I appreciate many people are concerned about Brexit and have asked me for my views. Indeed, I have been contacted by a large number of people on both sides of this debate and wanted to set-out my thoughts for all members.
First, on the issue of prorogation. I have copied below the text of the letter the Prime Minister sent all MPs:
“..…I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the Government’s plans for its business in Parliament.
As you know, for some time parliamentary business has been sparse. The current session has lasted more than 340 days and needs to be brought to a close – in almost 400 years only the 2010-12 session comes close, at 250 days. Bills have been introduced, which, while worthy in their own right, have at times seemed more about filling time in both the Commons and the Lords, while key Brexit legislation has been held back to ensure it could still be considered for carry-over into a second session. This cannot continue.
I therefore intend to bring forward a new bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit. There will be a significant Brexit legislative programme to get through but that should be no excuse for a lack of ambition!
We will help the NHS, fight violent crime, invest in infrastructure and science and cut the cost of living.
This morning I spoke to Her Majesty The Queen to request an end to the current parliamentary session in the second sitting week in September, before commencing the second session of this Parliament with a Queen’s speech on Monday 14 October. A central feature of the legislative programme will be the Government’s number one legislative priority, if a new deal is forthcoming at EU Council, to introduce a Withdrawal Agreement Bill and move at pace to secure its passage before 31 October.
I fully recognise that the debate on the Queen’s Speech will be an opportunity for Members of Parliament to express their view on this Government’s legislative agenda and its approach to, and the result of, the European Council on 17-18 October. It is right that you should have the chance to do so, in a clear and unambiguous manner.
I also believe it is vitally important that the key votes associated with the Queen’s Speech and any deal with the EU fall at a time when parliamentarians are best placed to judge the Government’s programme. Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the Government’s overall programme, and approach to Brexit, in the run up to EU Council, and then vote on this on 21 and 22 October, once we know the outcome of the Council. Should I succeed in agreeing a deal with the EU, Parliament will then have the opportunity to pass the Bill required for ratification of the deal ahead of 31 October.
Finally, I want to reiterate to colleagues that these weeks leading up to the European Council on 17/18 October are vitally important for the sake of my negotiations with the EU. Member States are watching what Parliament does with great interest and it is only by showing unity and resolve that we stand a chance of securing a new deal that can be passed by Parliament. In the meantime, the Government will take the responsible approach of continuing its preparations for leaving the EU, with or without a deal.
The Leader of the Commons will update the House in the normal fashion with regard to business for the final week. For now, I can confirm that on Monday 9 September both Houses will debate the motions on the first reports relating to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 (NIEFA). Following these debates we will begin preparation to end the Parliamentary session ahead of a Queen’s Speech.
The Business Managers in both Houses will shortly engage with their opposite numbers, and MPs more widely, on plans for passing a deal should one be forthcoming. Decisions will also need to be taken about carrying over some of the bills currently before the House, and we will look to work constructively with the Opposition on this front. If agreement cannot be reached we will look to reintroduce the bills in the next session, and details on this will be set out in the Queen’s Speech.”
Boris Johnson PM
As you may know, there is an EU summit scheduled for next month and the Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear he hopes to come back from that meeting with a new deal. Given that he was only elected a few weeks ago, I think it’s absolutely right we give him the opportunity to attempt this new negotiation with the EU. I will, therefore, be supporting the Prime Minister in any confidence vote which may be brought forward in the next few weeks.
Now, I fully understand the dates and sequencing have clearly been chosen to guarantee we formally leave the European Union on October 31st. Perhaps it is worth explaining why this is the case.
The Privy Council has endorsed the decision to prorogue (i.e. suspend) Parliament on September 10th with a return on October 14th, this means that even if there’s a vote of confidence on that day, or if the Government loses Queen’s Speech votes on October 21st and 22nd, the Fixed Term Parliament Act allows 14 days in which a new administration can be formed. Even if the Queen’s Speech were to be amended to suspend the strictures of that Act and a General Election were to be called immediately, the date of that election would have to be after October 31st.
So, we know full well why the dates have been chosen as they have.
Which takes us back once again to the central issue of leaving the EU. Parliament suspended its right to make decisions on behalf of the British people on this issue and a referendum was held. That referendum resulted in a vote to leave.
I have never hidden the fact that I would prefer to leave with a deal and continue to believe this is the best way forward. Plainly it has to be preferable to leave the EU in a way that does as much as can be done to mitigate the economic effects of doing so, and I do believe it is the Prime Minister’s intention to find such a deal.
But we are rapidly approaching a point where we may be leaving without a deal and it is right that I make my position clear.
I am more than well aware of the economic damage that a ‘no deal’ exit may incur. One of my key roles as a minister was to deal with the plans my department had in place for just such an eventuality. But this comes down to more than economics. It is about faith in the political system and, however much I weigh this in the balance against the economic cost, I cannot persuade myself that undermining the fundamental tenets of government by consent is worth the trade. If we do not leave we risk enormous disengagement from the political process by millions of people who were told many times their vote would be honoured. I understand others profoundly disagree with me but it is much easier to quantify a cost of an action you can put on a spreadsheet than one whose consequences may be less defined, but potentially more profound.
As such, if a deal cannot be agreed with the European Union for a reasonable exit, I believe we have no option but to leave without a deal.
George Hollingbery MP
Member of Parliament for Meon Valley
House of Commons │London │SW1A OAA │Tel: 0207 219 7109