21 Jan Statement on the ‘Meaningful Vote’
The so-called ‘meaningful vote’ took place in the House of Commons on 15th January, and the Government’s motion on the proposed Brexit deal was defeated by 230 votes.
Dr Lee did not vote in favour of the agreement. In a statement following the vote, Dr Lee said:
Throughout the first half of last year I reached the conclusion that the withdrawal agreement the Government was negotiating with the EU27 would be far from the Brexit that the Leave campaign had promised, and the people bought into, during the 2016 referendum. I predicted that, consequently, it would satisfy neither those who voted to remain in the EU, nor those who wanted to leave.
I raised these worries at every level in Government but was rebuffed at every turn leaving me no alternative but to resign my ministerial position in order to highlight my concerns.
Unfortunately, ministers continued to pay no heed to the increasing number of voices echoing my warnings and, as a result, last week suffered an unprecedented and unnecessary rejection of its policy in the House of Commons.
The Government has the ability, the power and the opportunity to rectify the position in which it has now placed the country. Indeed, I opposed the motion of no confidence tabled by Jeremy Corbyn in order to allow, and in the hope that it would grasp, that further opportunity.
Whether it decides to do so is not yet clear – and the initial indications are, unfortunately, not promising.
The Government must accept that the solution is not to say, “it is my deal or no deal.” It must reach out to other views – and, yes, those views may come from members of other parties and none – to see where compromise can be reached. It must abandon red-lines dictated by dogma and instead look at evidence.
And then, once it has reached an agreement that commands the support of Parliament and is acceptable to the EU27, it must put that agreement back to the British people and allow them to say whether they wish to approve the deal or, now that the facts are known, would prefer to remain a member of the EU.
Finally, this cannot be done under the shadow of an artificial deadline of March 29th imposed by a hasty desire two years ago to trigger Article 50. As a matter of urgency, the Government must stop that clock by requesting an extension of Article 50 and, if that is not forthcoming, making a unilateral revocation, which we now know is within its power.
If the Government cannot, or will not, take on this responsibility then it will be my duty and that of my parliamentary colleagues to ensure that we protect the future welfare of this country, and its citizens.