Slightly under half our members emailed me asking me to support the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement.
Of all my correspondents however, overwhelmingly they demand that the UK leave the EU without a deal. Many of them are highly critical of my own decision to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement notwithstanding the devastating critique of it that I had earlier delivered.
Whilst there is complete nonsense spoken about a no-deal Brexit, it would hurt, and some enterprises would be unable to continue trading, nevertheless, if I could deliver a no-deal Brexit then I would.
I told the PM that, if it were a choice between her Withdrawal Agreement and no-deal, then I would choose no-deal.
Alas, I don’t believe we have that choice. I fear that the choice we have is either her Withdrawal Agreement or no Brexit.
The PM began well by setting out her stall with her Lancaster House speech, but she decided that a majority of only 15 was insufficient to get her plan for a comprehensive free trade deal through Parliament. She chose to ask the voters for a majority from which she could negotiate from a position of strength. I supported her in that decision.
Unfortunately the election campaign was dreadful, the worst I’ve ever experienced. We squandered an initial poll lead of 20 points and lost our majority in Parliament altogether.
That 2017 election defeat had consequences: it pulled the rug from under our negotiating position with the EU.
The key to successful negotiation is to persuade your counterpart that you are prepared to walk away if the terms offered are insufficiently attractive. Without a majority the EU could see from the start that Parliament would never let her do that. Accordingly, they negotiated to protect their £100 billion trade surplus by seeking to keep us in their customs union.
Their only offer of a free trade deal was confined to Great Britain alone, with Northern Ireland remaining in the EU, a position they knew we couldn’t possibly accept.
I am sure that the PM and her ministers –including enthusiastic brexiteers like Gove, Fox and Leadsom- really do believe that the Withdrawal Agreement will enable them to negotiate a favourable trade deal once we depart on 29 March. I however, see only a trap: With its ‘backstop’ it is a trap to keep us in the customs union.
So why did I vote for a trap?
And why will I vote for it again on Wednesday?
If the choice is between being trapped in the EU, or being trapped only in the customs union, then I’ll take the customs union any day.
We are a parliamentary democracy. There is a determined parliamentary majority to prevent a no-deal BREXIT. I don’t like it, but I’m stuck with it.
We are in danger of squandering our only chance to get out of the EU in 44 years. I’m not taking that risk.