There is only one way to outsmart the wrecker Remainer MPs trying to stop Brexit

The Daily Telegraph - 24 Jan 2019
The result of the real ‘People’s Vote’, which took place in June 2016, is at risk of being stolen. But this is no usual highway robbery where we can see the assailant.

This robbery is being conducted very cleverly by those MPs seeking to alter House of Commons procedures. Their aim is to introduce new arcane procedures which would provide a cover for the real intent of a majority of Remain-supporting MPs who wish to frustrate and ultimately thwart Brexit.

Hence the strategy I have adopted in an amendment being tabled today. This amendment gives MPs a duty to set out publicly their preferences around what Brexit outcomes they would support, by holding a series of ‘indicative votes’ in the Commons.

Such a strategy would have the effect of shining a bright torch on what MPs are really up to. In order for this to happen, it is crucial for the votes to be recorded in the usual way and to be ‘free votes’ that are not subject to the whips’ interference.

The amendment is premised on my belief that the public has a right to know how MPs would vote on the different Brexit choices facing the country, and that we should have an opportunity as soon as possible to register our vote on a range of options, including: a reformed Northern Irish ‘backstop’ as part of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement; leaving the European Union without a deal; extending Article 50; entering into a future Canada-style relationship with the European Union; entering into a temporary or permanent future Norway-style relationship with the European Union; holding a new referendum; and being in a Customs Union with the European Union.

This course of action could act as a powerful guide, but only a guide, to the Government during its ongoing discussions with the European Union.

In tabling this amendment, I have not changed my own position on the Brexit outcome that best reflects the wishes and interests of Birkenhead and the country as a whole, both of which voted by a margin of 52-48 in favour of Leave.

Despite the deindustrialisation which ensued in the 1980s, the effects of which towns like Birkenhead are still struggling to deal with, there are still large numbers of jobs in our country that rely on a healthy manufacturing industry. That brings us onto what is, I believe, the fundamental question posed by Brexit. How can we best deliver the sovereign will of the people in alignment with our nation’s economic interests?

During the last general election campaign, I pledged to the voters in Birkenhead that I would support the implementation of the referendum result, but to do so in a way which would protect our manufacturing industry.

The Prime Minister seems to have been angling for such an arrangement in her negotiations with the European Union. I would support a modified withdrawal agreement – putting us on track to end unlimited immigration from the EU, and to regain our decision-making powers, while maintaining those barrier-free markets and supply chains that are vital for manufacturing jobs – with a reformed Northern Irish ‘backstop’, particularly if more explicit guarantees are given around the future status of workers’ rights and environmental safeguards.

But let’s not allow ourselves for one moment to think that if we pass a withdrawal agreement in one form or another, we will have delivered Brexit. Of course, we need to pass a withdrawal agreement to leave the European Union without putting at risk those jobs that rely on our manufacturing industry.

However, even if MPs approve a withdrawal agreement, there will be tonnes of legislation that needs to pass in order to validate Brexit. All such measures will be subject to a House of Commons where a majority of MPs have been, are, and will continue to be diehard Remainers.

If the withdrawal agreement does make it over the line, we will surely need a new Prime Minister who has the tactical skill to beat the wreckers at their own game. For now, though, we need those wreckers to be forced to show their hand and for the House of Commons as a whole to indicate which potential way forward would command support from a majority of MPs.

Following last week’s vote on the withdrawal agreement, we know what MPs don’t want. My amendment seeks to find out what exactly it is they do want.