Lord Flight is Chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund, and is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
The behaviour of the House of Commons, and in particular of Remainers and the Speaker, has damaged the reputation of Parliament and politicians generally – at least for the time being.
But I have the perhaps naive view that the overwhelming majority of citizens understand that it is the EU which has made it so difficult to negotiate a proper exit deal, and that at Westminster the trouble has been the parliamentary chicanery of Remainers trying to delay and even prevent our departure from the EU.
The Referendum vote in favour of withdrawal from the EU was decisive and the options clear and straight forward – in or out? In the ensuing general election, the Conservative Party pledged to give effect to the will of the people in the Referendum. I, therefore, believe it has been democratically wrong for more than half the Conservative MPs, as well as virtually all the Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs, to have done their utmost to frustrate Britain departing from the EU.
But I believe the Conservative Party will hold together; partly because the alternative would be a Corbyn Government and partly because Conservative MPs have ‘seen the light’ last week.
Last Tuesday the House of Commons gave the Prime Minister a positive mandate to return to Brussels to amend the deal. Leaders of the ERG and leading Remainers had got together, in their and the country’s interests, to agree a compromise approach to Brexit.
The Malthouse compromise reflected this, and gave the Prime Minister the mandate she needed to renegotiate her own withdrawal deal and the Irish Backstop contained in it. There was agreement across Leavers and Remainers to support Sir Graham Brady’s amendment to replace the Irish Backstop.
On seven different amendments on Tuesday there were similarly significant defeats for the attempts to override Commons Standing Orders and take control of the parliamentary agenda in order to delay Brexit. The only vote in which the Government failed to get its way was a non-binding assertion rejecting the notion of leaving the EU without a deal, tabled by Dame Caroline Spelman. But this passed by a majority of only eight.
It is also clear that grass roots Conservatives – members of their local Associations – voted for Brexit overwhelmingly in the referendum, and have not taken kindly where their local MPs have endeavoured to frustrate Brexit. Such MPs are beginning to realise they could risk being deselected. Also, as and when the Conservative Party chooses its next leader, the final vote is with Party Members, which virtually ensures that the successful candidate will be a Brexiteer.
We have been here before, over 40 years ago, but the other way around. Now Remainers should learn from the behaviour of those who then opposed Britain joining the Common Market. After a decisive pro-membership referendum result, the Leavers mostly shut up. Now the country is fed up with Brexit dragging on, not to mention the behaviour of the EU and of Parliamentarian Remainers, and wants a sensible deal.
If the EU does not accommodate time limitations on the Irish backstop, we will, de facto, move to trade on a WTO basis. This may prove to be the best result.