Last week, Members of Parliament cast their vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on the terms of our departure from the European Union and the Political Declaration on our future relationship. I voted against it – here is why.
In 2016, the British people were asked by MPs to take a decision: should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union, or leave?
In that campaign, those who campaigned for Leave and Remain disagreed profusely, but on one thing they were undivided: what the British people decided would be respected, and Members of Parliament would implement it.
In the run-up to the vote, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, sent a booklet to every household outlining the case for remain. He stated: ‘This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.’
The people knew what they were voting for.
If a majority of the public had voted to remain, the result would have been respected and the UK continued to remain a member of the EU.
No doubt disagreements about the process and the result would have ensued, but the overwhelming majority of people would have accepted the outcome. There would have been no calls for a second referendum.
On the rare occasions when Parliament has put a question in a referendum, it has always been the case that the response carries a profound significance and binding agreement between Parliament and the British people.
Indeed, when the people of Scotland voted by a margin of 10.6%, on a turnout of 84%, to leave the United Kingdom, that result was accepted by Parliament.
And when the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly, that result was accepted by Parliament.
We have never had a referendum in the United Kingdom that has not been respected, and Parliament understood this fact when it voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50.
Both major parties understood this fact when they stood on election manifestos in 2017 that pledged to honour the result of the referendum.
As we have seen over the last few weeks, there are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so. I am not one of those MPs.
I fully respect the result of the referendum in 2016 and believe the UK should leave the EU on 29th March 2019. As someone who voted to leave, I understand the importance in delivering a result the people voted for and I look forward to the opportunities that await an outward looking United Kingdom.
Yet, one thing remained painstakingly clear in the Prime Ministers Withdrawal Agreement that I could not support – that is the Northern Ireland Backstop.
Whilst the backstop is a position of last resort, to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal, the proposal that the two parts of Ireland could be in different customs and regulatory regimes from the UK is contrary to the Government’s own red lines of leaving the customs union and the single market.
It is one foot in, one foot out.
What’s more, a backstop would enable campaigners in Scotland the mandate for a second Independence Referendum.
At a time when we are facing the most substantial constitutional juncture in this country’s recent political history, the reopening of old wounds will not help, but hinder our progression. I find this completely unacceptable.
I met with the Prime Minister before the vote to encourage her to remove this item from the Withdrawal Agreement.
After all, the backstop is an item the Government suggested in the negotiations, not the EU, and it is clear that it remains the largest hurdle preventing a much closer consensus in Parliament.
Indeed, if the Government secures meaningful change on this issue, to the extent that our confidence and supply partners are content, I will support the Prime Minister and I am confident that the majority of my colleagues would too.
Whether the backstop alone is enough to reach a majority in the Commons is left to be seen; but one thing is for certain - MP’s would be much closer to reaching a consensus than we are today.
I have sought to maintain an open dialogue with constituents, irrespective of how they voted.
For me, it is important that we respect the result of the referendum, but this does not mean we shut the door on the 48.1% who voted to Remain. To do so would be reckless.
Whilst there are significant opportunities beyond the EU, we should remain considerate of the fact that in Southport, somewhere, there are likely to be examples of uncertainty.
An EU National who has worked at our local A&E department facing an uncertain future or a small business unsure about just-in-time delivery of their products, of example.
Although these are not reasons to block Brexit, they do serve as a reminder that whilst MP’s are making tough decisions on Brexit and our future relationship with the EU, there are people in Southport and across the country who are unquestionably conscious about their immediate future.
Similarly, decent hard-working people voted for Brexit and I will not join those MP’s who are fabricating ever-changing facile Brexit concoctions that will inevitably create more instability and uncertainty for those same people.
This extends to those calling for a second referendum on the deplorable basis that 800,000 senior voters have died since 2016.
Here in Southport, whilst it is clear that the Liberal Democrats want to frustrate voters and renege on the referendum result entirely, at least their opposition to Brexit is very clear.
The Labour Party on the other hand have so far failed to outline what their position is on Brexit. We hear their endless expostulation, but what do they support?
What’s more, Southport Labour has not informed voters how their presumed candidate voted in the referendum two years ago and has have so far refused to outline whether they are committed to seeing Brexit implemented on 29th March.
In a constituency where the votes were counted across council boundaries, not individual constituencies, and we have no way of knowing whether Southport voted to leave or remain, clarity on the position of politicians on these important matters is not only required - it is essential.
Whilst some may disagree with my position, unlike my Liberal and Labour counterparts I have respected the referendum result; I have maintained an open dialogue with residents in Southport to ensure businesses and residents are represented, irrespective of how they voted; and I have made my position clear.
If you are a resident in Southport, I would like to hear your views on Brexit. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.