Oliver Dowden MP sends constituent a less than impressive reply

Sent in by a Hertsmere constituent, Oliver Dowden MP replies with his position on Brexit and the extension with a less than impressive response. Images and full transcript below.

‘…if remain won, Brexit supporters might ask for a third ‘best of three’ referendum.’

Statement regarding withdrawal from the European Union

Whilst I voted remain in the referendum, I have always maintained that it is the duty of MPs to respect the decision made in the referendum and to agree on a practical way of delivering it.

The British people put their faith in the democratic process by engaging with the referendum and voting narrowly but decisively to leave. The people of Hertsmere similarly put their faith in me and the Manifesto on which I stood at the 2017 election, which promised a smooth and orderly departure from the EU.

I have therefore always voted in favour of leaving the European Union and for the Withdrawal Agreement, which would provide us with a smooth and orderly way for us to do so. Both the Agreement and the Political Declaration have been carefully negotiated over a period of two years and are tailored to meet the particular needs of the UK – ensuring we end free movement, leave the Common Agriculture and Fisheries policies and end large contributions to the EU; but continue to be able to have a high degree of access to EU markets and the flexibility to agree trade deals.

However, as you will have seen, the Withdrawal Agreement has been rejected by the House of Commons on three occasions.

I am deeply disappointed that the House of Commons chose to do so. It has frustrated and delayed our departure from the European Union. More importantly though, it has also prolonged the uncertainty under which businesses are operating and people are living.

I continue to believe that it would be better for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union with a deal.

Equally though, I have consistently voted not to take no deal off the table, both because it increases our leverage in any negotiations and because we should ultimately be prepared to leave without a deal if we cannot conclude a satisfactory one. However, as you will have seen before Easter, in an unprecedented move which I opposed, the Commons essentially approved legislation which gives it an effective veto on any attempt to leave without a deal. Given that the Commons has repeatedly voted against leaving without a deal, I now think it is highly unlikely that the Commons will vote to do so.

Members of Parliament therefore have to consider what alternative options to the Prime Minister’s deal they could support. The principal options are as follows.

First, there has been much discussion of the United Kingdom joining the Customs Union. I continue to be very sceptical about this option, principally, because in any future trade negotiations with third countries the European Union would be able to determine Britain’s trade policy without Britain having any say. It is hard to see how the EU could be expected to give equal weight to British trade interests as those of EU members in such a situation. However, it is worth noting that any Customs Union would only apply to goods not services, which account for over 70 per cent of the economy, and it is unlikely the EU will conclude any new third country trade deals in the short run. Therefore, supporting the Customs Union would in the short to medium term simply maintain the status quo.

Another option is joining the European Economic Area (EEA), the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) or Common Market 2.0. My concern with these proposals is that we will continue to have to make financial contributions, accept free movement and be a rule taker. This could potentially amount to having the costs of the European Union, without the benefit of having a say.

On the option of revoking Article 50, I am completely opposed to this. This would go against outcome of the referendum and would fly in the face of a clear decision of the British people. Moreover, the European Union has been clear we must not revoke Article 50 with the intention of ‘resetting the clock’ on our withdrawal. If we revoke then it should be a final decision to remain a full member of the EU. Doing so would break the trust which people placed in me for the reasons set out above and I would not support that course of action.

There is also the option of having a confirmatory vote in a second referendum. However, my concerns are that it is very unclear what the question would actually be in such a vote. Would the choice be between Deal vs No Deal or would the choice be between Remain vs Deal? Both these options have problems and it would be highly problematic and controversial. Equally if remain won, Brexit supporters might ask for a third ‘best of three’ referendum.

I therefore understand why the Prime Minister has chosen to seek cross-party consensus to agree a deal.

I completely understand and share the frustration expressed by many people at legitimising Jeremy Corbyn in doing so. I profoundly disagree with Jeremy Corbyn on a great many issues, not least his approach to the economy, tackling anti-Semitism and international relations. He would be a disaster for this country if he were ever to become Prime Minister. However, I know that people expect politicians of all parties to try to work together to resolve the current impasse, particularly since Labour do not appear to disagree with much in the Withdrawal Agreement other than the fact that it is being promoted by a Conservative Prime Minister.

I will look at what agreement, if any, the Prime Minister reaches with the Leader of the Opposition and make a decision at that point when it returns to Parliament.

The failure of Parliament to approve any deal so far has left us in the humiliating situation of once again extending our membership of the European Union until as late as 31 October 2019.

This state of limbo cannot and must not endure indefinitely. I will continue to do all I can to support any means of delivering on the referendum and ensuring we leave.

Please be assured I consider these questions very carefully and as always will be guided by the best interests of Hertsmere, which I represent, and the wider United Kingdom.

Oliver Dowden CBE
MP Member of Parliament for Hertsmere
24 April 2019

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