Update: Brexit Negotiations
I cannot support the proposals made by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet yesterday. Neither, it seems, could the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, who has resigned. This is two Brexit Secretaries of State which the Prime Minister has lost in the last few months because of the proposals she has made.
My objections to the proposals centre round the fact that they would tie us into the customs union for longer; that we could not unilaterally decide to leave the customs union; and that Northern Ireland would have a separate status to the rest of the UK. Objections to this latter point have been made by the Northern Ireland Minister, Shailesh Vara, who has also resigned.
The proposals being made do not reflect the “Brexit means Brexit” and Lancaster House stances which the Prime Minister has previously taken. They also put a higher value on achieving frictionless trade (which is very important) than on achieving true independence for our country – independence which would allow us forge trade deals across the world. To me, Theresa May has thereby demonstrated that she has the wrong priorities.
Although I have always held strong reservations about her leadership, I was prepared to give her time to demonstrate that she really did believe that Brexit means Brexit. However, after she appeared to come away from that stance by making proposals following the Cabinet meeting at Chequers, I wrote a letter to Sir Graham Brady MP, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, requesting that a vote of confidence in her leadership be held.
That letter is still held by Sir Graham and remains live. It is for others now to judge if they believe that Theresa May is the right person to continue to take us through the Brexit negotiations or that, like me, she has clearly demonstrated that she is not the person to do so. Either way, I think most Conservatives believe that she cannot lead us into the next General Election, not least because the government we are attempting to run is without a majority because of the disastrous decisions she took in connection with the holding and running of the last one.
I will now continue to focus on trying to help bring about a change in direction of our Brexit negotiations so that the UK can become an independent, global trading nation once again.
I have received emails and letters requesting that I support a "People's Vote". However, we already had a vote on leaving the European Union and we must now implement that decision. It is sometimes claimed that those voting Leave at the referendum did not know what they were voting for. I know that many Leave voters find this offensive. In fact, it is the case that Remain voters could not have known what they were voting for, because the EU will change over the coming years, just as it has changed over the last forty years. For example, when people voted to remain in the referendum in 1975, they were assured by the Remain campaign that the British Minister would always have a veto on any decisions taken in the Council of Ministers. Now, Qualified Majority Voting is the norm.
It is also said that false claims were made by the Leave side. Actually, there will be billions of pounds available to be spent on public services in the UK when we stop sending money to the EU. And Remain made claims about an emergency budget being necessary if we voted Leave (that hasn’t happened), that the economy would nosedive (that hasn’t happened), that war would be more likely (a ridiculous prediction) and that we would be at the back of the queue for a trade deal with the US – which, by the way, the EU doesn’t have.
It is also claimed that the Leave side cheated and broke the law. If that is so, prosecutions need to follow. However, in my judgement the government also broke the law on the side of Remain, by spending over £9 million on Remain propaganda which was circulated to every house in the UK. There are also questions to answer as to how far the law was kept with regard to purdah.
And, I think, importantly, many people believe that if we held a second referendum, it would be a case of the Establishment saying, “come on you stupid people, get the result right this time.” Holding a second referendum would be the very action which people who are cynical towards politicians and the Establishment said would happen. I don’t think that we should prove those people right.
While I’ve received a communications from people calling for a second vote, I’ve received an awful lot more from people who say no to a second vote, that we knew what we were voting for and we just want you to get on with it. My responsibility to implementing the decision made and ensuring the government gets on with it.