Why I voted against the withdrawal proposals

As I stated before Christmas, without significant and substantial improvements to the Withdrawal Bill proposal I would be unable to vote for it.

I believe that the democratic will of local residents, and that of the majority of the country who voted to leave the EU, must be realised. We 650 MPs in the House of Commons have a responsibility to deliver the mandate to leave of 17.4million – the largest ever mandate in the UK’s history.

Yesterday I was restricted to just two minutes in Parliament to outline my views on the proposals, but below is the intended full speech I planned to give, which sets out my reasoning for voting against the Prime Minister’s deal.

__

It is no secret that I voted to leave the EU as did 67% of my constituents and nearly seventeen and a half million people across UK.

The reasons for voting to leave varied across the country, but I have spoken with thousands of my constituents before, during and after the referendum and they were clear what they voted for. They wanted to see:

·      An end to Free Movement and for control of our borders
·      Sovereignty for our Parliament
·      The ability to trade freely around the world
 

And I very much share these sentiments.

I appreciate the negotiations have been tough – however, the Prime Minister has gained concessions from EU – the End to Freedom of Movement being most notable – which is particularly welcomed by my constituents.

I also agree that it is in the best interests of both UK and the EU to reach a deal. But not at all costs.

If we aren’t prepared to walk away from negations then we were undone before we even started.

It is concerning that under these proposals the United Kingdom, as a Union is under threat - in its current format - if we vote this deal through history will look back unkindly on this Parliament for the consequences it will have for our Union.

Northern Ireland and the integrity of the UK may not have been at the forefront of constituents’ minds when voting – but it is imperative that we protect it.

We are told that the Backstop will supposedly come in to effect as matter of last resort – however I don’t buy this. I know the UK would approach the next stage of negotiations in the spirit it was intended, but I have no such confidence in EU.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that we do not want the Backstop and nor do EU. Which begs question why do we have it? Somebody must want it! 

I believe PM when says we don’t want it - so that leaves only the EU. And it is easy to see why: this gives them the upper hand in negotiations.

And it is a fact that the Government’s own legal advice states clearly that “the protocol would endure indefinitely”.

I understand that compromise is part of any negotiation but I do not feel that the goodwill shown by PM has been reciprocated.

Another concern regarding these proposals around the legal status of Withdrawal agreement and that it leaves us no guarantees on political declaration (our future relationship with the EU).

In reality this places the UK at the mercy of the EU. Once this deal is agreed on by Parliament, which would only need to be agreed by a majority of the EU states,  to a position whereby on all future parts of the deal, they would need to be unanimously agreed by each of the 27 Member States. Put simply, if any one of them didn’t like any element of the agreement, they could potentially vote it down or add their own wish list to it! Evidence of this in practice can be seen in the trade deal the EU negotiated with Canada whereby one region of Belgium halted the whole deal. 

We cannot then then unilaterally leave the transition period or even prevent the backstop.

Surely the political declaration should offer at very least cast iron protective guarantees to move it as close as possible to the legal status of the withdrawn agreement.

Moreover the deal on table potentially gives away our sovereignty and £39bn with nothing guaranteed in return!

In my view this isn’t a good deal.

Ultimately we need an agreement from both sides that we can get behind - this one stacks all the decks against us.

I would argue that the tone of these negotiations is reflective of the very reason so many millions voted to leave in first place. The EU continues to prove that it is unwilling (or unable) to reform – and I fear they would be quite happy to keep us tied to their rules for as long as possible.

I was keen that we reached an agreement that I would be able to support, however, in its current format, I cannot.

The proposals do not meet two of the criteria set out earlier by constituents: taking back control of our sovereignty and the ability to freely trade.

Therefore I believe that, if necessary, walking away and trading on World Trade Organisation rules isnot something we should automatically be afraid of.

 

Business

I have listened to businesses across my constituency and more widely. I have heard their concerns - many organisations are simply not ready for no deal scenario, particularly in supply chains.

We need to consider the impacts of that and look at what measures can be put in place.

This could have a particular impact in constituency because of the type of industry we have - logistics and “just in time” manufacturing sectors.

It is only right to make constituents aware - many who are strongly against this deal and who have suggested that we walk away – of the potential risk in this regard be it short, medium or long term.

However, I have also met with many who are a lot more optimistic. For example on Small Business Saturday I met with Sykes Timber  a 150 year old timber business who export around world. This includes export to EU member states and they are already in talks with those businesses about how they will come to compromises on tariffs. I am pleased to say that they were very positive about business resilience & future, even in no deal scenario. 

This re-enforced my belief - as former small business owner myself – that businesses adapt to their markets and external influences.

Furthermore it is work remembering that tariffs do not mean a complete cessation of trade.

Successful businesses are successful for a reason; they always have to deal with changing environments and adapt to that change. 

As someone who believes in leaving the EU I want us to seize the opportunities Brexit brings. 

 

To conclude I feel that this withdrawal agreement proposal doesn’t represent what either I or the  majority of my local constituents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth voted for in 2016.

In its current format I am unable to support it.

To reiterate I believe that getting an agreement is the most favourable option but not at all costs.

It is not too late to change course, we can still secure amendments which deliver wholly on referendum result.

Those changes need to include getting rid of Northern Ireland Backstop and having guarantees on our future relationship, then I suspect that we will see the proposals will likely command a majority in the house.

Importantly, we must deliver the democratic will of British people. They are understandably frustrated at the games of some politicians who seek to frustrate the democratic result of the referendum. 

I implore the Prime Minister, go back, I know the EU have said this deal is final, but we know that they constantly move the goal posts; they said we wouldn’t get an end to free movement without being in customs union but the Prime Minister has achieved that.

So let’s get a deal that will bring a majority in this house and deliver the Brexit that my constituents and millions around the country voted for in 2016.