Thank you for your correspondence regarding Brexit.
A meaningful vote on the Prime Minister's deal with now take place on 12 March and MPs will now get a vote on delaying Brexit if her deal and a no-deal outcome are both rejected.
I would prefer to see a deal passed by Parliament rather than no-deal and I have voted for this course of action three times. The Government is taking forward the work to secure a Withdrawal Agreement that can command the support of Parliament which has sent an unequivocal message that change is required. It is open to different ways to achieve this and the EU shares our commitment to leave with a deal. I currently do not believe a second referendum would be in the best interests of the country but if this does happen I note your opinion on what should be on the ballot paper.
A survey of economists predicted stronger economic growth if the UK agrees a deal with the EU by 29 March and a Reuters poll of economists said growth is forecast to accelerate this year if a deal is reached.
Making our own trade deals for the first time in over 40 years and with even the European Commission predicting that 90 per cent of future world growth will come from outside of Europe encourages me that we should welcome the ability of having our own independent trade policy as soon as possible.
Currently I do not believe we should do anything to stop, delay or reverse the UK’s exit from the EU as we are trying to deliver on the result of the referendum which I believe is reasonable having been elected on that basis along with many members of other major parties as was clearly stated in the manifestos. Consequently, at the moment, before all options have been excluded, currently I could not vote for any amendment that sought to extend Article 50 or hold a second referendum and I abstained on the latest amendment on extending article 50 because at this stage I do not think it is helpful.
I do not know what next week will bring in the forthcoming debate and the Cooper amendment passed last week in parliament as she pressed it even after telling us all she was not going to push it to a vote.
You should be aware that we do not yet know the wording of the motion, what amendments may be tabled, what amendments will be chosen by the Speaker (which only occurs on the morning of the debate) and what amendments the Government will accept.
While I recognise that the current deal is a big compromise, I do want to see the referendum result honoured. This was the manifesto both Labour and Conservative MPs stood on at the last election. I believe the withdrawal agreement will protect our jobs, provide businesses with the certainty they need to plan for the future and deliver an orderly Brexit. It will also free us to trade around the globe. Nevertheless, I also believe that the backstop should change as it is not currently acceptable and I am working with a number of MPs to try to ensure that we fulfil our commitments to Northern Ireland but do not get trapped indefinitely in the backstop.