IN 2016 more than 17.4m people voted to leave the European Union.
A year later both main parties – Conservatives and Labour – stood on election manifestos promising to respect the public’s wishes by leaving the EU with a deal.
Yet two years on, the debate has become more hostile and polarised that in the run up to the referendum. We have Farage’s no-deal Brexiteers pulling one way.
And those who want no Brexit at all pulling in the other direction.
Neither are true democrats, because during the referendum the Leave camp promised to get a good deal from the EU, while Remain politicians said that they’d respect the result.
And while those divisive groups may shout the loudest, neither represent the majority of the British public who just want politicians to get on with it and work together to deliver a sensible Brexit.
THE NEW MIDDLE GROUND
That’s why we’ve this week formed our cross-party MPs For A Deal group, to remind the public that there is still a majority of politicians who would prefer a deal-based Brexit to a catastrophic no-deal Brexit or an undemocratic no Brexit at all.
Founding members include Tory leadership candidate Rory Stewart, Lib Dem Norman Lamb and Labour’s Caroline Flint.
We all come from very different political backgrounds, and even on Brexit we’ve had our differences. Some of us voted for Theresa May’s deal, not because it was perfect but because it delivered on the result of the referendum.
Others couldn’t support it because they felt it was a ‘blind Brexit’ — a leap into the unknown — and asked May to come back with something better.
But we are all agreed on one thing.
After May held cross-party talks with Labour in May 2019 she came back with ten changes to her deal, and we all believe that this compromise package was more likely to get through Parliament.
We all believed at the time that MPs should have been able to debate and vote on this, but sadly it was rejected by second referendum advocates and no-dealers.
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill, as it’s known, included protection of workers’ rights, food standards and the environment, which would have benefited us all.
We now hope that Boris Johnson brings a similar offer back to Parliament so we can vote on it.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that 277 Conservative MPs backed May’s deal in March this year while more than 220 other MPs voted for different forms of a Brexit in indicative votes.
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The desire to agree a Brexit deal is there.
A failure to do so may well result in the consequences set out in the government’s own ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ no-deal report.
Sensible MPs desperately need to face down the divisive voices on either side and come together in the national interest.
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