I have been contacted by hundreds of people over the last 48 hours. The vast majority are angry and disappointed and want me to vote against the Brexit deal which was published this week.
I am unlikely to do this and will now explain why.
Those who want the deal voted down have very different motives.
One group believe that it will not lead to a clear enough separation from the EU. They want this deal voted down in order to allow a “no-deal” Brexit to take place at the end of March.
An equal number of people, who support EU membership, would like this deal voted down in order to prevent Brexit from taking place.
The anti EU group will point out that we have already passed legislation to enact Article 50 which is legally irrevocable and that whatever happens we will legally leave the EU at the end of March.
The pro-EU group believe that nothing is inevitable and that if a majority of MPs from all parties get together they could force the government to extend Article 50 or hold another referendum.
The anti-EU group believe that even if they could command a majority for a specific course action, that it could not be done by the end of March.
Both of these groups can number people with an excellent grasp of legal and constitutional issues who can put forward convincing arguments that voting down the deal will lead to the outcome they want ie a so-called “hard” Brexit or no Brexit at all.
Obviously they cannot both be right. If in the next week or so we see pro EU and anti EU MPs uniting to vote down this deal we can be certain that some of them, and their supporters across the country, are going to be bitterly disappointed with the outcome.
Trying to predict what will happen if the deal falls is impossible. Clearly there are an almost equal number of government supporting MPs (Conservative) and anti-government MPs (Labour the SNP and LibDems) Not all will vote along party lines and not all will do what people might broadly expect them to do. There is therefore absolutely no way of predicting whether voting down this deal will lead to a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all
The alternative is for everyone to support this far from perfect deal.
This deal will see us legally out of the EU by the end of March but effectively still within the Customs Union for at least 2 years. I would be the first to acknowledge that it is not the clear Brexit that was being sought by the Government and I do not want to see Britain locked permanently into a Customs Union with the EU and no way out. I will be seeking reassurances on this point. I believe that the Government should continue to plan for a WTO Brexit in 2 years in case we do not get a free trade deal with the EU. The kindest thing I can say about the deal is that it is a compromise solution which is going to require further work over the 2 year transition period and beyond.
It will turn Brexit into a slow process rather than a quick and exciting event.
To those who would like a clearer Brexit I have great sympathy. I voted for a referendum in 2011 against my own party whip. I actively campaigned for Brexit virtually on a daily basis, speaking at meetings and running street stalls across Wales and the West Country throughout the campaign. I am therefore disappointed that we are being asked to swallow this compromise. At the same time, I would far rather take this half loaf Brexit than risk losing it completely.
To those who support the EU membership I would like to respectfully point out that the public voted to leave and they expect Brexit to be delivered. There is a growing feeling of anger amongst leave voters who feel that they are being ignored and talked down to. Any attempt to simply ignore the result or try to re run the referendum will lead to unimaginable anger amongst many millions of people.
This deal offers a way to take Britain out whilst maintaining a close trading relationship with the EU. I truly believe that if I were a supporter of the EU I would rather support this deal than risk the outcome of voting it down.
We are clearly in the middle of a very unstable political situation. As an ardent Brexiteer I believe we should, for the sake of the country, now accept this compromise. For the same reason I will not back any leadership campaign against Theresa May. In my view the very last thing we need in the middle of all this is a challenge to the Prime Minister.
I would urge ardent EU supporters to take the same view and speak up for this as it will at least deliver the certainty which so many have called for.
If this deal collapses and nothing else is agreed then I will give my fullest support to delivering a Brexit at the end of March without a deal.
I have received hundreds of email on this issue and many have sent long lists of detailed questions. I am afraid given the numbers I cannot give individual answers. This represents my position and is being sent to everyone who has contacted me whatever their opinion. Whilst many may disagree I think it is clear enough.