Update on Brexit - 4 April 2019

I thought it might be helpful to write another update on Brexit following numerous votes this week.  Thank you for the many emails that I have received, I do appreciate all your comments.  I know that there are differing views amongst Chelmsford residents on the way forward. I am writing the same letter to all constituents in order to be transparent to all.


On Monday evening we had another round of “indicative votes”. None of the options achieved a majority. I listened to the many hours of debate. 


It is clear that MPs are concerned about the impact of a “no deal” Brexit to our economy and the challenges it brings regarding the Irish border. For these reasons the majority of MP’s do not support a “no deal” exit. There was also no majority in the House of Commons for revoking Article 50 or holding a second referendum. 


Therefore, given that there is no majority for either “no deal” or no Brexit, it is important to find a deal that can be agreed. My preferred solution remains the Prime Minister’s deal. This would allow an orderly exit from the EU, in a manner that would allow businesses and jobs to be supported. I have voted for leaving the EU on this basis three times. More MP’s have voted for the Prime Minister’s deal than any of the other options, but, to date, it does not have the support of a majority.


After a marathon cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the Prime Minister has agreed to hold further conversations with the Leader of the Opposition to see whether there is an option or series of options that might achieve a majority. Cabinet Members are given detailed and confidential information about the impact of different alternatives to the country. They will have looked in depth at the risks to security and the economy.


Going forward, options that have been suggested for consideration are:

• Leaving but remaining in a Customs Union

• Leaving but remaining in a Customs Union and in a Norway style relationship with the Single Market (Common Market 2.0).

If these are the only two alternatives I would recommend the former. Though my preference remains the Prime Minister’s bespoke deal. 


Forming “a” new customs union with the EU would not be the same as staying in ‘the’ Customs Union as we know it today. We would not be in the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy or have to maintain the EU definition of freedom of movement. These were all significant considerations in the 2016 referendum. A customs union would involve the UK following the EU with regards to tariff rates on certain goods but we would not necessarily have to follow all EU regulation on goods. Furthermore, the UK would have its own independent regulatory regime for services, which is the largest part of our economy. In addition, we would be able to secure trade deals on services with other parts of the world. The UK could also have its own independent policy over trade remedies and sanctions. If the Government chose this option, we could leave the EU without a long extension and without having to hold another European election.


Last night the Parliament passed a Bill to put a lock on the Government in order to avoid “no deal”. In my view this was unnecessary as the Prime Minister had made it clear the Government was going to extend the process in order to avoid “no deal”.


Usually a Bill will involve many months of parliamentary debate and scrutiny.  Yesterday this Bill was presented, debated, amended and voted on in just a few hours. There were a large number of confusing amendments which conflicted each other. This has led to mammoth holes in the drafting. This Bill was intended to stop “no deal” but it does not necessarily achieve this. I discussed this the ministers most closely involved with the negotiations. I understand that, in reality, the wording of the Bill may have made it even more difficult for the UK and the EU to achieve a deal and orderly exit. The Bill was passed by a majority of one vote.


I do understand the strength of feeling on Brexit. This remains a very complex situation.   Thank you to everyone who has sent me words of support regarding the abusive messages colleagues and I have been receiving.  It is greatly appreciated.