'Stop prolonging agony of Brexit' - Harrogate MP gives verdict on fiasco

For the first time Harrogate and Knaresboroughs MP has defended his record on Brexit in detail and argued his case for keeping a no deal option on the table.
For the first time Harrogate and Knaresboroughs MP has defended his record on Brexit in detail and argued his case for keeping a no deal option on the table.

For the first time Harrogate and Knaresborough’s MP has defended his record on Brexit in detail and argued his case for keeping  a ‘no deal’ option on the table.

Recent weeks have seen some readers criticise their MP’s voting record over Brexit. But, writing for his column in the Harrogate Advertiser, Andrew Jones MP said he had rejected all the alternative options put forward by Parliament because none was better than the Prime Minister’s deal which was the only way of not further prolonging the “agony” the country was going through.

Mr Jones said: “The Prime Minister’s deal was about delivering Brexit and, represented a compromise between what the ‘no deal’ Brexiteers want and what those seeking to ignore or overturn the Referendum result want.

“I have rejected all the other options put forward. As far as I could see none of the proposals reflected the outcome of the referendum any better than the Prime Minister’s deal.”

Local protest group North Yorkshire for Europe, who have been campaigning for Britain to remain in Europe over the past year, has in the past accused the MP of ducking public meetings they have organised over Brexit.

Mr Jones has always replied his views were well known by constituents in the area, which voted narrowly to remain in the EU.

In his latest column for this newspaper, Mr Jones answers critics of his support for keeping ‘no deal’ on the table as a simple matter of pragmatism.

He said: “Some have criticised me for voting to leave the ‘no deal’ option on the table. Frankly, if you are negotiating with someone you don’t tell them your final position at the outset.”

He rejected calls from pro-Remain campaigners in Harrogate to support a new referendum.

“Some argue for a so-called people’s vote. A second referendum might yield a small majority for Remain which then Leavers would argue was invalid and begin campaigning for a third referendum,” he writes. “But I would urge caution here. It seems to me that there is more traffic going from Remain to Leave than the other way. A new referendum might yield a bigger majority for Leave.”

Although unenthusiastic about current talks with the Labour Party, Mr Jones has no doubt that some sort of compromise is the only way to get the country out of what he describes as a “limbo” which is hurting the country’s economic interests.

He said: “Remaining in limbo where Parliament can’t agree a deal but still says we can’t leave without one just prolongs the agony and will see us losing investment, jobs and businesses as businesses hate uncertainty. I hope we reach a conclusion that enables us to leave the EU reflecting the outcome of the referendum but with a deal which garners support.”

Harrogate and Knaresborough Andrew Jones's column in full:

One of the most common things I hear these days is “Just get on with it”. The phrase, of course, refers to Brexit. And although there are great things happening locally and I regularly meet inspirational people and groups it is right to provide an update on Brexit which is dominating MP’s inboxes.

The Prime Minister’s deal was about delivering Brexit, that “get on with it” from the majority, and represented a compromise between what the ‘no deal’ Brexiteers want and what those seeking to ignore or overturn the Referendum result want. That the deal has attracted criticism from both sides suggest that is the case. The Prime Minister has repeatedly encouraged compromise. I heard and understood that and consistently supported her deal.

We all know that no parliamentary majority has been secured for any option in the series of votes put before Parliament. I rejected all the options put forward. As far as I could see none of the proposals reflected the outcome of the referendum any better than the Prime Minister’s deal. I think it is worth spending a moment discussing why. One option was to revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU as now.

By a narrow majority – narrower than the national majority for Leave – this area voted to Remain in the EU. Some say that means I should vote to Revoke Article 50. However, even if every MP voted in the Commons as their constituency voted in the referendum then Article 50 would still not be revoked as most constituencies voted Leave. That vote would be lost 406 to 242. So the logic doesn’t stand up and it, of course, flies in the face of the referendum result.

Some argue for a so-called people’s vote. A second referendum might yield a small majority for Remain which then Leavers would argue was invalid and begin campaigning for a third referendum.

There seems to be an automatic assumption that a second referendum would yield a vote to remain in the EU. I would urge considerable caution here – I have corresponded with and spoken to more people on this subject than anyone else in the Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency. It seems to me that there is more traffic going from Remain to Leave than the other way. A new referendum might yield a bigger majority for Leave.

Whatever the outcome, a further ballot would only prolong the uncertainty which I want ended.

Some have criticised me for voting to leave the ‘no deal’ option on the table. Frankly, if you are negotiating with someone you don’t tell them your final position at the outset. What is the incentive on the EU side to negotiate a good deal for our future relationship if they know that we have limited our own choices?

To break the ongoing logjam, the Prime Minister announced that she would again reach out to the opposition. I cannot say this appeals greatly.

This is not because Mr Corbyn is the leader of the opposition but because of his past affiliations which have been much publicised. I have concerns too that he does not respect the result of the referendum which is an important democratic principle.

However, it is where we are and so I hope we reach a conclusion that enables us to leave the EU reflecting the outcome of the referendum but with a deal which garners support, even if with little enthusiasm, from across the referendum divide.

We will never achieve that if politicians and the public don’t want to achieve that. Remaining in limbo where Parliament can’t agree a deal but still says we can’t leave without one just prolongs the agony and will see us losing investment, jobs and businesses as businesses hate uncertainty.

Compromise inevitably means that we all come away less happy than we wanted to be but that is a situation surely more tolerable for our country than what we are being put through at the moment.