From a ‘rotten deal’ to an ‘exciting future for the UK’ - what Norfolk and Waveney’s MPs say about the meaningful vote
PUBLISHED: 08:29 15 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:51 15 January 2019
A Norfolk MP is set to be one of around 64 who will vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal after the prime minister made a last-ditch attempt to garner support.
On Tuesday, MPs will vote on Mrs May’s controversial Withdrawal Agreement as it is put to a vote in the House of Commons.
But Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk said he would defy the prime minister as the deal would “not deliver Brexit”.
He said: “Even worse, the Withdrawal Agreement gives the EU the right to impose laws on us indefinitely and a veto over whether that would ever change, while breaking up the country by requiring Northern Ireland to treat Great Britain as a ‘third country’, and making us pay £39bn in return for nothing, even though without a Withdrawal Agreement we are not legally obliged to pay a penny”.
He added: “I want to see a clean-break divorce where we move straight to World Trade Organisation status and everyone knows exactly what trading status the parties have.”
George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, tweeted to say he was supporting the deal “with a heavy heart”.
Mr Freeman had planned to vote against the deal but said he did not want to risk a no deal.
He also said if the prime minister’s deal was voted down the next vote would have to be a free vote.
He said in that situation Mrs May “should establish a cross-party Brexit council of leading privy counsellors from all parties and all chairs of cross-party select committees to explore a way through. Parliament must show it’s working to deliver.”
But he was the only Norfolk and Waveney MP to change his position, with the rest broadly voting along party lines.
Conservative party chairman and Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said: “I will be voting for the deal. Aside from being a member of the Cabinet that agreed it, I believe it delivers on the referendum and allows us to trade globally. And it does so in a way that allowed a smooth exit which benefits our economy and jobs, including locally with the agricultural and energy industry.”
While Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South called it a “rotten deal” and would vote against it.
He said: ““Theresa May’s deal is a hotch potch of contradictory aspirations slung together to try and patch up the divisions in her own party, while gaslighting the DUP fellow travellers whose support she needs to remain in post. And it’s clearly not even doing a very good job of that.
“In the absence of a plan for a customs union with the EU, it does nothing to protect jobs in Norwich. And in typical Tory fashion, this deal prioritises the rights of huge companies to profit from our public services above the employment, consumer and environmental protections we all rely on. I will be voting against this rotten deal.”
While Keith Simpson, Conservative MP for Broadland, said even though he voted remain in the referendum he would be backing the prime minister’s deal. But he said he had been told of concerns in his constituency, which voted to leave.
He said: “It’s been made perfectly clear to me that the farmers, for example, are very concerned. On the whole I have supported the prime minister’s deal, it’s not perfect - the main issue will be the reaction from parts of Northern Ireland.”
Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, also supports the deal.
She said: “I want to see a deal because I think the evidence is clear than it is economically best for the UK to have one rather than “no deal”. I don’t think a different deal is practical. And I do not think it is right to stay in the EU, given the decision the country took in the referendum. For us here in Norwich, I see that this agreement offers the best available access to European markets. There’s no other advanced nation in the world that has a better deal. This deal offers stability at an uncertain time, and an environment you can succeed in. That is crucial for businesses, and I have always said that my constituency priority is to support a deal which is good for jobs and businesses here in Norwich.”
Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney, said it would mark an “exciting future for the UK”.
Mr Aldous, who is voting with the prime minister, said: “When it comes down to it I think these negotiations were always going to be difficult and protracted but I think the the prime minister has put in front of us does deliver Brexit.”
He said the alternative of leaving without a deal had worried businesses in his constituency and he also did not support another referendum.
But he also said he knew the prime minister faced a rough ride.
He said: “I’m not living in a closed cocoon. The feedback I get that the odds of the prime minister’s deal getting through are very odds against. It’s going to be a fast moving situation after tomorrow.”
Henry Bellingham, Conservative MP for North West Norfolk said he would be voting for the prime minister’s deal. He said: “We need to get behind the prime minister. It’s the best of a number of bad options.”
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, intended to vote against the deal.
He said from emails received to his office both leavers and remainers were lobbying him to do so.
He said: “[The deal] is very different to what was promised by leading brexiteers such as Boris Johnson. This is only the divorce agreement, we’ve not concluded any detail about our future relationship. If we go for this we face year of anguish and debate over our future relationship.”
