I have always said, despite campaigning and voting to remain in the European Union, that the referendum result should be respected. Our democracy is precious, and to ignore the referendum because we don’t like it would do serious damage to that democracy.
The referendum was the largest vote in modern British political history, with many people voting for either the first time, or the first time in many years. People voted for many differing reasons. Everyone who voted in the referendum in 2016 did so under the full belief that the result would be implemented.
It is for this reason that I have always believed we should respect the result, and why I voted for the former Prime Minister’s deal on three occasions. I did so because it meant that we left the EU, while replicating many of the benefits of our membership, and protected jobs and the economy.
A New Deal
I have always been clear that I did not support leaving without a deal. Last month, I said that I believed the best way to avoid no deal is to secure a deal, which meant holding our nerve and trusting the Prime Minister in negotiations with the EU. I met with the PM on several occasions to discuss the issue of no-deal, expressing the concerns that I held personally, but also those of my constituents.
The Deal secured by the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, was rejected by the House of Commons on three occasions as many of my colleagues had issues with elements of its content. In renegotiating the deal, the Prime Minister has achieved what many said was impossible and secured a new deal that delivers on the Brexit result.
It addresses the concerns that many colleagues had regarding the backstop and creates a special arrangement for Northern Ireland that reflects the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. The new deal delivers on the manifesto pledge on which I was elected, while protecting jobs and our economy.
I have read the new deal carefully, and been briefed by Ministers on its contents, and I will be voting in favour of this deal. This will allow the UK to move on, respect democracy, and begin talking in Parliament about the things that matter to people – such as schools, the NHS and the police that keep us all safe on our streets.
The Government sent a leaflet during the referendum campaign to every household in the UK that clearly stated that while the Government of the time believed we should stay in the EU, that “this is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.”
It is very possible that a vote will take place on Saturday on amendments that would mean holding a second referendum on our membership of the European Union. I am conscious of the views of my constituents, but I believe ignoring the first vote would be damaging. People who did not vote before the referendum because they felt their voice was never heard or respected would be proven right.
If remain had won, and the Government had decided to take us out of the European Union anyway, remain voters would quite rightly be furious. The same is true in the reverse scenario. According to poling, the public at large do not appear to have changed their mind.
I have previously said that a second referendum might be required in the event of total log-jam in Parliament and it was clear that no withdrawal deal is possible. This is clearly not the case as a new deal has been reached with the European Union. I will vote against a second referendum if it comes to a vote on Saturday. I fear that a further referendum would be divisive not decisive.