Theresa May, according to the fervently pro-Brexit Conservative MP for Berwick upon Tweed, is a Prime Minister ‘who never had any enthusiasm for the positive future’ Brexit might bring and negotiated the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration ‘with the EU’s needs in mind, not the UK’s’.
Nevertheless, while describing the PM as woman who ‘just ignored the democratic mandate’ delivered by the Euro Referendum, ANNE-MARIE TREVELYAN voted for the PM’s third failed attempt to swing parliament behind her. Here she explains why
March 29, 2019:
TODAY SHOULD HAVE BEEN BREXIT DAY. But the shocking arrogance of a majority of Remain MPs in the House of Commons and a Prime Minister who never had any enthusiasm for the positive future which Brexit will give our country have failed to deliver it.
The voice of the largest democratic mandate ever delivered in the UK is being slowly crushed, but we still can make progress on delivering what I have campaigned so hard for over many years.
All was not lost. Those of us who believe in and want to deliver for the largest democratic mandate could still push forwards and get us over the line. The machinations of Parliamentary process, conventions, standing orders, legislation and human frailty create the most extraordinary Rubik’s Cube-like decision making challenges for all of us who have the honour to be elected representatives of our nation’s citizens at this crucial moment in our history.
Critically perhaps, politics is the art of the possible, realistically assessing the landscape before us. So I want to set out why [I voted] ‘aye’ on the Withdrawal Agreement motion to keep Brexit in play.
Until now, we have been asked to vote on the Meaningful Vote; to give the PM our support for her terrible, and potentially Northern Ireland-annexing Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration (WA and PD). These are voted on together. She negotiated these, as far as I can see, with the EU’s needs in mind, not the UK’s. She acquiesced in, or indeed herself suggested , appalling propositions like the Northern Ireland backstop which risk permanent damage to our country and could allow a foreign power to control our laws without our views or consent for the first time in our country’s history; a takeover without a shot ever being fired. [It was] quite beyond me; but then, when those of us who watched this unfold resigned she just ignored us and carried on.
The Withdrawal Act states that we must approve a Meaningful Vote (the WA and PD as a package) and also pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to make the international treaty take effect in UK law. So, what we [saw] today was a change in tactics by the Government after we had twice rejected the Meaningful Vote: by Brexiteers, because the Withdrawal Agreement’s Northern Ireland protocol and the threat of a long backstop was too great as it stands; by Labour, because the Political Declaration directs a future economic relationship which is not a customs union.
The PM has now realised, with assistance of the Speaker’s rulings, that the Meaningful Vote would not pass unless there were changes to the WA, or the framework of the PD were changed towards a much softer Brexit. At last we persuaded her to let us tackle the Withdrawal Agreement Bill first.
Until the recent EU Council meeting, those of us determined to deliver Brexit still had 29 March 2019 as the default departure date, [if necessary, on No Deal terms]. But at the EU Council meeting the PM decided to throw that away – she would not take the No Deal option. At the end of the day that was her call. And she made it.
But once she had thrown away a critical tool for delivering Brexit on target, we had to look again at the situation. After ten days of discussions with various ministers we persuaded them to look at the Withdrawal Agreement alone, which is what we voted on today.
[Had the vote passed instead of being defeated by a 58 majority] we would have got our hands on the bill to scrutinise and amend it, make it more robust and reduce the backstop risks which the Attorney General advised was possible. If, after that, I was not content then I would not vote for it in the debate that would follow at the end of the Bill process.
In the world of politics, each decision must be taken, each vote cast, with all the evidence possible before us. There are always unknowns, and indeed the inability to predict what others will do. So each vote I have ever cast as MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed has been cast on the basis of all that I had before me.
Today what I had before me was a PM who chose to throw away leaving on March 29 with No Deal, a Remain majority in Parliament that this week demonstrated they are willing and able, numerically, to throw all conventions out of the window and frustrate the democratic will of the people: Conservative Remain colleagues willing to work with Labour MPs to try to move the goalposts so that we would be tied into a customs union forever, and the real risk of being forced to fight EU elections if we cannot get past the new April deadline set for the new exit date.
I also had the opportunity to support a motion which would have brought the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the House for scrutiny.
I could, I decided, live with that for today.
This article was written by A-M T before the vote and has therefore been edited to change tenses but to retain the author’s essential explanation