On the prospect of a no deal Mr Lamb said he was working with cross-party colleagues to ensure that did not happen.
“If we end up with no deal it will be a choice of this government.”
What happens next?
The vote had been scheduled to take place in December, but was called off at the 11th hour with Government victory looking unlikely.
And many MPs feel that, to ape one of Mrs May’s favourite sayings, nothing has changed.
MPs continue to be divided on the plans, with a number of pro-remainers calling for Mrs May’s deal to be voted down. Some ardent leavers are pushing for the same result, arguing that a no-deal Brexit is not something to be scared of.
Here we look at what may happen after Tuesday’s vote:
• Theresa May wins: This would allow the other EU 27 nations and the European Parliament to ratify the deal ahead of Brexit taking place on March 29, with an agreement on customs and many other areas of vital collaboration.
• Theresa May loses and resigns: While the PM has said she will not lead the Tories into another general election, she has consistently ruled out quitting before Brexit, so it seems almost certain she will stay in office.
• Plan B is activated: The prime minister has yet to reveal what, if indeed there is one, her fallback position is, in the event of defeat, including it seems to cabinet members. Under the terms of an amendment tabled by Dominic Grieve last week and controversially passed by MPs, she has until Monday to present a new plan to the Commons.
• Back to Brussels for more talks: The EU has said repeatedly that it will not reopen negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement, and “assurances” on the Irish border backstop were dismissed by Brexiteers on Monday. There is little time and no clear indication what more the EU can or wants to offer.
• Asking for an extension of Article 50: Mrs May has previously insisted almost to the point of foot-stamping that Britain will leave the EU on March 29, and a U-turn here would enrage already puce Brexiteers.
• Halting Article 50: A court case last year ruled that, while all 27 other EU states have to agree to extend the Article 50 process of leaving, the UK can unilaterally reverse it. But neither the Tories nor Labour support this.
• Jeremy Corbyn calls for a confidence vote in the government: Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said on Monday such a motion was a case of when, not if. Such a vote could trigger a general election but this is very much the nuclear option for Tory rebels and the DUP have said they will not vote with Labour, so it could change very little.
• A second referendum: Labour members at conference left the door open to supporting a new vote on leaving if the party could not trigger a general election, something that will be pointed out increasingly noisily to Mr Corbyn if his confidence vote fails.
• A game of Boles: Tory former minister Nick Boles has plans for a new bill that would basically allow backbench MPs to wrestle control of the Brexit process if Theresa May loses Tuesday’s vote and cannot come up with a viable alternative. But it has so far attracted little support.
• No deal Brexit: If Theresa May loses and Parliament cannot come together behind an alternative, the UK will leave the European Union on March 29 without a deal. This is something to either be afraid of, or not afraid of, depending on your view of Brexit.
What do you think?
Christine Wilkes, 51, Norwich
“Of course I want Brexit over and done with. Theresa May has got a hard job but she is doing an amazing job. [Politicians] are never going to agree because everyone has a different view, she is stuck between a rock and a hard place”
Sarah Dawson, 60, Diss
“I didn’t want to leave and Theresa May isn’t doing a good job at all. I think we need to have another vote.”
Natalie Kay, 17, Norwich
“I have to admit that I’m not overly up to date, it all seems a lot more hassle than necessary. I am going to uni next year and I’m supposed to be having a year abroad as part of the course – I think that is going to mean a lot more forms for me to fill in now.”
Frank Peasgood, 77, Norwich
“I am for Brexit. I want the sovereignty of this country back but it has dragged on a while now. I support Mrs May.”
Henry Cutting, 18, Surlingham
“[I] don’t think it’s good. I don’t think we are all going to agree but I don’t want another vote, we’ve already had our say. I am going on holiday later this year but I am not sure yet how it might be impacted.”
Margaret Weston, 70, Bedfordshire
“I’m fed up with Brexit. I think when we do leave, to begin with it will be iffy but we will soon get on our feet. We are still stronger than lots of other countries like France and Germany, I just want to get out now. I have voted Conservative all my life but Theresa May has given away too much – it is not what we voted for.”
Mary Adams, 74, Sprowston
“I voted to leave and am peed off with politicians. Now they want Theresa May out and they did the same to Margaret Thatcher. It’s all personal now and they are not thinking about the country.”