It is a national disgrace that – with just four weeks left to go – the Government and UK Parliament have still not agreed a settled approach to Brexit. The Conservative Party is still consumed with internal arguments about the desire of right-wing ERG MPs to time-limit the Good Friday Agreement. And the Labour Party has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a position which perhaps involves supporting a public vote with the option to stay in the EU.
Everything that has happened in the past fortnight has reinforced my decision to join with other MPs in the centre ground of British politics and form the Independent Group. By doing so, we have forced the Labour Party to move towards a People’s Vote, although there are still too many caveats, terms and conditions to be totally sure that is how Labour MPs will vote. (We have also ensured that the issue of antisemitism inside the Labour Party could not be swept under the carpet any longer – and that Chris Williamson’s suspension from Labour was unavoidable). Similarly, the threat of moderate Tory MPs rebelling against a harsh ‘no deal’ Brexit has also forced the Prime Minister to offer MPs a vote on 14th March on potentially extending the Article 50 exit day, again something that would not have occurred had my new colleagues Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry left the Conservative Party.
When MPs take a stand on matters of principle, this can make a difference. So I respect the decision of Leicestershire MP Alberto Costa to resign as a Government aide and table his amendment protecting the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. It is a badge of shame that both of the main parties have waved through the ending of free movement across the EU through the Immigration Bill recently – something that will hit many generations to come.
I supported an amendment on Wednesday to make preparations for a public vote on Brexit, but sadly Labour wouldn’t get behind that despite support we gathered from members of five different parties. The Independent Group also managed to extract Government documents highlighting the massive costs and damage of a no-deal Brexit.
Today’s news about the £33m pointless ‘compensation’ for Eurotunnel from Chris Grayling’s botched emergency ferry provision shows how in three years we’ve got from fake promises of £millions for the NHS on the side of a bus, to the realities of a wasteful Brexit losing £millions down a tunnel.
The next three weeks will be intense and the fate of the country’s economy and place in the world is at stake. I am glad that as part of the new Independent Group I am part of a team able to put the national interest first and foremost, and not focused on internal party wrangling for political purposes.