Brexit: demystifying all those amendments to Theresa May’s plan

There were some important Brexit votes in Parliament this week: as you know I promised during the referendum and the snap general election, that whatever my personal Remain views were, I would support an EU withdrawal bill.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 10:18 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 7:59 pm

I did this when it first came to the House a few weeks ago and will do so again when it returns.

I also said that I would not back calls for a second referendum or support a No Deal exit from the European Union. I have held these positions consistently for the last two-and-three-quarter years.

However, with all the various amendments being voted on last Tuesday evening, it’s been pretty confusing for the public to unpick what it really means.

From my perspective, I supported amendments urging the government avoid a no deal, and to extend Article 50 for a short period, if necessary, to ensure time to secure an orderly withdrawal from the EU.

One amendment opposing a no deal was passed which, although non-binding, does telegraph to the government the majority of the House would not support a no deal exit.

There were also a couple of amendments I specifically didn’t support as they could have lead to a second referendum or unduly delay Article 50. These would have breached my promise.

The reality is that we are at an impasse in Westminster and it’s causing real problems with the limited amount of legislative time left to deal with, for instance, the 600 statutory instruments which still have to go through Parliament before March 29.

Even that avowed Brexit minister, Andrea Leadsom MP, the Leader of the House, recently acknowledged the delays to the Withdrawal Bill passing through Parliament may necessitate a short delay to Article 50 being triggered.

As you may already know, I also supported the Brady amendment, which urges the government to return to Brussels to try and secure ‘alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border’.

I backed this because it may unlock the current logjam, and fits my commitment to support an EU Withdrawal Bill. Whether the EU will go along with it we have to wait and see.

So where does this all leave us?

Two votes passed with a majority - the Brady amendment and the no deal one.

This at least gives some clarity as to what actually ‘can’ get through Parliament rather than what people say ‘should’ happen.

I have to deal with what is possible and 
to do so with respect for those who may hold a different view to mine.

Throughout I am meeting the commitments I have made to our town because when I give my word to Eastbourne, I keep it. Always.

Interest-only mortgages: Some of you may remember the campaign I’ve been waging against Santander Bank on behalf of a local couple, Len and Val Fitzgerald, for the last couple of years.

It’s to do with an interest-only mortgage they have with the bank.

In a nutshell, as they’d both reached 75 and the bank did not allow people older than this to retain interest-only mortgages, they either had to pay off the loan, move to a repayment mortgage or sell their house.

Unfortunately the Fitzgeralds were not in a position to either sell or move to a repayment mortgage, so it appeared they could lose their home.

I thought this was dreadful and was also pretty appalled that Santander (unlike others) had an age limit of 75.

So cutting a long story short, I rowed in on their behalf.

The good news is the bank finally relented and extended their interest-only period which keeps Len and Val in their house.

Over that period I had numerous meetings with the bank, their trade association and other banks and building societies because it became very clear to me it was a national problem.

As well as working to fix things locally I wanted to do what I could to make a positive difference nationally.

This week was the fruition of those efforts. Mr and Mrs Fitzgerald came up to Westminster and spoke at an event I chaired, which introduced a number of new retirement interest-only mortgages the sector has been working on.

It was tremendous to welcome this fine, dignified couple up to Parliament and good to see a positive outcome which will now stretch far beyond Eastbourne. We change the world for the better, one small step at a time...

That’s it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.