It was a titanic week for Brexit, and I use the word carefully! I finally got to move the Kyle-Wilson Compromise in parliament on Monday during a heated day of debate.
Of course my speech was covered on the news as much for having protestors strip off and glue themselves to the public gallery as what I was saying…but I’ve learned to cope with something new every day I’ve been in this job so that was just another day in the office for me!
After the speeches we voted, and I was massively relieved that for the second time the compromise came top of the alternative Brexit approaches. We failed to get a majority by just 12 votes. Remember the prime minister lost her third ‘meaningful vote’ by 48. I’m really proud that the principal of a ‘confirmatory ballot’ has now been widely established and is growing all the time. Don’t forget to keep contacting party leaders and writing to newspaper letters pages and posting on social media demanding it!
I put a lot of thought into my speech, there was a lot I wanted to say. I’m going to post it here in case any of you have the time and fancy giving it a read. If you do, please let me know what you think- I’m equally happy reading criticism as well as praise, so always be honest!
Kyle-Wilson Speech, House of Commons
The motion I speak to today, Motion E, is an attempt to bring us together.
It is an attempt to restore a kind of politics that will allow us to overcome our greatest challenges.
We need to recognise that this house is in peril.
Not just in of a disastrous Brexit outcome, but in peril of falling so far in popular esteem that we may never recover.
We have lost the art of politics because we have become gridlocked by the politics of ‘position’.
We have taken our positions, usually in groups, and effectively gone to war against other groups.
There has been a heavy price to pay even beyond the battering and bruising of opposing views.
That price has been paid outside this chamber, in what is now an even more divided and fractious country.
It is also a bemused country which demands that we chart a course forward.
After three years of assault and counter-attack, no position has emerged victorious. Instead, the politics of this House have been diminished and entrenched.
Nothing will change if we are not prepared to move. A solution will emerge only if we make it so.
The solution, I believe, is to work with what we have before us. To accept the world as it is, not how we would like it to be.
After the referendum I travelled to Norway and met negotiators and ministers. I visited the EEA in Brussels. I worked alongside colleagues to champion a soft Brexit which I then voted for.
So those who say that I, and others like me, have simply tried to scupper Brexit from the start are wrong.
I have also voted for every proposition from my own front-bench and I would encourage others to do the same as a way to achieve compromise and a consensus.
I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Brexit Secretary for their excellent work in crafting a set of brexit policies that puts the future of the economy and of workers first and foremost.
I believe if they had done so from within government then they would have been able to present a deal to parliament that would have been accepted.
This is why our amendment relates to ‘a’ deal and not specifically the government’s deal. Because I know many people on these benches still long for a better proposition than the one on offer.
But we must be honest with ourselves.
When the prime minister triggered the Article 50 process we all knew – whether we voted for it or against – that it bestowed on government the right to negotiate a deal on behalf of the United Kingdom.
That deal is before us, and it defines Brexit.
But as it stands, this sovereign parliament has rejected it again, and again, and again.
In fact, MP’s have cast a staggering 1,167 votes against this deal – that’s 50% more votes than there are MPs!
However, although the majority here don’t like it, the fact remains it has been signed off by every EU country, by the EU itself and by the British government.
It is the only deal on the table.
And just as there is no majority for the government’s deal, neither is there for an alternative.
So we face a stark choice.
Do we continue the ‘war of positions’ in the hope one side will capitulate, knowing the damage it will do to our politics and country?
Do we persist with deadlock?…or do we choose to progress?
If there is no outright majority for one proposition then we must do what the country is desperate for.
We must compromise by bringing together two minority positions to create a majority to move forward.
202 Members have loyally voted for the prime minister’s deal three times now. This is a principled stance, but simply repeating the exercise will not see loyalty rewarded. Quite the opposite.
Last week 268 Members voted for the principal of a confirmatory ballot, the largest number of votes for any alternative Brexit proposition.
The principal of a confirmatory ballot has been used effectively twice in the last 20 years, both times to solve complex and divisive issues.
The first was in the Good Friday Agreement.
A lot of people, institutions and organisations were asked to give a lot to cement the deal, but together they gained a lot despite sections of Northern Irish society strongly rejecting it.
The Good Friday Agreement was put to a confirmatory public ballot which confirmed the deal and led to a decisive end to the arduous process, and a peace that has endured to this day.
I do not wish to risk the undoing of those gains. That is another reason we need to unlock our politics.
The second instance was the AV referendum of 2011. Electoral reform had been hotly contested and regular feature of public debate.
It was also divisive within the coalition government.
However, both Tory and Lib Dem parliamentarians were able to work together to legislate for it because afterwards it would be subject to a confirmatory public ballot.
The innovation of a confirmatory ballot is important because it is binding on parliament. Once confirmed or rejected, it doesn’t even need to return to parliament.
In the case of the Good Friday Agreement, it was agreed. In the case of the AV referendum it was rejected.
But in both instances the issue was settled decisively.
As it would be in this case. No return to parliament, no more squabbling. No ‘best of three’, no ‘neverendum’. Just a definitive end to the Brexit impasse.
So this motion offers two benefits which members of this House cannot afford to ignore.
It breaks the deadlock in parliament.
And I reassure colleagues on opposition benches that this motion makes explicit that parliament is withholding consent for this deal until it is confirmed by the public. It cannot be said that by supporting this motion you are supporting the deal.
Secondly, it allows us to offer a definitive end to this nightmare.
It is a sign of failure that we could not resolve Brexit alone. But it is at least it is honest to admit our failure.
We owe an apology to the public for the need to return to them one more time, but at least it will be only one more time.
This time voters will be making decisions based on facts and not promises.
They can compare the deal on offer with the one we have. The consent they give will be informed consent.
It is time to get Brexit out of Westminster, and that can only happen by backing this compromise.
Brexit will be returned to the people of the United Kingdom to issue their final instruction.
And then together we can begin the reconciliation our country so desperately needs but which today seems so far away.
Motion E makes this possible.
And possibility is the very art of politics.