Exiting the European Union: Meaningful Vote

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:34 pm on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 4:34 pm, 11th December 2018

My constituency voted to leave the European Union, and I also voted to leave. I was elected as an MP almost exactly two years ago, shortly after the referendum, and I gave my maiden speech in the article 50 debate. I have consistently believed that, as the representative of my constituents, I must ensure that the Sleaford and North Hykeham voice on this matter is heard in this Chamber and that Brexit is delivered. I agree with my hon. Friend Mr Seely that there is a significant challenge for the Government in delivering Brexit within a remain Parliament.

I have done a lot of listening to those local voices since the details of the deal first broke last month, and I have engaged with members of my association, with local residents, and with the hundreds of constituents who have got in touch with my office. Across all those conversations, there has been a common thread of concern. Whether they voted to remain or to leave in 2016, my constituents are concerned about the risk of entering into a backstop arrangement that could last indefinitely and that could not be left unilaterally. As my right hon. Friend the Attorney General said, that is too great a risk to bear.

Many have asked the Prime Minister to listen to these concerns, which have been expressed privately and publicly, including in this Chamber. Members on both sides of the House have talked about the pressure of time and the need to ensure a good deal before 29 March 2019, and I agree with that. We have had three days of debate on this issue, and the will of the House is clear to everyone. I do not believe that having a vote would tell us anything we do not already know. Common sense recognises that the Government were faced with two options. They could continue to listen to the debate for two more days and then have a vote, the result of which was already known, or they could use that time to go back to the EU and change the offer to reflect the concerns. Clearly, improving the deal has to be the priority for all of us.

Opposition Members might prioritise a vote so that they can point and jeer and score political points, but the people of this country want us to get on with delivering the Brexit that they voted for. In my view, the right attitude is not to play politics but to consider what is best for this country and for our constituents, and to wish the Prime Minister and the Government good fortune in their negotiations with Brussels. I hope that she can come forward with a better deal from the EU, and I hope that other right hon. and hon. Members will wish her the best as well.