Statement from The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP: On the outcome of the Meaningful Vote Debate | 15th January 2019
This evening I voted against the UK Government and the EU’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement at the conclusion of the meaningful vote debate which took place in the House of Commons. Voting against the Government is not a decision that I take lightly and I gave this very careful consideration.
I also considered very carefully the impact that the Withdrawal Agreement would have on our country, our democracy and our commitment to deliver the outcome of the 2016 referendum. In November last year I outlined the reasons why I could not support the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the Future Relationship and my statements at the time can be viewed at the weblinks below:
Since then, I have spoken directly to the Prime Minister, asked questions in Parliament and spoken in the House of Commons on the proposals. I have also listened carefully to the many representations I have received from across the Witham constituency expressing a full range of views on the deal and what Parliament and the Government should do.
The vote had been due to take place in December but was postponed to give the Government time to go back to the EU to seek to address the concerns that many people had with the proposals and particularly the Northern Ireland backstop. However, the communications which came back from the EU fell short by some distance of the legally binding changes which would have helped the Government win more support for the proposals.
I have the utmost respect for the Prime Minister for pursuing the negotiations in good faith with the EU and it is clear that the EU has not shown us the same degree of respect afforded to them. As a result, the worst aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement and the uncertainty of the Political Declaration continue and supporting and endorsing them would not in our national interests.
Combined, the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration leaves the EU free to continue to make laws and dictate rules to us, impose European Court judgements and puts the integrity of the United Kingdom at risk. It limits our ability to negotiate and agree new trade deals with the rest of the world and compels us to hand over £39 billion of taxpayers’ money with no guarantee of a comprehensive future trade deal in return. The proposals are one-sided and defy the decision taken by 60% of people in the Witham constituency and 17.4 million across the country to take back control of our borders, money and laws. We would remain firmly under the thumb of Brussels.
Our proud country deserves better. As such, I could not vote for a deal that fundamentally goes against our national interests.
Over the next few days there will be much speculation about what will happen next. It is important that the Government reflects on the reasons why the vote was lost and accepts that they must get on with delivering Brexit and our withdrawal from the EU. This means swiftly dismissing those who want to use the lost vote as a method to block Brexit and overturn the referendum result. There had been widespread agreement that the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019 and Parliament and the Government must stick to that timetable and the commitment given to the people.
I recognise that there is a clear preference for our withdrawal from the EU to take place with a mutually beneficial agreement. The current proposed deal is not the right one for our country and I would like to see the Government now return to the negotiating table and present legal text to revise the Withdrawal Agreement. These revisions must protect our country from the worst elements of the Withdrawal Agreement by putting forward an alternative to the backstop as well as keeping us outside of a customs union. There are other changes too which we must press as the EU should be open to consider changes, especially with £39 billion at stake.
However, as there is no guarantee that the EU will act rationally and be open to renegotiation, we must fully prepare to leave the EU on World Trade Organisation Terms. Fully preparing for leaving the EU will mean that we can provide stability and seek out new benefits and advantages.
Leaving on these terms would give business and the country certainty to plan for the future as it gets rid of the years of uncertainty caused by the Withdrawal Agreement. As there will be no financial settlement the Government will have £39 billion available to invest in the economy to address concerns about volatility and to support economic growth. We can also immediately work on agreement new trade deals with the rest of the world, which we could not do under the proposed deal. Importantly, we will have taken back control and delivered the outcome of the referendum and kept our promises to the people. As well as leaving on these terms, we can also extend the hand of friendship to the EU to continue to cooperate in areas of mutual interest and to pursue an advanced free trade deal.
If the Government pursues a renegotiation while fully preparing for Brexit then we can be positive and optimistic about our future.
I will continue to constructively engage with the Government on this issue and would welcome your views and comments on this issue.
The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP
Member of Parliament for Witham