As the Brexit saga continues to dominate the political scene, I want to share the latest update with you on where I am.
I’ve received hundreds of emails which as you might expect reflect a very wide range of opinions. I’ve been chastised for voting against Brexit which I haven’t done; I’ve been urged to stop Brexit; I’ve been asked to give more support to a People’s Vote; I’ve been told that leaving with No Deal is not a problem; and, I’ve been told I should ignore the referendum altogether because it was only advisory. The one thing we can all agree on is that Brexit is an extremely divisive issue.
It’s not possible for me, as the Member of Parliament for a seat where two wards voted remain and two voted leave, to satisfy everyone. Consequently I’m using my best judgement, while taking into account the views of businesses and people I hear from, to do what I think is best for our constituency.
We are still currently on a course to leave the EU on 29th March. I believe the most important priority right now is to ensure that we don’t leave with No Deal which I am certain would be catastrophic for businesses, people’s jobs and our basic way of life. For those who say that’s just Project Fear, I point out that it’s the government which is organising lorry parks; stockpiling medicines; arranging, rather unsuccessfully, freight ferry contracts; and, it’s the government making plans to use the military in the event of No Deal. Does anyone honestly think all this would be happening if a No Deal Brexit was a good thing? We must stop No Deal at all costs and that’s why my recent Brexit votes have supported amendments which include the possibility of extending Article 50 if more time is needed. I am doing my best to protect our interests and minimise the damage to jobs, our economy and our way of life.
I understand the desire for a People’s Vote which I support. I’m sceptical that if it were to happen shortly, that it would necessarily result in overturning the original referendum which is what some people want but I support a vote on the final terms of any deal particularly if parliament cannot unite convincingly around a specific course of action. I believe that would be the time to ask people if they accept the terms on which we propose to leave or if having seen the offer, they wished to remain. I prefer that straightforward choice as I’m doubtful that multiple options and the prospect of using an alternative vote system would lead to any conclusive outcome.
I couldn’t vote for the Brady amendment on the Irish Backstop for the simple reason that the Backstop was negotiated to prevent a tariff border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland and the threat which such a prospect poses to the peace process. To pretend we can wish away that problem, as some of the PM’s more extreme Brexiteers do, is just fantasy politics. There is a solution which involves some kind of customs union or customs arrangements, at least until such time as we have established new trade agreements. That’s essentially what Labour has proposed and which some elements of the Tory Party appear to accept.
The next crucial deadline is the 26th February. I understand the frustrations on all sides. I increasingly meet constituents who tell me to ‘just get on with it and bring it to an end’. I wish there was a simple fix. I can only repeat that it’s a very divisive issue. I’m determined to oppose No Deal. I believe we should try to agree the best possible deal and I’m in favour of putting that to the people.
I want to thank everyone who has contacted me and all those who continue to do so. While some of you won’t agree with my analysis, I hope you’ll accept that I’m doing my very best to be straight and honest and to act rationally, in the interests of the majority, in what is a really difficult situation.
Steve McCabe MP