I thought it might be helpful to write an update following the votes on Brexit this week. As you might imagine, I have received many emails with a large number of differing views. This is clearly a fast-moving situation. I am writing the same letter to all constituents so as to be transparent to all.
I have always said that the UK/EU negotiations are the most complex negotiations for a generation.
As I stated at the beginning of the week there are three options: a "no deal Brexit", a second referendum or supporting an exit with a deal. I believe the first two options carry considerable risks to jobs and livelihoods. The Withdrawal Agreement is not perfect but addresses many of these risks and covers the immediate future. It allows for citizens' rights to be protected and for businesses trading with the EU to have a transition period with no 'cliff edges'. These elements of the Withdrawal Agreement are extremely important to those Chelmsford constituents who have family members living in the EU or family members from the EU living in the UK, as well as to those in jobs which involve trade with EU countries. I therefore supported the Withdrawal Agreement when it came to the House of Commons for a vote on Tuesday.
Some constituents have suggested we should walk away and leave the EU without any Withdrawal Agreement or any commitment on UK/EU trade negotiations. However, leaving with "no deal" brings huge uncertainties. In the House of Commons on Wednesday the risks associated with “no deal” were outlined in great detail by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, and by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who was also a leader of the Leave campaign. Given the risks associated with “no deal” it seems to me to be best to look for a short extension to see if an acceptable deal can be agreed.
On Wednesday I intended to vote for the motion by the Prime Minister which ruled out a no deal exit on 29th March. I voted against the Spelman amendment which asked us to rule out a no deal Brexit at any time. However, this amendment was passed by a very small majority. Therefore, the main motion then became the only opportunity to prevent a no deal exit at the end of this month. Given that I do not wish a “no deal” exit this month, or an indefinite extension, I abstained on this motion.
Some constituents have asked me to support a second referendum. I do not currently believe this is the best way forward. In the 2016 referendum, people were told that the result would be respected. There are huge divisions in our country. I am concerned that a second referendum would be even more divisive and not decisive. I therefore voted against a second referendum.
It is government policy to leave the EU with a good deal and a strong relationship with our European neighbours. I have now voted twice to leave on this basis, and will do so again for a third time.
Member of Parliament for Chelmsford
Friday 15 March 2019