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Gale's View - 11/09/2019

September 11th 2019


I have faced two questions during the past week: “Why are you voting with the Government if you do not want us to leave the EU without a deal”? and “Why don`t you do as Amber Rudd has done, leave the Conservative Party and become an independent”?

Politics is an imprecise science but let me try to explain my thinking:

The British people voted, in 2016, to leave the European Union. The government agreed to respect the result of the referendum and since then we have explored a number of options for none of which is there any majority in the House.

(I myself voted three times for Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement on the basis that it was the least worst of the choices realistically available).

Mrs May’s negotiating position was consistently undermined by those who led Brussels to believe that if the EU dug in we would not leave at all and by those, including Mr Johnson and a number of Cabinet and other Ministers, who consistently defied the whip to oppose her agreement.

While I may not like that we have to learn from our mistakes: it is by no means certain that the reality of a No Deal will bring the EU to a compromise that will get through the House but what is clear is that to remove that option at this moment will scotch any prospect of an agreement and lead inexorably to the cliff-edge exit that most of us do not want.

It is a high-risk strategy but even Jeremy Hunt, whose leadership campaign I was an integral part of, recognised that in extremis a No Deal exit had to be the alternative option. The alternative is `Remain’ and if anyone seriously believes that that would put the issue to bed then they are, I fear, baying at the moon.

It is increasingly likely that a General Election, towards which we appear to be inexorably moving, is the only answer but for the moment I live in the hope that a compromise can be reached with the EU before October 31st that will allow the moderate majority on both sides of the House to support it and to at last move forward.

While I respect my colleagues who have chosen to become independent - Amber Rudd is a personal and very dear friend - I believe that if those who wish to resist the polarisation of the Conservatives and efforts to transform it from a One Nation party into the provisional wing of the Brexit group leave the field then we shall be handing over our future to populists and extremists. As I have made clear very publicly through my actions during the past week I therefore intend to continue to fight for the soul of the party of which I have been a member for more than fifty years from within.

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