Thank you to everyone who has written in with their views on this evening’s indicative votes.
I have said from the outset that I would respect the result of the referendum but that I would oppose ‘No Deal’. Therefore, I have consistently voted for the Withdrawal Agreement as the best way to stop ‘No Deal’ either on 12 April or any later date and ensure we leave on an orderly basis. I could not take the risk which comes with voting the agreement down, and we now are left with further uncertainty.
We need to keep cool heads and work on the basis of pragmatic compromise. I supported exploring the idea of indicative votes in Parliament however it must at long last step up and show itself capable of charting a way forward.
I will therefore once again be voting for the two ‘Soft Brexit’ options this evening: Common Market 2.0 and a Customs Union. Neither are perfect, but both are entirely consistent with the Withdrawal Agreement and would only require a change to the Political Declaration.
In relation to the two other options:
Confirmatory Public Vote
I still have serious concerns about the way in which another referendum could be held, which have not been addressed.
What is the exact referendum question – would ‘No Deal’ be on the ballot paper? If it is, that is a huge risk. If it is not, the referendum may have a low turnout with questions about its legitimacy.
If the Withdrawal Agreement is approved in the referendum what instruction does this give about the future framework, which is yet to be negotiated? We are told one reason for a referendum is people didn’t know what Brexit would look like, but people complain about the Prime Minister’s deal not setting a clear picture of the future relationship. So how would a referendum on the Deal take us anywhere further forward? It would not in any way deal with the ‘future direction’ concerns, as the debate will continue between a Norway, Canada, or different Brexit.
Another referendum would not resolve those questions at all and could lead to the same impasse we see now. We don’t know what our ultimate relationship with the EU is going to be because we can’t negotiate it until we leave. If various Brexit visions are put forward during the second referendum, is there an argument for a third one, this time to confirm whatever future relationship is finally negotiated?
Under what rules would the referendum be conducted? Many argue for another referendum given the issues with digital campaigning and donations in the 2016 referendum. The head of the Electoral Commission has said no new referendum should take place until the laws around the use of social media and campaign funding have been significantly tightened – this cannot be rushed in case similar mistakes are made again. Another referendum would simply be open to all the same sorts of issues because it would be taking place under the same structure. You will have seen the recent news reports regarding Vote Leave. Won’t the same questions of legitimacy be made again, whatever the result?
And it would not resolve the current tension between direct and representative democracy which is currently putting our political system under such strain.
If this is a serious proposed way forward, then would the right thing to do be to establish what sort of substantial deal Parliament would agree to, and then consider whether we want to straight approve it or put it to the people.
As I said last week, a confirmatory referendum is not an outcome, it is a process.
I abstained on a very convoluted process motion which sought to squeeze Parliament into a vote between No Deal vs No Brexit. This would then be followed by a 3-month “Inquiry” to determine whether there was any model of future relationship outside the EU which is likely to have majority support in the United Kingdom. If that Inquiry concluded there was, there would be a further referendum on Remain vs that model.
Whilst I am very clear about how I would vote in a straight shoot-out between No Deal and No Brexit, I want to avoid that choice and use this process to seek to find common ground and a way through which can carry a real cross-party majority, all the while respecting the result of the referendum. There is too much volume coming from the extreme ends of the argument - no deal and revoke. Pretending the referendum result simply didn’t happen is something that cannot be taken lightly.
In my view, neither No Deal nor Revoke have a mandate from the British people and lack democratic legitimacy. Remain lost the referendum, but the public was promised a deal.
I, like a majority of MPs, have voted to express a view that the UK should not leave the EU on No Deal basis, so I could not oppose the motion. Yet there is no agreed way forward, and because this motion does not attempt to find a substantive answer to that question, so I could not support it.
I am under no illusions about how people across the constituency voted in the EU referendum. Along with the majority but important to note, not all, constituents I voted to remain. However, one over whelming thing I take from speaking to countless people across East Renfrewshire is that they just want to “get on with it“ and are fed up with the entire process. I share their frustration and hope that parliament can agree an outcome so that both at Holyrood and Westminster, Government can get on with dealing with the day to day issues affecting us in East Renfrewshire the most.
I remain committed to supporting the Prime Ministers Deal if it comes back to Parliament, but first and foremost I am committed to the people of East Renfrewshire in stopping a no deal, delivering a sensible pragmatic Brexit and getting on with championing the area on the national stage.
You can read all my statements on Brexit here : https://www.paulmasterton.org.uk/news/brexit-update-0