As you’ll be aware, the 19 October Saturday sitting of Parliament was the first Saturday sitting since 1982. With events moving so quickly in Westminster, and now with a General Election being confirmed for the 12th December, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write to you with an update on recent developments
Over the last month, we’ve seen the Prime Minister do what many had said was impossible, and secure a new deal that removes the Irish backstop, gives democratic oversight to future arrangements on the island of Ireland and, crucially, frees the UK to take advantage of the regulatory and trading freedoms inherent in Brexit. For a brief period, it seemed that Saturday 19th October would see a resolution and a spirit of sensible compromise prevail. Unfortunately, and despite the Government’s best efforts, we effectively saw a repeat of the last three years in microcosm with the Letwin amendment frustrating attempts to get the deal over the line.
In the last weeks in Parliament, we’ve seen this process mirrored once again – with the Speaker first refusing to permit a fresh vote on the deal. Despite this, the Prime Minister and the Government succeeded – for the first time since the referendum – in gathering enough cross-party support to get their Brexit deal through to the next stage of parliamentary scrutiny. However, much to my exasperation, this was then undone by the opposition using the somewhat arcane device of the Programme Motion to undo the effect of that vote.
As a result, we now have the absurd spectacle of a deal that has been passed by Parliament left in limbo. The opposition’s refusal to agree on an appropriate timetable has left the Prime Minister with no choice but to pause the legislation. And it’s important to note that the EU are also frustrated. Like the UK, they want to bring Brexit to a conclusion and had welcomed the constructive negotiations with the Prime Minister.
So we are left with the following situation. A Prime Minister who has negotiated a new deal – which many said was impossible. This new deal removed the backstop – which we were told had no chance of succeeding. And crucially, this new deal has passed through the House – but has now been stopped by an intransigent opposition with no coherent idea of what they would put in its place. In place of a deal that honours the referendum result (for which I voted, as well as many of you) and offers the chance to heal the division in the country, we are left with the damaging prospect of more prevarication and irresolution.
I was interviewed on BBC Somerset recently and expressed what I believe to be the feelings of many – enormous frustration at this further delay, and a desire to get the Brexit deal over the line so we can move on with all the other pressing matters that matter to our part of the country – from education funding and police numbers to infrastructure improvements and strengthening the Somerset Rivers Board.
For my own part, I will continue to support the Government’s new Brexit deal. But as no resolution has been found to the impediments that are now delaying its ratification, it is time for the election of a new Parliament which will pass this Brexit deal. With every further delay, the chance of bridging the ever deepening divisions in the country recedes a little further.
A failure to elect a Conservative majority Government in December will exacerbate the problems I’ve highlighted above. We will experience more delay, more prevarication and will be left with the prospect of two further referendums next year – one on Brexit and a further bid for Scottish independence. This will not only risk the break-up of the United Kingdom but will also deepen the disenchantment of those who want to see the result of the Brexit referendum honoured.
I believe that the only way to avoid further indecision and constitutional perils is the election of a majority Conservative Government – and that’s why I have supported the Prime Minister’s call for an early General Election to be held on December 12th.