North Herts |
29th March 2019
Thank you for your open
letter of 27th March, in which you explained your position on Brexit and your
reasons for voting as you did on the indicative votes of the same evening.
The People’s Vote Campaign in Hitchin and Harpenden
North Herts for Europe (which
includes Hitchin) and Harpenden for Europe were formed in late 2017 and early
2018 respectively, as branches of the European Movement, and are now also
affiliated to the People’s Vote campaign.
Each group was founded by
local constituents from all political backgrounds who were deeply concerned at
the results of the 2016 Referendum. The majority in our two groups have never
been politically active before. However, every one of us has serious doubts
regarding the Government’s interpretation of the result, and its approach to negotiations
with the European Union. We share a common belief that our country has made a
very grave error in voting to Leave the European Union, and that our nation is
being deeply and permanently damaged as a result.
Together our two groups now
comprise over 1,000 local supporters and activists from across the constituency.
We do not claim to speak for the 64%  of constituents
who wish to Remain in the European Union, nor the 16,000 who have signed the
Revoke Article 50 petition , nor even the 1,000
who travelled from across our constituency to join the People’s Vote March in
London on the 23rd March. However, we do exist to serve those in our
constituency who share our deeply and sincerely-held concerns regarding Brexit,
and to provide them with support and information to help them make their voices
Your open letter on Brexit
You make many points in your
letter of 27th March, and we appreciate the time and care you have taken to
compose these messages. Many of your points are fair and reasonable. For
example, we agree that, when faced with difficult challenges and differing
viewpoints, respectful dialogue, listening and compromise are essential. We
also agree that, across your constituency there are many different, reasonable
and sincerely-held views on Brexit.
However there are many
serious flaws and omissions in your letter, and we respectfully and resolutely take
this opportunity to convey our response, and invite you to change course and
put the interests of your country and your constituents first.
The 2016 Referendum
We believe that it is important
to recall why the 2016 Referendum was called in the first place.
In 2015, our relationship
with the European Union was not even considered a priority by the British
People, when compared with immigration, the NHS or the economy . The fact is, that
the 2016 Referendum was called primarily because David Cameron, then Prime
Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, was concerned at the loss of
electoral support to UKIP. The inclusion of a commitment to an EU Referendum in
the 2015 Conservative General Election manifesto was not made in the national
interest, but rather solely for the purposes of maintaining internal cohesion within
the Conservative Party; the now infamous “Conservative psychodrama”.
The Referendum campaign itself
was plagued by poor information, lacklustre campaigning from the major parties and
outright lies, primarily by the Leave campaign. It is fair to say that George
Osborne went too far in his “Project Fear” statements, but his (not unfounded) concerns
regarding the impact of Brexit on the economy were dwarfed by the blatant lies
of the Leave campaign, most notably that we would be able to spend an extra £350m a week on the NHS, that
Turkey was on the verge of joining the EU and that we would be able to remain
in the Single Market .
Furthermore, the Vote Leave
campaign has been found guilty of breaking electoral law and fined by the
Electoral Commision, with the findings referred to the Metropolitan Police for
criminal investigation. Vote
Leave were found guilty of breaking electoral law through false declarations of
campaign spending, exceeding spending limits and funnelling funds through separate
Leave campaign groups .
Reversing Brexit and the “threat to democracy”
You begin your argument by claiming
that “if Parliament were to try to
frustrate or overturn the result it would trigger an even more serious
political crisis, and public anger”. These points do not hold up to
We are already in the midst
of an unprecedented peacetime crisis. Our country, our Government and our
Parliament, once admired throughout the world for its stability, wisdom and
pragmatism, is now widely acknowledged as a global laughing stock. The cause of
this humiliation and anger is evident: the “low grade political gamesmanship”
has emanated primarily from the Government, the first in British political
history to be found in contempt of Parliament.
Investment, jobs and business
confidence are draining out of our economy. Our most successful and important
industries are being hollowed out as automotive, life sciences and financial
services companies move operations elsewhere. Moreover, to continue with a
policy that, on the basis of the Government’s own analysis, will permanently
damage our economy ,
because of the implied threat of “public anger” is a shameful and completely
unacceptable democratic surrender to mob rule.
