The Letwin Amendment Will Satisfy All Parties

I have had genuine concerns, since the Government lost the vote this week on Amendment 7, that the next challenge on the table would be over next week’s vote to put the Leaving date on the face of the Bill.  It’s been thrown out in the media already that a rebellion was on the cards and that there would be a challenge. The rhetoric around it all has been broached a little bit already in the chamber too, and this has been a real worry. My inbox is full enough with residents’ Brexit concerns, and sometimes conspiracy theories too, without further confusion and perceived delay.

My Mansfield constituency voted 72% to Leave the EU, and what people want most of all is to see Brexit delivered on time as promised. My inbox is constantly full of concerns about delay and obstruction, which I am able to answer confidently by saying that there can be no delay at all; the date is fixed and will be written in to law. This is a hugely positive suggestion that gives my constituents the clarity and commitment they need to start to believe that we’re genuinely going to deliver on what we promised, and that is vitally important for my community.

With that in mind I’m more than happy with the proposed changes, put forward by Oliver Letwin et al, to bring the party and Government together and ensure we move forward with this. Amendments have already been tabled to try and remove the date from the Bill, but it’s my belief that everyone can unite around Oliver Letwin’s new proposal. This will see us carry on and ensure that the date appears on the Bill as promised, whilst giving Government limited powers to make small changes further down the line.

The potential ‘rebels’ concerns are legitimate, in that nobody wants to reach exit day and see the whole thing fall down because we needed another day or two to get everything signed and sealed. It’s also important that we have a fixed deadline to focus minds and reassure Leave voters across the UK. Both of these issues are important to both the national interest and unity in Government, and this amendment deals with both effectively.

In the context of the whole timeline for Brexit, this flexibility around the date could be used to accommodate procedural delays or bureaucracy, it will not affect the content of the deal. Everyone involved has been clear that decisions on content need to be made in 2018 in order to get them ratified and through both Parliaments, so by the time we get close to March 2019 that will be a done deal. The date is fixed and written in law, the deal will be done long before, but Government will retain helpful powers to make sure we can tip the whole thing over the line without running out of time.

Far from being divided, this shows that we are a party of sensible adults who can reach a credible agreement to take the country forward. Meanwhile Labour still can’t decide what they’re for, only what they’re against. They’ll criticise with no alternative. They’ll say anything that suits the audience at the time.

I’ll be signing the Letwin Amendment and supporting it wholeheartedly from my 72% Leave constituency, and I’m certain that my colleagues will do the same to ensure we deliver the best deal possible, and deliver it on time. Good news all round.

Ben Bradley is the Conservative MP for Mansfield