Set out below is the speech I made in the Commons on Monday Night during the EU Debate. Given how critical I have hitherto been of the Withdrawal Agreement, it surprised colleagues and commentators,. My criticism has not abated, but my estimate of the alternatives courses has.
Two events in the Commons last week confirm my belief that we are in a REMAIN dominated Parliament.
First, initiative was seized from the Government when -defying all precedent- an un-amendable motion was amended. I believe that changes to our procedures of this sort will now be driven forward granting the Commons legislative initiative -formerly exclusively in the hands of the Government- and that this is a clear danger to the Withdrawal Act which guarantees our departure from the EU on 30th March.
Second, the Government was soundly defeated in an amendment to the Finance Bill, which demonstrated that there is a clear and determined majority that will actively prevent a No-Deal exit from the EU.
It is clear therefore, that in the current Parliament a ‘No-Deal’ BREXIT as an alternative to the PM’s deal is no longer an option. The looming possibility of no BREXIT at all, has changed the facts on the ground. If the facts change, then I change. I have no doubt that the PM’s Withdrawal agreement, for all its faults, is preferable to NO BREXIT and to-night I voted accordingly.
Hansard Volume 652
European Union (Withdrawal) Act
14 January 2019
Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
The hundreds of constituents who have written to me demanding that I vote down this deal divide into two kinds: those who urge me to reject it so that we can leave the European Union without a deal—their preferred option—and those who urge me to reject it so that we can stay in the EU. They both cannot be right. There will have to be some management of expectations.
I have made my own dislike of this deal plain, and it is based largely on the fact that we do not know what we will be getting. The political declaration might deliver anything from Canada-minus to Chequers-plus, and where in that spectrum we might land depends upon the negotiations that will follow. There will be no end to the uncertainty for some time.
We have delivered ourselves into the weakest possible position during those negotiations, first by making the financial settlement up front, and secondly by abandoning one of the most important principles to any negotiating position—the ability to walk away—because we have agreed that we will agree and that we will stay in a state of limbo until that agreement is reached. Such is the toxic nature of that limbo that I fear we would probably agree to anything in order to avoid getting there in the first place.
I disagree passionately with my correspondents who say that this deal is worse than staying in the European Union. I have campaigned to leave since the referendum of 1975, and I am not prepared to see that opportunity lost. This deal is better than staying in the European Union. We will be out of the common fisheries policy, out of the common agricultural policy and out of the relentless momentum for political integration. I am very much aware that the events and votes of last week pose a present danger to Brexit, and I will have to consider carefully over the next 24 hours whether I want to share a Division Lobby with those who are there because their strategy is to prevent Brexit.