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EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Votes)

Volume 657: debated on Monday 1 April 2019

I can now announce the outcome of the Divisions on motions relating to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from and future relationship with the European Union.

In respect of Mr Kenneth Clarke’s motion (C)—customs union—the Ayes were 273 and the Noes were 276, so the Noes have it.

In respect of Mr Nicholas Boles’s motion (D)—common market 2.0—the Ayes were 261 and the Noes were 282, so the Noes have it.

In respect of Mr Peter Kyle’s motion (E)—confirmatory public vote—the Ayes were 280 and the Noes were 292, so the Noes have it.

In respect of Joanna Cherry’s motion (G)—parliamentary supremacy—the Ayes were 191 and the Noes were 292, so the Noes have it.

The lists showing how hon. Members voted will be published in the usual way on the CommonsVotes app and website, and in Hansard.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is now the second time the House has considered a wide variety of options for a way forward. It has once again failed to find a clear majority for any of the options, yet the result of the House’s decision on Friday not to endorse the withdrawal agreement means that the default legal position is that the UK will leave the EU in just 11 days’ time. To secure any further extension, the Government will have to put forward a credible proposition to the EU as to what we will do with that extra time. This House has continuously rejected leaving without a deal, just as it has rejected not leaving at all. Therefore, the only option is to find a way through that allows the UK to leave with a deal. The Government continue to believe that the best course of action is to do so as soon as possible. If the House were to agree a deal this week, it may still be possible to avoid holding European parliamentary elections. Cabinet will meet in the morning to consider the results of tonight’s vote and how we should proceed.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is disappointing that no solution has won a majority this evening, but I remind the House that the Prime Minister’s unacceptable deal has been overwhelmingly rejected three times. The margin of defeat for one of the options tonight was very narrow indeed, and the Prime Minister’s deal has been rejected by very large majorities on three occasions. If it is good enough for the Prime Minister to have three chances at her deal, I suggest that possibly the House should have a chance to consider again the options that we had before us today in a debate on Wednesday, so that the House can succeed where the Prime Minister has failed, in presenting a credible economic relationship with Europe for the future that prevents us from crashing out with no deal.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It would indeed be an outrage if the Government sought to bring back their deal. It really is about time they accepted reality: the deal they have put forward has been defeated three times, with the largest defeat in parliamentary history—[Interruption.]

Order. No, the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to be heard and, believe me, notwithstanding the shouting from a sedentary position, he will be heard. That is the be all and end all of it. It is as simple as that: the right hon. Gentleman will be heard.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I acknowledge that I am disappointed that we have not won tonight in respect of revoking article 50, having a people’s vote or having a single market and customs union, but the reality is that two of the votes were won by a very small number. We need to try to see where we can find consensus and work together.

Fundamentally for those of us who represent seats in Scotland, we voted to remain in the European Union. Tonight, a vast majority of Scottish MPs voted to revoke article 50. A vast majority of Scottish MPs voted for a people’s vote. A vast majority of Scottish MPs voted to stay in the single market and customs union. It is crystal clear to us from Scotland that our votes in this House are disrespected, and it is becoming increasingly clear to the people of Scotland that, if we want to secure our future as a European nation, we are going to have to take our own responsibilities. The case is this: sovereignty rests with the people of Scotland, not with this House. The day is coming when we will determine our own future, and it will be as an independent country.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have given everything to an attempt to find a compromise that can take this country out of the European Union while maintaining our economic strength and our political cohesion. I accept that I have failed. I have failed chiefly because my party refuses to compromise. I regret, therefore, to announce that I can no longer sit for this party.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is even clearer than it was the last time we had indicative votes that one compromise option has substantial support. There is the largest number of votes in the House for a people’s vote—larger than last time. Is it not possible to combine the two and therefore find a way forward through consensus?

The right hon. Gentleman’s question is of course of a rhetorical character. It invites no response from me, but he has registered his view, upon which I am sure colleagues will reflect.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just to remind the House, is it not the case that the only proposition that has ever had a majority in this House is the Brady amendment? That is a fact. Whatever Members may think or say, that is the proposition that has had a majority in this House and that could allow the withdrawal agreement to go through. With Chancellor Merkel due to visit the Irish Prime Minister this Thursday, there is still an opportunity for the Prime Minister and the Government to prosecute the issue that has bedevilled her withdrawal agreement throughout: the backstop. That issue still needs to be addressed. If it is addressed, we can be in business.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Having looked at the figures, I reinforce the comments from the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable). I regret what the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) has had to do, but were he to link to his proposal the opportunity to have a public vote, we would have a huge majority in this House. The idea that we would avoid doing that for fear of the democratic moment of the European elections is frankly absurd. Why would we be afraid of one democratic event and for fear of that avoid a further one? That makes no sense. The Prime Minister’s deal is dead. We should look at where the majorities in this House lie, and they lie with a softer Brexit going against a people’s vote to the country.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the help of the people who work with me, I have got a damn sight nearer to a majority in this House than anybody else has so far, apart from the rather curious and now historic Malthouse compromise, which I fear is dead. Three votes is quite near.

