I have voted against Brexit repeatedly – including not voting to trigger Article 50 in the first place.
On 15 January I voted against the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement along with 431 other MPs. She then returned to the House of Commons on 29 January.
Unfortunately, all the amendments I voted for were defeated except the one ruling out leaving with no deal – although this is not binding on the Government. I voted for a number of amendments which sought to delay Brexit and rule out leaving without a deal. I was particularly disappointed that the amendment tabled by Yvette Cooper MP was defeated. This would have allowed Parliament the power to delay leaving until Parliament was able to agree a way forward.
The Prime Minister now has to return to Parliament by 14 February with another Brexit motion. There are amendments tabled but we don't know at this stage which of these amendments will be selected by the Speaker to be voted on. I will be looking closely at the options.
I am very concerned that the Prime Minister is running down the clock and hurtling towards the 29 March - a false deadline set as a result of her decision to ask Parliament to trigger Article 50 in 2017. Her decision to call a General Election in June 2017 lost valuable negotiation time. And her promises of further negotiation are vain promises. The withdrawal agreement only deals with the so-called “divorce settlement” - the future of our relationship with the EU is still to be discussed.
While the future is uncertain and the options open to vote on will be limited I am now hoping that delaying or revoking article 50 may be seriously considered by Parliament. This is the only way we can prevent crashing out without a deal (unless Parliament changes its position and votes for the deal). It would then allow for either further discussion about the withdrawal agreement, the subsequent political settlement with the EU or a public vote. The latter remains hard to achieve as there is no majority in Parliament for it at this stage and it would also take up to six months to set up.
Another option is if Parliament votes for the deal subject to public endorsement. This would be hard to achieve but would allow voters to ratify or reject the deal. The best chance of a second public vote may be if the deal is agreed to on the legal proviso that there is then a vote but I am not convinced that enough other MPs would back this. These options may not be on the table and would still be difficult to achieve procedurally and in voting terms. And of course, Theresa May has said repeatedly said we will leave on 29 March and that she will not sanction a further referendum.
What is clear is that Theresa May is in thrall to her Brexiteers. She is more concerned about keeping her party together and clinging to office than about the country.
As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee I have worked with colleagues to publish nine reports on how well the UK is prepared for Brexit and we have concluded that even with a deal we are not ready to leave. If we leave without a deal there will be huge uncertainty at the ports with any business or institution relying on imports seriously affected.
Withdrawing Article 50 (or at least extending it) would be the best outcome but I am gloomy about the prospect. The Labour leadership has said we may need to delay Brexit to avoid crashing out and that a public vote is still an option.
The reality of our Parliamentary system is that the Government controls most of what Parliament can vote on and how binding this is. Our system fits ill with a badly defined referendum and David Cameron has a lot to answer for in calling a referendum with so little thought and planning.
I recently challenged the PM on extending Article 50. She refused to directly answer my question. Businesses in Hackney South and Shoreditch and across the country need to know what is happening with Brexit.
I will continue to challenge the PM on Brexit.