Nicky Morgan is Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, a former Education Secretary, and MP for Loughborough.
Over the weekend, Justine Greening likened the Brexiteers to Russia at the UN – wielding a veto and thereby stalling any decisions by the UN Security Council.
I think many of them are like toddlers who want their favourite toy, and stamp their feet with frustration. Based on conversations shared with long-term Brexiteers outside Parliament over recent months. I think the reason for this is that they believe their Brexit will be taken away from them.
One said to me that he believed the amendments being passed in the Lords on the meaningful vote were designed to allow Parliament to ultimately amend the Withdrawal and Implementation Bill to stop the UK leaving the EU.
But much as I regret the referendum decision taken in June 2016, I’ve always been clear that the UK ceasing to be a member of the EU must be delivered. The question now is not (and hasn’t been for many months) whether Brexit happens but how. And that is why debates about borders, customs arrangements and supporting businesses with their supply chains are now on the table.
However, there is an even more important question for the Conservative Party. And it wasn’t even remotely answered by last week’s election results.
The question is: if we want to be a Party which speaks for the whole country (or as much of it as possible), are we going the right way about it? Winning seats only in areas which voted Leave in 2016 doesn’t provide any foundation for being able to answer that question in the affirmative.
Last Thursday’s results show that the country remains as divided as ever over Brexit – and politics generally. It is clear that the Labour Party should be doing much better in local elections if they are to get anywhere near winning a general election. It will, perhaps, now take time to sort itself out over the concerns raised about anti-semitism in its members’ ranks.
That leaves a big opportunity for the Conservatives, and a political centre-ground vacuum for us to fill by showing that we are truly on the side of the majority of people in this country. The ‘bins and council tax’ message which resonated in the local elections needs to be turned into a ‘public services, security and cost of living’ message nationally.
But the Prime Minister and her Cabinet can’t do this if they are constantly facing noises off from a minority in the Conservative Party who are so focused on the threat of Brexit not being delivered that they are prepared to turn a blind eye to its impact on the financial security of thousands of potential Conservative voters. The kind of voters who can deliver us a majority at a future general election.
The Business Secretary appeared on television yesterday to warn of the impact of a Brexit without a customs arrangement on the thousands of employees working in Japanese-owned car plants who rely on just-in-time supply arrangements. Conservative MPs who should be pro-business should listen to him.
For over 20 years, some in my Party have agitated and threatened and harried Party leaders to adopt more Eurosceptic poses – to secure the referendum, to change the question, to get us to talk only and endlessly about the EU. Now they have decided to set some red lines accompanied by threats of leadership contests and withdrawing cooperation in Parliamentary votes.
And for too long the Conservative One Nation tradition has tried to accommodate these demands. Well, enough is enough. I refuse to accept quietly that we become a Party which turns its back on the young, on those from diverse communities and on moderate middle of the road voters who want MPs to talk about the things that make a difference to their lives.
How Brexit is delivered will set the tone for our Party’s future. It is time therefore for One Nation Conservatives to make clear their support for a pragmatic Brexit which protects jobs and offers real security. Pandering to a small minority who think that only their version of Brexit is the right one will ultimately do us no favours with our constituents when its consequences become clear.