The concerns were raised and were discussed. We signed a transition deal on the basis of best endeavours, only to realise that that was not the basis on which the other side was operating.
I bear no grudge against the EU for putting the EU first. I bear no grudge against the EU for aggressively prosecuting its interests. What does concern me is that, given the political declaration that we have before us, we do not have much leverage. The unique relationship that we are being told we can negotiate is unlikely to happen. What is most likely to happen is that we will be given a free trade agreement dictated to us by the EU.
We should level with the public. This deal does not bring closure. It is not a case of “Sign here, let us have a compromise and all the discord and disharmony that we have experienced over the last few years will suddenly disappear.” We will see Brexit Secretaries resign next year because so many of the issues have still not been thrashed out. The deal will not heal the divisions that we see in our country. Ultimately, we are at the foothills of a long and arduous process. Brexit will not be over as a result of the vote next week.
The Home Secretary said that there was no alternative, but I believe that that is a false choice. There are many options. What we have is a deal that has been engineered to put maximum pressure on all the other options in favour of the options that the Government are putting before us. We could list some of those options, and I will list them without prejudice initially. First, there is the Government’s deal. Secondly, there is the revocation of article 50. Thirdly, there is no deal. The important thing about those things is that all are within our control and do not require negotiation with the EU. If we want to negotiate with the EU, we can negotiate to extend article 50 in order to look at the backstop again. We can negotiate with the EU to extend article 50 in order to hold another referendum. We can negotiate with the EU to extend article 50 in order to look at the Norway option, in which I know a number of colleagues are interested. The Government may box themselves in with their own red lines, but that is no reason for Parliament to accept being boxed in by those same red lines.
There is, however a constraint. The ultimate constraint seems to me that there is no majority for any option in this Parliament. There may be plenty of options, but I doubt that there will be a majority for them. I have said that we should not rule out, if need be, going back to the people. When I say that, everyone says that it will be corrosive of our politics, it will be destructive of our politics and it will be hugely divisive. We should not be presumptive about where the electorate are, but I believe that that is not a reason to vote for the withdrawal agreement. If we vote for the agreement, we will give the public the impression that this is the best compromise and there are no problems further down the line: this is Brexit done. Waking up and seeing that Britain is being hobbled and crippled in those negotiations would also disappoint voters and that would also be corrosive of our politics.
I resigned because I thought, “This is probably the biggest vote in which I will take part during my political career.” It is for each Member in the House to decide what to do but, for me, the national interest is not served by voting for the Government’s motion.