Sunday, March 05, 2017

Letters from my Postbag - 4

Unsurprisingly, I'm still receiving lots of emails and letters asking me to inform the world that I want the UK to remain in the EU. They take many forms. Some inform me that many who voted to leave have changed their minds, despite all polling evidence pointing to the opposite. Some want a second referendum, which I suppose would have to be 'best of three' to be fair! Some want me to demand we stay in the Single Market, which is much the same as not leaving at all. I should begin by restating my position on this issue - just to clarify things.
In 1975 I voted and campaigned for 'Out' of the EEC. Though working constructively with the developing European superpower ever since then, I made no further comment about EU integration until consideration was being given by Blair to joining the Euro. I was fiercely opposed to that, and appeared on panels opposing it. Very grateful to Gordon Brown at the time for scuppering what I thought a mad idea. Later, I was in favour of a referendum on approving the Lisbon Treaty, as were all main political parties. But Labour and the Lib Dems reneged on their promises and it was signed off in 2010, before the Coalition took over from Labour. However, I was not in favour of an In-Out referendum, mainly because I thought it an impossible question for voters to decide on. (I believed the EU would eventually collapse anyway). But David Cameron committed us to one in 2013, which was eventually held on June 23rd. I would have preferred not to have made public which way I voted in the EU referendum, but that was not a freedom available to me, as an MP. As it was, I was heavily criticised for refusing to say anything until the Welsh General Election in May was over. By then, I was so disapproving of both campaigns that I wanted no part in the actual campaigning at all. (Not sure that was the right thing to have done). I just exercised my right, same as everyone else to cast my vote as I thought best for the future of Britain. I have never said I would vote differently.
So it's no use asking me to change my mind, or support some action designed to frustrate the process of leaving. To do that would be an unacceptable breach of faith with everyone who has discussed the matter with me since early 1970s. And I am not in favour of another referendum either. One was one too many.
 There are a few connected issues being hotly debated at present. I will refer to just two of them.
The first is the demand that the UK Govt guarantees the long term residency rights of non British people, legally in the UK at present. This is a hugely important issue to those involved, but not significant from a constitutional standpoint. It will be resolved soon, whether on the face of the bill or not. There is not the remotest possibility that a British Govt would send them home. It's just not going to happen. Personally, I'm not much concerned if the Lords amendment to the Bill in respect of this issue is not reversed.
The second issue seems to me much more imporant, and would be a blatant attempt to scupper the referendum result by making it more difficult for the Prime Minister to negotiate a good deal. Holding a debate on the negotiated terms in 2019 cannot be included on the face of the Bill. How on earth could the Prime Minister negotiate with the 27, if they knew a bad deal would be more likely to result in Parliament deciding that the UK should remain in the EU after all. The amendment us designed to deliver a bad deal. I hope this amendment is not passed, and if it is, that MPs commit to pinging it back to the Lords for as long as it takes. This issue is designed to frustrate the referendum result, and is not acceptable in my view. This amendment is a very big deal.
Perhaps the oddest emails I get are from constituents demanding to know how I'm going to represent the 48%. Simple answer. The same as the other 52%. I've not asked any constituent how they voted in the EU Referendum. Its their business, not mine. And I would totally respect their right to have voted as they thought best - same as I did. I think what they really want is for me to change my position on the UK leaving the EU. Sorry but I''m not going to do that. I try to stand by what I promise. I will represent my constituents as best I can whichever way they voted.

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