On Wednesday (March 27th), Nigel participated in the first round of indicative votes on Brexit. In a constitutional first, backbench MPs took control of parliamentary business and voted on a series of options for how the UK could proceed with Brexit.
Rather than voting in the usual way by filing through the division lobbies in the House of Commons, each Member of Parliament was given a ballot paper and asked to tick yes or no or abstain on each of the eight options. The Prime Minister’s deal was not one of the options under consideration and the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, did not select all of the options proposed by MPs for consideration on the ballot paper.
Overall none of the eight options secured support from a majority of the House but a proposal for a customs union with the EU came closest, and was beaten by just eight votes. The no deal option was most heavily defeated of those considered yesterday.
“I voted against three of the proposals which I believe would risk not really delivering on Brexit: revoking Article 50; holding a confirmatory public vote; and on Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals which I believe would not be perceived by my constituents as Brexit.
"After careful consideration, I abstained on the remaining five options which included various alternative forms of Brexit including a Customs Union, two ‘soft’ Brexit options involving the EEA/EFTA; and a no deal and a managed no deal option. I abstained because all of these options are in my opinion worse than the Prime Ministers negotiated deal, and would involve either not being able to negotiate our own trade deals, staying in some elements of the single market or leaving without a deal which I have previously expressed concerns about. Given that there is still a possibility of getting the Prime Minister’s own deal through I did not want to dilute the focus on getting that (better) option through the House of Commons first.
"However, I recognise that if the Prime Minister’s deal does not get through Parliament, then these deals will need to be considered and did not want to take any of them off the table at this moment in time. Things are likely to move quickly, and if the Prime Minister’s deal is defeated or is not put to Parliament again (the Speaker has indicated he may not allow it to come to another vote!) then I will have to come down in favour of one or more of these options. At this moment in time, the option of the Customs Union is perhaps the least worst of the alternatives and when we have a second round of indicative votes (perhaps on Monday) I may be inclined to support it. This option would restrict our ability to conduct our own international trade deals, but all of the options involve a compromise of some sorts and would potentially also be different from the manifesto I stood on in the 2017 general election. Hence why I prefer the Prime Minister’s deal which does deliver on all the promises and commitments I have made to leave the EU with a deal that: takes us out of the Single Market, ends freedom of movement, takes us out of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy, stops us paying billions of pounds to the EU each year, removes the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and enables us to conduct our own international trade policy.
"While I remain convinced that the Prime Minister’s deal is the best available option, it would be entirely unhelpful if I refused to compromise by giving the proposals that attracted support last night further due consideration. That is why I felt I should not vote against them all as some colleagues did.
"The practical reality is that the deadline for us to agree a course of action is fast approaching and the Prime Minister’s proposal has not yet attracted enough support to pass. I hope it does. But I owe it to my constituents to explore all workable options that will enable us to leave the European Union and over the coming days I will reflect further on the options and I thank all my constituents who have expressed their own concerns and preferences to me.”