Wes Streeting: If the PM believes her deal delivers the will of the people, she should have the courage to ask them

Posted On: 
22nd March 2019

The Prime Minister has inflicted a national humiliation on our country. If she genuinely believes she has negotiated the best deal possible, her only hope of keeping it alive is to embrace the ‘Kyle-Wilson compromise’ and put it to a referendum, writes Wes Streeting

Theresa May after delivering her Downing Street statement on Wednesday night
Credit: 
PA

In our social media age, it is too easy to click ‘send’ in haste. That’s why I spent the tube journey home on Wednesday night thinking long and hard before saying what I said about the Prime Minister’s statement in Downing Street.

Having had yet another conversation with a friend about a serious death threat sent to her family home, I knew it had to be said: “Theresa May knows that MPs across the House are subjected to death threats – some very credible. Her speech was incendiary and irresponsible. If any harm comes to any of us, she will have to accept her share of responsibility.”

I stand by every word. In an age of populism and extremism, pitting Parliament against the people is dangerous. The charge that MPs are conspiring against the people is also untrue. Our country remains deeply divided over Brexit. It should therefore come as no surprise that Parliament is also divided.

Whatever our differences, the last two years have never shaken my belief that the vast majority of MPs – on both sides of the House and both sides of the referendum divide – are making choices based on what each of us believes to be in the best interests of our communities and our country.

If the Prime Minister wants to pin the blame anywhere, she need look no further than a mirror. She established a series of red lines without consulting Parliament. She negotiated on the basis of a ‘Chequers agreement’ that barely survived Chequers and was never put to Parliament.

Having come back with something demonstrably worse than what she sought, worse than what people were promised and worse than the deal we have now, she seemed surprised that it went crashing down to the worst defeat for any Government in the history of Parliament. She has inflicted what most voters regard as a national humiliation on our country.

The European Council has given us an extra couple of weeks to make up our minds about how we wish to proceed. Most colleagues I speak to are desperate to find a way through this difficult and unprecedented deadlock.

It is past time for the Prime Minister to recognise that she has no majority, and to set the House of Commons free to debate a range of options and to test which of those options stands the best chance of building a consensus by allowing for a series of indicative votes. If she genuinely believes she has negotiated the best deal possible, her only hope of keeping that deal alive is to embrace the ‘Kyle-Wilson compromise’ – the backbench initiative led by Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson that would give the choice to the people in a public vote along the same lines as those used to adopt the Good Friday Agreement.

Just as the Prime Minister must face up to reality, so must the House of Commons. The idea that we can find a stable majority behind an alternative plan that could be negotiated and signed off within weeks is for the birds. So is the notion that our path should be dictated by a Westminster obsession with avoiding European parliamentary elections. Our country is at an historic crossroads and our decisions shouldn’t be subordinate to the inconvenience of European elections.

If the Prime Minister believes that her deal delivers the will of the people, she should have the courage to ask them. Like other MPs who invoke ‘the will of the people’ to continue pushing this discredited Brexit, the public mood suggests the Prime Minister may not like the answer.

Wes Streeting is Labour MP for Ilford North