We cannot go on with everybody voting against every proposition. The difficulty is that there are people who want a people’s vote who would not vote for my motion because they thought they were going to get a people’s vote. There were people—the Scottish nationalists—who wanted common market 2.0, so would not vote for my motion. All of them had nothing against mine. If they continue to carry on like that, they will fail. I say to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) that if we added the people’s vote to a motion such as mine, we would lose votes from all over the place, and from the Labour party. We would lose more than we would gain. Those Members should accept that they do not have a majority yet for the people’s vote and vote for something that they have no objection to as a fall-back position. That is politics. I sometimes think that this particular Parliament in which I find myself sitting is not very political at the moment, and it is confounding the general public.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. What you do not know is that a week ago an effort was made to put forward composite motions. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of a number of us, that was resisted. However, as the Father of the House rightly identifies, there is undoubtedly a way of getting this together—that is why this is a three-stage process. [Interruption.] Hon. Members should just let me explain this. As the Father of the House knows, the reason why many of us could not support the customs union was that it did not have the regulatory alignment that the Labour party had put forward, which unfortunately it did not get round to tabling anything today. If we put the customs union, regulatory alignment and the people’s vote together—[Interruption.] Hon. Members could then vote against it. If we look at the figures—[Interruption.] If Members could stop yelling in my ear, I would say that there is every chance on Wednesday that we will find a compromise.

Mr Speaker, another thing needs to be said. I am very upset, as I am sure many others are, that the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), who is a fine champion for his community, has made the decision that he has. He is wrong, because he has been right in what he has tried to achieve. The reason his motion failed was that it did not have the longevity of being in the withdrawal agreement, and on that basis, again, a compromise does exist that can get a majority.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I, within the rules of order, just point out that a clear majority of Conservative MPs—no fewer than 159 including tellers—voted a week ago that we should leave the European Union without a deal? I find it very strange that everybody assumes that, because of the House’s position as a whole, that cannot be a way forward. If it was always going to be left to the House of Commons, dominated as it is by remainers, to have the final say, there was never any hope for a referendum to achieve anything whatsoever.

The right hon. Gentleman has made his own point in his own inimitable way, and he gives every indication of being well satisfied with his prodigious efforts this evening.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The consequence of tonight’s votes is that the House has voted in favour of nothing. As a result, in 11 days’ time, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union without an agreement unless the Prime Minister, who has just left the Chamber, acts. One thing that we have now voted three times to tell the Prime Minister is that we will not accept leaving the European Union without an agreement—the last time it was by 400 votes to 160. The Prime Minister indicated a week ago that she would respect the will of the House. Mr Speaker, has she given you any indication that she intends to make a statement from the Dispatch Box to the effect that she will now be writing to the European Council to seek a further extension to article 50?

The short answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that the Prime Minister has given me no such indication and I have received no such indication from any other Minister. Indeed, we have just had the results of the votes—I announced them only a matter of minutes ago—and there has been no communication to me from Government Ministers, but if that were to change I would of course notify the House, or it would become apparent to the House, ere long.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is probably worth recalling that last Friday the withdrawal agreement negotiated by our Prime Minister achieved more votes than any of the options we voted on tonight.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that now is the time for a little reflection and humility. I would have expected a little more humility from the Brexit Secretary in his statement, because when it comes to the need for a majority, we are all in this together, and that includes Government, too.

The bottom line is that in the last two sessions of these indicative votes, the proposition that my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) and I have offered has come top, and tonight came within eight votes of the Secretary of State’s own proposition—the proposition put forward by Government. Is it not now the case that if there is not a majority for anything outright, we have to start looking to see how minorities in this House can be brought together in order to get the blockage within the House of Commons sorted, so that we can move forward, our politics can move forward, the Commons can move forward, and our country can get the resolution it needs? Mr Speaker, can you help guide us as to how Government can start acting with humility, reaching out and working with those of us with propositions rather than sticking to their guns?

