On Tuesday night, for a brief moment, it looked as if the Brexit purgatory might be coming to an end. Parliament voted, with a majority of 30, to back the new Brexit deal negotiated with the EU. The deal secures citizens’ rights, agrees the financial settlement, prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland and avoids a crash-out.
It is not perfect, but no negotiated agreement was ever going to be. Importantly though, it is the only option that Parliament has been able to agree on. MPs failed to vote for Theresa May’s deal, the Norway option, EFTA, or a customs union, as they simply refused to compromise.
This deal allows us to leave in an orderly way, and begin the process of moving forward. The alternatives would be far worse. A crash-out would be damaging for Gloucestershire manufacturers and the people who work here, and a 52:48 vote for Leave is just not a mandate for such an outcome in my view. On the other hand, simply cancelling Brexit and ignoring 17.4m people would be highly inflammatory, shattering faith in democracy. So many people in Cheltenham have told me they would never vote again.
Meanwhile, a second referendum would mean six months of haggling and paralysis in Parliament over the process, followed by six weeks of dreadful polarisation in the country, dividing families and workplaces. At the end of it all, the losing side would refuse to accept the result, unleashing recriminations that would reverberate for a generation.
So, whilst I understand the argument of those who want more time to consider this Bill, the majority of this deal is what MPs have discussed ad nauseam already. The direction of the Bill is clear, and now MPs have to deliver.
I was a Remainer, and I campaigned for Remain. But the time to move forward is now.