Brexit continued No 4
The Government has set out its 12 negotiating objectives for Brexit. It has stressed that while this is part of the plan to leave the EU, it is not part of a plan to leave Europe. On the basis of the feedback it has so far had from European colleagues, the Government does not believe that we can be part in, part out. It is therefore seeking a new and equal partnership with our friends and allies in the EU. In order to help constituents understand the 12 objectives the Government has set, I repeat them below without a commentary from the press.
I am about to hold a number of discussion forums around the constituency on the subject of Brexit. I want to hear what it is that are people's concerns and what they want me to look out for in negotiation. It is a listening exercise that I would like people with all views to attend.
Let me address a number of other points that have been made.
Status of the Referendum
I disagree with those who tell me that the referendum was 'only' advisory. In our manifesto which was supported by over 11 million people (and very clearly before that), we said explicitly that we would accept the result of the referendum whatever it was. The Referendum effectively ceased being advisory at that point.
How voting now against giving the Prime Minister permission to start Article 50 negotiations would comply with that has not been made clear or how we would ever be trusted in taking democratic decisions again if we voted against. Those, like me, who voted to Remain need to accept that we lost the argument and that we lost the vote. I am not throwing in the towel and admitting defeat but I am recognising that a decision was made. As I have already said, my responsibility now is ensuring that the best deal can be reached for the country that is consistent with the recognition of that democratic decision.
The use of statistics
I understand the feeling of desperation that many feel at this decision but I find the use of statistics to justify why this was not a democratic decision as particularly bogus – almost as much as some of the claims used by both sides in the Referendum campaign itself. It was a simple referendum. The issue of a supermajority, whereby more than 60% would have been required to trigger leaving the EU, have been discussed in Parliament. But at the time of the Bill there was no overwhelming call for this, least of all from the Liberal-Democrats. Similarly there were no calls for a second referendum at the time the Bill was going through the House. Voting again and again until the 'right' answer is produced is precisely what the EU has been most criticised for.
Debate in Parliament is some 60 hours
I am working in my own fields to explore what aspects of our current membership of the EU are essential for us to take forward. There will be debate over this both inside and outside parliament. Inside parliament we have already had some 60 hours of debate on Brexit and different aspects of the UK economy and society. Very few of these debates have been reported in the press but they remain an important source of information to Government and Parliament alike. They should also be of interest to all with a concern in the decision.
The Prime Minister has promised a vote to Parliament at the end of the process once an agreement has been reached and we are voting on a simple and straight forward Bill to give the Prime Minister discretion to begin the Article 50 process this coming week.
Some of the debates we have had in the House of Commons since the beginning of November 2016 include:
Parliament is therefore fully engaged with Brexit
The nature of representative democracy
For over 300 years we have had a clear picture of MPs as representatives rather than delegates where they have to use their own judgment. In reaching a decision they have to take into account information such as the enormous number of debates in both Houses which have not been reported by the press. This is not a question of party loyalty as some have tried to suggest. It is a question of taking a balanced view of these factors. However, if the referendum really was advisory, it is difficult to see why those who want to remain are using it to try to tie my hands now in how I may vote.
Like many in South Oxfordshire I voted to Remain and still believe that that would have been the better option. But I am not going to defy the democratic vote of the country as a whole either directly or indirectly, not through party loyalty but because I do not believe that would be a credible action to take. I am not in denial that a decision was made and I do not believe that the promises made by either campaign during the referendum campaign had the sort of influence that people now say they did. We have set out a plan for getting the best for the country out of Brexit.