Below is a statement made by Damian on Tuesday 22nd January 2019:
These are testing times for our politics and democracy.
“Europe” is a subject which has been divisive in British politics for as long as I can remember. And notably, those divisions did not run along party lines. With that, and the EU’s desire to move towards closer integration, it was inevitable that eventually we would have an in/out referendum. Indeed that was the policy of all three main UK-wide political parties at different times.
The vote we had in 2016 was on a simple question, as a referendum must be. The subject itself is more complex. Not everyone who voted Leave did so for all the same reasons, and ditto for those who voted Remain.
It was widely understood - and committed to by the government - that the result would be honoured. The result was a margin of over a million. That is a very clear majority.
In a liberal democracy like Britain, a governing party is not there just to work in the interests of the people who voted for it, but in the interests of the whole nation. And so too with a referendum, the result is a clear instruction to act - but that doesn’t mean you ignore those who voted for the losing side.
We need a way forward which absolutely honours the result of the referendum - that is, leaving the EU. But it also has to be something which people from all sides can come together on, and it needs to be something which works for people’s jobs and livelihoods.
The deal which the prime minister negotiated with the EU strives to do that, and I have supported it. But it was defeated by a large margin. After the defeat, the PM said quite rightly that we need to reach out, to chart a course that can attract a majority.
Thus far we have heard much about what MPs are against. We have not heard about proposals that a majority are FOR. There are around eight different proposals floating around Westminster, each with their strong proponents, but each also it seems with a blocking majority against. These include variously, the Canada model, the Norway model, a second referendum and leaving with no deal.
One of the most telling comments on the night of the meaningful vote was from the journalist who said “The irony is that the two competing demos in Parliament Square [‘Just Leave’ and the ‘people’s vote’ campaign] would both have been voting in the same lobby.
Fact is, we need to find a way through this. Imagine the impact on trust in democracy if politicians either failed to enact the decision people had given in a direct referendum; or if we ended up with no deal, through failure to agree on one.
There are of course some absolutes. The approach must honour the referendum result. It must be good for jobs and livelihoods. And it must protect the unity of our United Kingdom.
I do understand colleagues’ concerns about aspects, especially on the backstop. But I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is a negotiated exit. MPs owe it to our constituents, those we represent, to work together on this in their interest and the national interest.
I am committed to doing all I can to make this a reality.
Written by Damian Hinds