STATEMENT 13th MARCH 2019
My guiding principles in the coming Brexit votes
by Nus Ghani MP
In the referendum campaign I voted to leave, as did a majority of Wealden residents. More importantly so did a majority of the country.
I accept that people had many different reasons for their vote. For me it was about changing the outlook of the country so that we no longer rely on laws passed by bodies over which most people don’t feel they have a say; and in looking beyond just the EU to opportunities created by global trade and, yes, more skilled non-Europeans who we could benefit from coming to work here.
But I never wanted to cut us off from Europe and I respect those that feel a deep affinity with our European neighbours and our shared values, as I do.
The negotiations to leave were always going to result in a compromise. As a pragmatist I recognize that the EU has its own priorities and that we would need to find a deal that delivered on our fundamental choice to leave while providing a platform for us to start talking about how we see our future relationship with the EU, focusing on trade and opportunities for our country - which we desperately need to do.
So I supported the Prime Minister’s deal yesterday, not because it is perfect but because it is the best way to deliver on the promise we made to the British people to leave the EU. The Withdrawal Agreement with its transitional period would see Britain out of the legal framework of the EU, no longer subject to its regulations by default, no longer electing MEPs, no longer making compulsory financial contributions, and offer the freedom to strike trade deals on our own.
I have voted for that deal twice and will vote for it again if asked to by the Prime Minister. In my judgement it was and is the best and only guarantor of delivering the verdict of the British people. But the scale of the defeats in Parliament cannot be ignored. Parliament has decided that it doesn’t wish to support the PM’s Brexit deal at the moment, but it is totally unclear what it actually wants and every day the risk increases of not delivering Brexit at all. The waters that we enter are uncharted.
In the absence of other options Parliament is being asked this week, and may well be asked again, to make a choice between leaving with No-deal and No-Brexit. Clearly in my view both of those are unappealing and not what I want which is why I voted for the PM’s deal. But you elected me to make choices as your representative and I am not afraid to make them, however hard. I want to make very clear that my view is that the risk of No-Brexit far outweighs that of leaving with No-deal.
No-Brexit will break the solemn promise made to the British people at the referendum that we would implement their decision. There is no point arguing amongst ourselves what the prefect Brexit should be as it requires the agreement of 27 other countries. When we had the option last night to vote for Brexit too many MPs chose not to and have risked breaking our promise to honour the referendum result. If we continue down this path the consequences for trust in our system of democracy will be catastrophic. In my career I have travelled to countries where voting is treated as an inconvenience, I will not treat my country the same.
So in the days ahead this will be my guiding principle. I will countenance alternatives to what is on the table only so long as they have a realistic chance of delivering Brexit. And if confronted with the options of keeping leaving with No-deal on the table versus No-Brexit, I unashamedly choose the former. Not through any pleasure if we have to leave in that manner but because we cannot remove the No-deal option from negotiations. Other options proposing delays may or may not serve a purpose to deliver Brexit. But if it creates any chance of never leaving the EU, I will not support.
Every week my mail-bag contains letters from constituents asking me to vote for No-Deal and against No-Deal, for an Extension and against an Extension, for the Prime Minister’s Deal and against it, for a second referendum and against a second referendum. Some even ask me to explain the position of the Labour Party on Brexit! I am afraid I can’t please everyone.
You elect MPs to exercise their judgement to deliver what the voters have asked for. This is my judgement for my constituency and my country and I stand by it. We live in a democracy which I cherish and you will have the chance to deliver your verdict on my judgement in due course. That is as it should be.