good reason.

It is simply not true that people were promised ‘no-deal’ in the referendum.  Actually the official Vote Leave campaign said there would be a deal with the EU.

Most MPs voted for a referendum and to trigger Article 50, the timetabled countdown to leaving the EU.  Most stood on party election manifestos which said that the referendum decision would be honoured.

I intend to honour the pledge I made, and will continue to support moves to try and deliver Brexit in a sensible, pragmatic manner.  

If you would like to get in touch with me, please e-mail me at nick@nickherbert.com.