Sunday, 5 February 2017

Busy week in Westminster as days 3-5 of the Article 50 debate dominate

Presently on the late train south to London with a packed week ahead dominated by multiple debates on Article 50. The 130 word bill was debated for 2 extended days last week, leading to a vote by 498-114 in favour. The BBC have reported the result here:
It is fair to say that there were some differing views - a fifth /  quarter of the liberal and labour MPs did not support the referendum result, whilst only Ken clarke voted with the labour and liberal opponents.
For my part I have made my position clear these last 6 months notably last week:

The key passage from my argument has always been a respect for democracy:
"The European referendum was a divisive process for the nation. It divided houses, let alone political parties. But the result was clear. A 4% win in a 2 horse race is a big win. But my view would not change if either side had won by a narrower margin. I respect the democratic process and I respect the result.
If I had lost the general election by a slim margin I would have reached across to my opponents, shaken their hand, wished them well with a difficult job, kissed my good lady, and definitely have gone to the pub. A quantity of beer would clearly have followed (preferably Northumbrian Ale - I definitely support my local brewers).
It is well known in the north east that I campaigned for Remain in the referendum; but I fully accept the result. In order to trigger the process the Prime Minister has to notify formally the EU that the process must commence using Article 50. Parliament has already voted on this once since June 23 2016 and I believe that the Prime Minister is quite right to make it very clear that she will respect the June 23 result.
But the opposition parties are taking a different line. The liberals seem to have forgotten the democrat  part of their name - and clearly therefore a liberal democrat does not respect democracy. I listen to their argument which goes "the people have voted but the people were wrong, and should be ignored."

I will be writing in detail to all locals who have written in to me by email or letter when this process is finished for now on Wednesday night. All emails and letters are read and considered. 
But this is democracy. There were many good speeches last week in the debate but I was particularly struck by the speech of  my friend and colleague Robert Jenrick
The salient parts of his speech are here:
After the storms of the referendum and its immediate aftermath, the country was understandably divided into leave and remain. It seems to me, having listened to 10 hours of this debate, that two new groups have emerged and become the real divide in Parliament. The first, and by far the larger, group consists of those who accept the mandate of the referendum and who want to implement it in full. As many have said tonight, that includes leaving the single market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. However they voted in the referendum, they are primarily focused on how we can make a success of the life to come.
The second group consists of those who are not yet able to accept the mandate of the referendum, or who do so in word only and seek to diminish it in reality. They look back in anger, remorse and regret, and they are unable psychologically or intellectually to reorientate themselves to the new world and to ask the real question that is before us today: what comes next? In a free society, there is no obligation on anyone to change their views to conform with the majority but, as my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin said so eloquently, there is an obligation on all of us to act in the national interest. The path of the second group is not in the national interest.
I do not believe that the people of Newark sent me to Westminster at a time of such historic importance to point fingers—to say, “What about the £350 million for the NHS?” or, “What about the recession that you threatened, which never happened?” They want us to come together. They want us to recognise our moral obligation to make our exit from the European Union succeed. The task of every Member of this House must be to build up the positives of leaving the European Union and to mitigate the negatives. That is the test we must all apply in our lives. Voting against the Bill, or amending it to bind the hands of the Prime Minister in our negotiations, fails that test.
Change can be hard, and even more so if it is a course that we did not want to embark on. But we in this place have a special responsibility to give people the confidence and the courage to live with that change and make a success of it. We do that by accepting the mandate and setting out to find a vision of the future that works for everyone. We have to see this as what an economist—I know that some hon Members do not like economists—would call a non-zero-sum game. A zero-sum game is one in which one side wins at the expense of the other: leave won, and remain lost. A non-zero-sum game is one in which we try to find a way for everyone to win.