Yesterday evening the Prime Minister won a vote of confidence from her Conservative Members of Parliament. I did not think that this was the right time to have a vote and did not submit a letter calling for one, however I felt I could not support the Prime Minister on this occasion.
I want to be clear that I am not a member of the European Research Group (ERG) which has been vocal in its criticism of the Prime Minister. I happen to believe this country can thrive outside of the EU and I don’t feel the need to be a member of any particular group in order to advance that belief. I looked carefully at all the evidence, including the nearly 600 page EU Withdrawal Agreement, and concluded that this agreement is neither in the spirit of Brexit or in the interests of our Country or my constituents. This is my decision and I am happy to defend it.
Last week I met with the Prime Minister to discuss my concerns about the EU Withdrawal Agreement. I raised the issue of the Northern Ireland Backstop, which effectively leaves Northern Ireland trapped in the EU with no unilateral way of leaving, a situation which I cannot support. The UK would be giving up more sovereignty than staying in the EU by accepting the backstop. I explained that as long as the proposed backstop remained, I could not support the agreement.
At the meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs before last night’s vote, the Prime Minister said she had listened to the concerns of Parliament about the Withdrawal Agreement and would now look to address those concerns. However, her words suggested she was not looking for significant changes but reassurance. I cannot support that position, which is why I chose not to support her last night.
That said, the vote has now taken place and the Prime Minister received the backing of the majority of the Conservative Party. As a democrat I fully support the result and will continue to support the Prime Minister. Now is not the time for infighting but for unity to deliver the Brexit that the majority of our country voted for.