My Leader/Times Column from Friday 18 January
A week of high-drama in Westminster saw the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement heavily defeated on Tuesday and then the Government win a no-confidence vote the day after.
Having supported the Withdrawal Agreement, I was disappointed by its defeat. Pendle voted to leave the European Union in 2016, as did the country as a whole. We are due to leave in March and a failure to honour the referendum result would be an outrage against our democracy.
Whilst many who opposed the Agreement did so because they want a harder or no-deal Brexit, others opposed it because they do not want Brexit at all. Clearly, one side or the other is not going to get what it wants.
After winning the confidence vote, the Prime Minister extended an invitation to other political parties to work together to get an agreement with the EU on how we leave but Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and other party political leaders all said they want no-deal removed as an option. They would only accept a softer Brexit, with ongoing customs union or single market membership and therefore continued freedom of movement. This would be deeply unpopular for most people in Pendle.
In the days and weeks ahead, I will continue to work as hard as I can to make sure Brexit happens and happens in a way that those who voted for it would be happy with. However, it is becoming clearer every day that in reality, the Withdrawal Agreement is the cleanest Brexit that is going to be possible. I hope that the EU will agree to changes to problem areas like the backstop so that it can go through. Otherwise, there is a real risk of an even softer Brexit or a second referendum.
As a country, we need to get Brexit sorted and soon. Businesses, big and small, need an answer on what rules and regulations they will be working under in just a few weeks’ time. As importantly, there are vitally important issues other than Brexit. Most MPs get into politics to make people’s lives better and there’s lots of work to do to keep improving our local area, economy and public services.