You go on to state that “we
all promised to abide by the result”. Again, you are mistaken. No we didn’t.
The 2015 European Union Referendum Act is very explicit in stating that the
Referendum was advisory, and not binding on Parliament. The fact that the David
Cameron then decided to make his “we will do what you say” commitment was his
error, made for short-term political advantage. Just as no Parliament has the
right to bind its successor, no British Prime Minister has the right to bind his
successors or indeed the British people.
The first of the Prime
Minister’s three Brexit Secretaries, David Davis, made this point far better
than we ever could when he said:
“If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to
be a democracy” 
The Withdrawal Agreement
The Withdrawal Agreement is
not a “good deal”, as you claim. It is, in fact, a terrible deal. It is riddled
with many serious flaws, in particular the Backstop, which is as you know, an
inevitable consequence of the Government’s self-imposed red lines in the Brexit
negotiations. Contrary to what your former colleagues in the ERG claim, the
Backstop is not a punishment inflicted on the UK by the EU, but rather an
inevitable consequence of Theresa May’s own ‘Red Lines’ in her negotiating
approach. There remains no solution, despite decades of campaigning and
“Research” by the European Research Group, for exiting the Customs Union
without imposing a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of
In particular, there is one
flaw, at the heart of the Deal itself, that you fail to mention. The transition
period within the Withdrawal Agreement explicitly provides for a minimum 21
month period where the United Kingdom will remain subject to European Union
laws and regulations, both existing and new, and also the jurisdiction of the
European Court of Justice. However, we will be stripped of our democratic
representation in the European Parliament (73 MEPs), our appointed judges in
the ECJ and our voting rights in the European Council.
We will be a colony of a
foreign power for the first time in our country’s history.
Your failure to mention this
critical fact in your letter is a breathtaking omission. How can it possibly be
acceptable, even for a single day, for this country, and your own constituents,
to be subject to unaccountable foreign rule? This in itself should be reason
for all British citizens, regardless of whether they voted Leave or Remain in
2016, to immediately reject the Withdrawal Agreement. Nobody voted in 2016 for
less democracy for the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, the “end to free
movement” that you imply as a benefit of the Withdrawal Agreement, is in
reality a cruel removal of valuable rights enjoyed by your constituents and
their families. Currently, as citizens of the European Union, we are able to
live, study, work and retire in 27 neighbouring countries. The European Union
even enables reciprocal cross-border healthcare across all 28 nations. The
ability of younger people in particular to pursue their studies and develop
their careers will be severely curtailed if we leave the European Union. How is
this in any way a benefit to your constituents, in particular children and young
peopl with their lives ahead of them ?
Your hyperbole regarding the
“vast budget payments” to the EU is also wholly misleading. In 2017 the UK made
net payments (after accounting for receipts and rebates) to the EU of £8.9bn . This is approximately
1% of UK government expenditure, £135 per person. These costs are dwarfed by
the benefits of our EU membership, which are estimated at between £62bn – £78bn
per annum . Why do you propose we give up so much for so
You also place great
confidence in the Political Declaration, describing it as “a unique deal”. You are
confusing the present with the future or imagined future; because this deal
does not exist. It has not been agreed. You claim it will promote trade in
goods, but fail to mention that it will provide no benefit for trade in services,
which make up the majority of our economy, our exports and many of our leading
industries. You are asking your constituents to take a leap of faith with a
“Blind Brexit”, that is to leave a proven, successful economic relationship
with our closest friends and neighbours and the world’s largest free trade
zone, for what is no more than a wish list.
You make the case that the UK
will be able to negotiate its own international trade deals from the start of
the implementation period. Unfortunately, the person currently leading these
negotiations for the UK is Dr Liam Fox. Upon leaving the EU we will of course
lose access to the 70 EU trade deals currently in place with 40 countries,
including the most recently agreed EU deal with Japan.
