I write this column on Monday morning, before driving down to the House of Commons for a very important week, which could have major implications for our Government and our country. Yet again this week the dominating issue will be Brexit, and in particular, the EU Withdrawal Bill. When this article appears, MPs will have voted anything up to 20 times on amendments to this Bill by the House of Lords. At the risk of leaving myself looking silly, I believe the Government will win every vote, sending the EU Withdrawal Bill back to their Lordships to reconsider their position. I’m deeply disappointed that some of my colleagues are telling the media they are considering voting against the Gov’t. I know loyalty is becoming a devalued commodity in today’s politics, but I find it hard to understand what might drive a Conservative MP to so undermine our Prime Minister, and give succour to those sitting opposite her at the negotiating table.
What has driven and guided me as I’ve considered the future status of the United Kingdom in Europe has been the aim of making a success of Brexit. I realise there are UK citizens who have differing views on our future in Europe. But in the EU Referendum in 2016, 48% of voters favoured remaining in the EU while 52% of voters backed Leave. So the UK will be leaving in March 2019. Sometimes, I think this stark reality is being overlooked. There are some who have not accepted the public vote in the referendum, either wanting it to be ignored by the Government, or another referendum held in an attempt to reverse it. This is not going to happen. The UK is leaving the EU. We must try to arrange our leaving on the best possible terms, which suit the UK and the EU as far as possible.
But of course, the UK is not ‘leaving Europe’. All that is happening is that the UK is recovering our ability to control who moves to our country to study, work and to live; to control our own laws, and to stop handing over billions of pounds for the European Commission to spend as it chooses. The UK will remain a part of Europe - we will want to work as closely and positively as possible with our neighbouring countries. We will need migrants from across the world including from Europe to work in our NHS and Social Care services. We will want to trade with the EU.
Even though I hope that this week MPs will have reversed all of the House of Lords amendments, there will be more important debates and votes to come over the next 2/3 years. This week has been about giving some legal certainty to the ‘Leaving’ process. It is, in most part a technical bill, which the House of Lords has used as an attempt to overturn the EU Referendum result. Personally, I think their Lordships were out of order. Their job is to put forward reasoned amendments to improve Government legislation, without challenging the primacy of the elected House of Commons. It cannot be otherwise. For that reason alone, I hope all the Lords amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill will have been defeated by the time this column is published.