Britain was meant to leave the EU last Friday. But the House of Commons rejected the Withdrawal Agreement for a third time.
I deeply regret this as I continue to believe that we should honour the referendum result by leaving the EU with a deal.
Some people feel that we should just leave without a deal. While I understand the sentiment, we must consider the implications. It would risk disruption and damage to our economy which could be serious. In any case, MPs have rejected ‘no-deal’ by a very large majority.
On Monday the Commons once again considered potential alternatives to the deal, none of which achieved a majority. I voted against a second referendum and revoking Brexit because I believe both would be wrong in principle.
However, I supported two options, a Customs Union and Common Market 2.0, because I believe it is necessary to compromise if Brexit is to be delivered.
Being in the Customs Union would restrict our ability to promote an independent trade policy for goods, although not services. But we must weigh against this the benefit that it would also eliminate tariffs on goods for half our trade, which would be good for business and jobs.
Britain would still be leaving the EU and outside its political institutions. And, unlike the Common Market 2.0 idea, the Customs Union would allow us to control immigration, we would not be paying large sums into the EU budget, and we would not be under EU laws except in relation to the customs policy.
The Prime Minister’s deal in fact includes ‘a free trade area, combining deep regulatory and customs co-operation’, which is what the Conservative Manifesto also promised. So agreeing a Customs Union would actually be a less dramatic change than some are suggesting.
I would have preferred the deal, and if it had gone through last year we would already have left the EU. It is ironic, and frankly extremely disappointing, that the most ardent supporters of Brexit have repeatedly prevented it from happening, voting against the deal alongside MPs who clearly wish to frustrate Brexit.
When the country is divided, MPs cannot agree, and the economy is being affected by the uncertainty, we need to find a sensible way through. We must deliver on the democratic decision of the British people to leave the EU, and that means being willing to compromise.
You can find further information, including the highlights of my diary each week, on my website: www.nickherbert.com.
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