I fear that the hon. Gentleman invests me with powers that I do not claim to possess. It is late at night. I think we have to await, as Macmillan used to say, events, and see what transpires tomorrow. God willing, I shall be in my place, and I will always seek to facilitate the House, which is it is the responsibility of the Speaker to do, but I cannot say with any confidence what will happen, and in that respect I think I am, frankly, not in a minority. I think that most colleagues would say with confidence that they do not know what is to follow.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the light of the word “blockage” that was just used, and the suggestion that somehow or other there is something wrong with our democratic system, may I simply say this? I recall the fact that section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 quite clearly states, as a matter of law, that the European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day, and if that exit day happens to be 12 April, so be it. That is the law of the land. That is something that we ought to hang on to, because it is the anchor of the referendum in which the British people voted.

I thank the hon. Gentleman. He has represented his own position correctly, and I know that because I have heard him make that point with comparable eloquence on several occasions. Whether he has entirely fairly characterised the position of the hon. Member for Hove (Peter Kyle), I do not know, but the hon. Gentleman will doubtless study the Official Report and make his own assessment.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is obviously a very disquieting evening for all of us. Unlike some other Members who have made points of order, I am not going to promote the merits, great though they are, of the motion put forward by the Father of the House. I just want to point out that the Government have an opportunity tomorrow to bring something forward to resolve this. The House has another day on Wednesday, and we might consider how we best use that, perhaps by looking at some different way of addressing these problems. We have got the time booked, so although this is desperate and last-minute, it is not the end.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This point of order may involve you. The motion that had the greatest number of votes was motion (E), on a confirmatory public vote. Although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) pointed out, that was fewer than the number of votes for the Prime Minister’s deal on Friday, may I invite you to get party leaders together to see whether there could be a run-off between those two, with a free vote across the House?

I always reflect on points that colleagues make to me, but I am not anticipating what might happen in days to come. The hon. Gentleman has made his own point in his own way. I do not mean it in any unkind or discourteous sense, but it is a point I have heard floated in parts of the popular prints in recent days; that does not invest it with the validity that it might otherwise lack.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I profess myself upset that the Father of the House’s motion missed getting a vote by three votes, particularly given that five members of my party who profess to want a softer Brexit voted against it and could have made a decisive impact on tonight’s decision. Given that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) said, we are considering this again on Wednesday, can you give us an early indication of what procedural wisdom will look like, when motions can start to be tabled and whether there will be a new way of looking at this, in order to come to a conclusive outcome?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The only early indication I can give him is that I think it is reasonable, on the basis of what was passed earlier today in the business of the House motion, to suppose that the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) will be carefully contemplating the intended procedure for Wednesday. Specifically, I think it is reasonable to expect that he will be looking to table a business of the House motion and, from that, the hon. Gentleman will gather what the right hon. Member for West Dorset has in mind.

Colleagues will be able to take a view about that. Moreover, just as colleagues have spoken to each other in recent days to bid for support for particular options, it is open to colleagues to communicate with each other about these matters before Wednesday, and I rather imagine that they will do so. Precisely what procedure is envisaged I cannot say, nor is it self-evident that there can be only one procedure proposed. There may well be a number of alternative ideas circulating in colleagues’ minds, and I cannot say more than that. We will have to see. [Interruption.] There is nothing very significant about that. I hear a knowing grunt from someone on the Treasury Bench as though something remarkably significant or suspicious has been said, but neither of those things is so.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. To follow on from what my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell) said about the influence that you may have on the business of the House motion on Wednesday, we need now to be brutal about this. The Prime Minister’s deal was last defeated by 58 votes—that is the worst option, so that should get taken off the table. Are we going to have an eliminatory process? Common market 2.0 lost by 21 votes. A confirmatory ballot lost by 12 votes. Revocation lost by 11 votes. Clearly top of the table was the Father of the House’s motion on the customs union. Are we going to have a brutal process whereby we get to one outcome on Wednesday, and can you influence that? It needs to happen.

I do not cavil at the hon. Gentleman’s point, and I do not want him to think I am being pedantic, but I dislike the use of the word “brutal”. I am not in favour of brutality. I am in favour of clarity, of decisiveness and of resolution.

The hon. Gentleman does not need to apologise. In so far as that requires some concentrated thinking, I agree. Some colleagues will be pleased with the outcome of tonight’s votes. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) is noisily yelling his approval of that observation, beaming as he stands by me. Other colleagues are disappointed. We are where we are. Nothing has won tonight.

In what do I take comfort? Well, Roger Federer put on a majestic masterclass in Miami last night. I am happy about that, and of course I am happy that, although nothing won tonight here in this Chamber, at the Emirates Arsenal won 2-0. I just have to content myself with that for tonight—I appreciate that Newcastle Members will not be so pleased—and we shall have to see what happens tomorrow. I am sorry that I cannot add to that, but I feel that colleagues have ventilated their points, and it is right that they should do so. I do not think we can advance matters further this evening, so I suggest that we look to get a decent night’s rest, recharge our batteries and try to do our duty with resolution but good humour tomorrow.