You may recall that Dr Fox once
claimed that the trade deal with the EU “should be the easiest in human
You may also recall his commitment that, upon the point of our departure from
the EU, he would immediately roll over the existing EU trade deals . As of this
week he currently has 8 signed trade deals, including major economies such as
the Palestinian Authority and the Faroe Islands . In addition,
under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, whilst new trade deals can be
negotiated after our exit from the EU, none can actually start until the end of
the transition period.
Even if Dr Fox was replaced
with a credible international trade negotiator, this would not change the fact
that, outside of the EU, the UK would be negotiating alone with larger, more
powerful and highly protectionist trading partners such as the United States,
China, India and Japan. Not to mention the EU itself. The notion that, with our
bargaining power and expertise no longer allied with that of Germany, France,
the Netherlands and 24 other EU countries, we could negotiate equivalent terms
as those we enjoy as a full member state of the EU is simply absurd.
The Indicative Votes
You have taken the time to
explain your reasons for casting your Indicative Votes on the 27th March, and
we would like to provide our response. It is worth remembering that the entire
intent of these votes were to identify not what Parliament wanted to happen,
but rather what would Parliament consider acceptable.
You rightly state that a No
Deal outcome “is not desirable”. On this point we agree. However you understate
the case by claiming it “is not the best outcome”. Well, quite.
Common Market 2.0 and EEA
You described your support
for the Common Market 2.0 and EFTA / EEA amendments. Both are highly flawed in
that, as with the Withdrawal Agreement, they leave us subject to EU law without
democratic representation. Why would we relegate ourselves from rule maker to
rule taker? These options do not satisfy Leaver demands regardimg free movement
either. Additionally, EFTA / EEA offers no solution to the Northern Ireland Backstop
Both arrangements are
inferior in every way to our current full EU membership. They are not a
compromise; they are a downgrade.
Revoking Article 50
You voted against the Cherry
amendment, providing the Government with the instruction to revoke our Article
50 notice to the European Union, should the Government be unable to pass the
Withdrawal Agreement one day before the leaving date AND Parliament had voted
against No Deal.
Is this really an
unacceptable option to you? What you also do not make clear is whether you
would support revocation if the only alternative were No Deal. This is an
entirely plausible and by no means hypothetical scenario. We would ask that you
make your position clear on this point.
The People’s Vote
You have consistently opposed
putting the Withdrawal Agreement to the British people and your constituents for
You have failed to
acknowledge the serious differences between expectation and reality that exist
between the promises made in the 2016 Referendum, and the Withdrawal Agreement
now on offer. No one voted to be poorer, nor to become the colony of a foreign
You have failed to
acknowledge the contradiction between your support for three Meaningful Votes
for Parliament on the Withdrawal Agreement, and denying even one for your
Worse, you fail to recognise
that the first Meaningful Vote was lost by the largest margin in British
politics history. This was not the 52:48 margin in the 2016 Referendum, it was
32:68, by any assessment an overwhelming defeat. After today’s defeat,
Withdrawal Agreement has now been rejected three times by Parliament.
In this context, how can you
possibly deny your country and your constituents the opportunity to ratify the
Withdrawal Agreement, with the option to Remain?
Constituency and Country first
We trust that we have clearly
expressed our point of view regarding your position on Brexit, and the deep
concerns that we hold regarding your representation of the interests of our
We continue to believe, based
on all the information made available to us since June 2016, that the best
interests of this constituency and this country are served by the United
Kingdom remaining in the European Union.
The coming weeks will see
further opportunities for you to demonstrate that you are fulfilling your
special duty to the constituents you have been elected to represent as our
Member of Parliament.
We therefore call on you to
support further amendments in favour of either a People’s Vote or Revoking
Article 50, and preventing all forms of No Deal Brexit.
We thank you for your service
to our community.
On behalf of Harpenden for
Europe and North Herts for Europe,
Chair, Harpenden for Europe
Chair, North Herts for Europe
Right to Vote, March 2019
What trade deals has the UK done so far? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47213842