On June 23rd 2016 Britain decided that we would leave the European Union and fully take back control of our own affairs for the first time in decades. Whilst the national result was close, many Yorkshire constituencies such as my own were overwhelmingly in the leave camp.
We now stand on the threshold of a new chapter in our nation’s history and we must fulfil our duty to deliver on that referendum result. Theresa May’s deal does just that. It ensures we take back control of our laws, our borders and our money. It safeguards our security and protects British jobs. Next week all MPs will have the opportunity to act in the national interest and back the deal.
The issue of Europe has always cut across traditional party allegiances. Concepts of left and right do not automatically funnel MPs into a particular camp in this regard. UKIP, until it recently lost all semblance of credibility, used to draw its support from Labour and Tory voters in equal measure. It is therefore not surprising that no party has a unified position on how we deliver on the result of the referendum or even, particularly on the Labour benches, if we deliver Brexit at all!
Opponents of next week’s “meaningful vote” fall into two main camps. Some in the European Research Group within the Conservative Party believe that if the deal is rejected then we will automatically transition into a “no deal” situation on the 29th of March. Others, predominately in Labour’s ranks, believe that rejecting the deal would be the first step to keeping us in the European Union; possibly after a so called peoples’ vote or second referendum.
They can’t both be right!
Those who passionately want us to leave the EU are playing a very dangerous game which could result in precisely the opposite of what they have been dreaming of for years. It has also been depressingly obvious that Speaker Bercow, as referee on the pitch, is not averse to kicking the ball himself if it would aid the opponents of Brexit. That factor could be a deciding one in the close game of Parliamentary poker that is unfolding.
Labour’s official position is a mystery to everyone. They seem to say that if only we had a General Election then a Corbyn led Government would magically conjure up an acceptable deal despite the fact that not only has time run out but also the European Commission have ruled out reopening the process. Jeremy Corbyn himself has a long record of Euroscepticism but his radical London-centric Momentum power base are overwhelmingly Remainers. Labour MPs dare not step out of line, even in the most “brexitty” of Northern seats, as these same activists have already shown their voracious appetite to deselect non-believers who dare to challenge the bearded one or show Blairite tendencies.
What is not in doubt is that Labour thinks it would benefit from a chaotic Brexit even if that meant economic turmoil and job losses. In their view the national interest and the delivery of the people’s decision comes second to the party’s hunger for power and determination to deliver the most left wing programme for Government in the country’s history. They seem willing to betray the democratic will of the people as expressed in the referendum because of what they see as the greater good of a possible Labour administration. If the polls are anything to go by, voters have seen through this cynical approach.
Businesses here in Yorkshire have warned about the consequences of a hard Brexit and the uncertainty that goes with it. At the start of the process the Prime Minister made clear that “no deal is better than a bad deal” but in my view the deal on the table is an acceptable one. The deal delivers all the key elements we need but also gives us the time through the transitional period to negotiate the myriad of arrangements that must be put in place. If this does not pass then, as Mrs May said on Andrew Marr on Sunday we are in “uncharted territory” – more damaging uncertainty.
The Prime Minister won last month’s confidence vote by a much larger percentage than swung the referendum. In the same way that those who voted to stay in the EU must accept that democratic result, my colleagues who voted to oust the Prime Minister should do the same.
So my message to Conservative colleagues is let’s come together and back the Prime Minister. You may not all like the woman but surely you can’t help but admire her.
My message to Labour colleagues is to face up to your responsibilities and deliver the outcome your constituents voted for. They were not too stupid to understand the question!
Once we are past next week’s hurdle we can get on with forging a new relationship with the European Union, strike new trade deals around the world and build our prosperity at home.
Let’s get this done.
Rt Hon Robert Goodwill is Member of Parliament for Scarborough and Whitby and a farmer.