Norman Lamb MP: We cannot afford to drift into a No Deal scenario, which will be enormously damaging for this country
Lib Dem MP and Liaison Committee member Norman Lamb writes ahead of Tuesday's crucial votes that he is "working together with Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum to prevent a No Deal outcome which we cannot afford".
In her statement on Monday afternoon to the House of Commons on her new Brexit plan, the Prime Minister showed very little flexibility. There was no real sense of any movement in what she offered – no changes to her red lines and an unwillingness to consider any other options. It’s like nobody had mentioned to her that her defeat last week was on an historic scale.
This was just days after announcing that she would talk to MPs across Parliament about how to find a way forward. As Hilary Benn put it, ‘She had an open door and a closed mind’.
It’s become clear, if it wasn’t already, that the Prime Minister is trying to run down the clock and wear people down.
The Prime Minister is taking a gamble as she delays again and again in order to try and get her deal through the Commons. She’s playing Russian roulette with the British economy and with people’s jobs. The last time this Prime Minister gambled, it was to call a snap election. We all know how that ended. There is an awful risk of unintended consequences.
We cannot afford to drift into a No Deal scenario, which will be enormously damaging for this country, and will hurt many areas (especially some which voted to Leave) particularly badly. I genuinely fear the consequences of disrupted supply chains, delayed investment decisions, high tariffs on certain sectors and potential interruptions to the supply of medicines.
That’s why I’m working together with Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum to prevent a No Deal outcome which we cannot afford.
This is not about stopping Brexit - it’s about bringing Britain together. The Prime Minister’s focus seems to be on holding together her own party. I’m interested in how we can bring the country together.
The MPs I’m working with share a variety of views about what should ultimately happen at the end of the Brexit process. However, we all agree – as do Members across the House, and even members of the Prime Minister’s own Cabinet – that No Deal would be a disaster for Britain.
My own view is that the next step has to be for the people of this country to take ownership over the Brexit process. It’s time to abandon tribal politics and instead engage in mature reflection, aimed at a pragmatic consensus.
We should be encouraging real deliberation over the issues at hand – and out of the hands of the political class. Mechanisms like Citizens’ Assemblies, which have been used to great success in Canada as well as helping to inform the recent Abortion referendum in Ireland, will allow a diverse range of ordinary people to engage with the issues properly.
I then think that the right thing to do is to hand this question back to the people.
It’s clear how divisive the Brexit referendum has been, and these divisions have only been exacerbated since 2016. People feel betrayed; others, that their voice was never listened to in the first place.
That’s why the key outcome I seek in this process is healing the wounds which are now open across the UK. Wounds which the referendum result were a reflection of. Whatever the outcome of the Brexit process is, it’s clear that people across our country feel ignored and left out. Many have failed to benefit from the last thirty years of economic policy. We have one of the most unequal countries, geographically, in Northern Europe.
May’s Deal or Remain, Single Market or Norway Plus – whatever the outcome, what matters is that afterwards we strike a New Deal, one concerned not with our relationship with the EU but with bringing the country together once again, ending pervasive economic inequality, and making sure everyone in Britain feels like their and their families’ lives are improving.
But if we fall off a cliff-edge into a catastrophic No Deal scenario, this will not be possible. A No Deal Brexit must be prevented.
Norman Lamb is the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk. He is the Chair of the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons and is therefore a member of the Liaison Committee.
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