Brexit Statement

2nd April 2019

Following on from my previous statements on this issue, I want to set out my latest views on the Brexit process and recent votes we have had in parliament.

As you know, last week the House once again voted down the Prime Minister’s deal with the European Union. On this occasion, due to a ruling by the Speaker of the House, MPs only voted on the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, rather than the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration that we voted on previously.

I believe the government has worked hard to try and deliver the guarantees and assurances that the House have asked for. It was welcome that we had further clarity from the EU that the Irish Backstop could not become permanent, nor could it form the basis of our future trading relationship.

As you may know, I voted against the agreement on the two previous occasions it was brought before the House. I had asked for a legally binding change to the agreement that would allow for the UK to leave the backstop unilaterally or have that aspect of the deal subject to a time limit.

Unfortunately, that was not achieved during the negotiations and the Attorney General’s legal advice confirmed that the assurances we did receive did not fundamentally change the legal position of the backstop. Instead, it gave the UK more political power to ensure the terms of the backstop would not be able to survive indefinitely without our consent. This was at least a step forward and I do welcome that.

However, the House of Commons has continued to refuse to accept the will of the British people during the referendum in 2016. MPs from across the House have tied the hands of the government at every stage along the way to ensure we have not been able to get a good deal with the EU.

Parliament has taken control of the process and is now acting as a ‘backbench government’. MPs have taken control of the Order Paper and will resume the flawed process of holding ‘indicative votes’ this week. I am extremely worried that this process will lead to Brexit in name only and will leave us in a dreadful half-way house that no one would choose.

The behaviour of parliament and the holding of the second stage of ‘indicative votes’ has led me to the conclusion that the House will thwart a proper Brexit at every turn. The legal default of no deal has effectively been removed by parliament too. Whilst I would prefer to leave the EU with a deal, it is vital that ‘no deal’ should remain on the table to ensure we get a good negotiation with the EU.

For these reasons, I made the incredibly difficult decision to support the Withdrawal Agreement. This is only the first step on the road, and hopefully, with a new negotiating team the flaws that have been identified can be ironed out or mitigated in the future trade talks.

The deal is far from perfect. It is not the outcome that I hoped for and aspects of the deal continue to worry me significantly.

However, we must keep the ball rolling in the direction of withdrawal, rather than listening to a remainer parliament that is doing its level best to frustrate us leaving the EU.

No deal now appears to have been taken off the table and I believe parliament will now push for a much softer version of Brexit that will tie us to major aspects of the EU with no voice, vote or veto.

I am so disappointed that this deal is now our best option, but I have always said I will not duck the difficult decisions as your MP. We must now move on from this issue and pass the legislation required to get us out of the EU. The British people gave us their decision and I fully intend to honour that vote and my manifesto commitment.

In order for us to move forward, we require compromise from all sides. I believe I, and many of my colleagues, have shown that willingness to compromise by moving to support the deal. Sadly, we continue to see opposition parties playing politics by refusing to back the agreement.

Regarding the series of indicative votes that we held this week. I want to briefly set out why I voted against the 4 options that were before us.

I voted against the Customs Union proposal as I believe this is a terrible option for our future relationship. We would be in the remarkable situation of being the 5th largest economy in the world and we would have no say on our own trade policy. MEPs elected in Bulgaria would have more of a say over UK trade policy than any elected representative in the UK. This is totally unacceptable and does not give us the freedom to strike free trade agreements with countries across the world.

I voted against the ‘Common Market 2.0’ option as this in no way delivers on the key arguments for the leave vote in this country. This would essentially leave us in the EU in all but name. We would have no say over our trade policy and we would have to accept the continuation of free movement of people. We would also commit to continuing EU budget payments. I strongly believe that the leave vote was based on the return of control of our borders, laws and money. Common Market 2.0 delivers none of that.

I voted against the proposal to have a ‘confirmatory public vote’ on any withdrawal agreement. I have always said I do not support the holding of another referendum on this issue. It was made clear by all sides that this would be a decisive referendum and the result would be implemented by the government. This amendment is designed for no other reason than to try and thwart the result of the referendum. My manifesto commitment was clear that I would respect the result.

I also voted against the amendment tabled by the SNP. This amendment called for the revocation of Article 50 and an inquiry to be held on whether a model of a future relationship made by the House would be acceptable to the EU and called for the option of a further referendum before Article 50 could be invoked again. I do not support any aspect of the amendment and less than a third of the House of Commons supported this as a sensible way forward.

We have now held two rounds of indicative votes on potential ways forward. None of the options have received a majority. It is worth pointing out that almost all these options would require the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. Discussions about potential Customs Unions or ‘Common Market 2.0’ relate to our future relationship, something the EU will not negotiate until we have ratified the Withdrawal Agreement and we cease to be members of the EU.

I hope you will appreciate that it is impossible to please everyone in times like these. I can only continue to vote for what I see as the best outcome available for our country that honours the referendum result.

I do also want to touch on the specific requests for a further referendum on this question and to those that ask me to support the revocation of Article 50. As I have made clear on numerous occasions over the last few years, I do not support a so-called ‘people’s vote’ nor do I support the rejection of the referendum result by revoking Article 50.

We held a referendum and we promised that the result would be delivered by the government. I believe it would be immensely damaging to democracy in this country if we forced the British people to vote again on this issue.

The result of the referendum must be implemented, and I will continue to work to ensure that happens.

With best wishes,

ANNE MAIN MP

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