Saturday 30th March

By now you will have seen the news that yesterday’s extraordinary Friday sitting in the Commons resulted in MPs rejecting the Prime Minister’s Brexit proposal for the third time – and again by a significant margin. This now means that a new European Summit will be convened on April 10th ahead of a potential exit day of 12th April. The stubbornness of the Government’s ‘red lines’ on Brexit mean that the ‘deal’ has been widely derided; it fails to secure or even adequately specify what our future relationship will be with the EU and now with the prospect of Boris Johnson or a more right-wing PM negotiating it, this appeals less than ever.

It matters because our entire economy and as a result society and public services will feel the ripples from a fundamental break with our nearest European allies, with at best uncertainty over the Irish border and our key services industries – 80% of our economy – left in limbo.

I supported the moves by Oliver Letwin and other backbenchers this week to take over a series of Commons days to conduct ‘indicative votes’ to work through the various options available, in view of the Government’s refusal to let this occur. On Wednesday I voted for a confirmatory public vote on Brexit so that the opportunity for people to stay in the EU if that is their choice remains an option. I am very wary of casting my vote for options that do not allow the final consent of the British people, even if the options are for a ‘softer Brexit’, because we know that all Brexit models will leave the country poorer. I am glad that – because of votes from the Independent Group of MPs – the People’s Vote option recorded more positive votes than any other option on Wednesday.

We will have further rounds of indicative votes on Monday and then again on Wednesday 3rd. I have been working hard behind the scenes in negotiation with the proponents of other Brexit options like a ‘customs union’ and EFTA / Norway model urging them to attach a confirmatory public vote, so that we can join forces on a way ahead. So far those MPs have not moved in that direction, but I will keep persisting.

It may well be that the Prime Minister tries to have another fourth go at pushing her deal in the week ahead, but even if the Speaker allows such a repetitious process (and I doubt that he will), I do not think MPs will be bullied into accepting this ‘blindfold Brexit’ option. The Prime Minister’s offer to resign to appease her right-wing ERG MPs makes me even less likely to trust the Government, because who on earth knows what we will end up with out of the frying pan and into the fire!

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