Week 5 December – 11 December
In a week when MPs voted overwhelmingly to back a motion that backed the Prime Minister’s plan to activate Article 50 by the end of March next year, the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson got himself in trouble for saying Saudi Arabia is involved in proxy wars, and the Supreme Court heard the government’s appeal to an earlier High Court ruling that said Parliament would have to vote on the activation of Article 50, what did Bernard Jenkin do?
Speeches and written questions
Mr Jenkin spoke several times this week during one debate on Wednesday about the motion to back the governments plan for Brexit. His first contribution to the debate was an intervention while Ken Clarke, MP for Rushcliffe, was speaking. He said that he welcomed what he saw as Mr Clarke agreeing with the idea that Parliament should be supreme. Mr Jenkin added, “Is it not rather odd that we now have a Supreme Court that sees itself as a constitutional court able to direct that this House shall have to do something, which has always previously been our right?”
When Mr Jenkin next spoke he began his speech by saying he found the speech by Labour MP Andy Burnham, which had just preceded him, refreshing. He spoke of the need to, as he put it, “take on board the points made about healing divisions and adopting the right tone.”
He spoke of the need to, as he put it, “take on board the points made about healing divisions and adopting the right tone.” Mr Jenkin stressed that the UK has been a member of the EU for less than 50 years and said that while we debate the issue hotly now, “all the controversy will pass, and we will look back with much more equanimity than we feel today.”
The MP for Harwich and North Essex then took an intervention from John Redwood, a fellow Conservative MP and Brexit supporter, who said that it people should unite and not look for “possible or imaginary problems” regarding Brexit if the UK is to have the best negotiating position. Mr Jenkin said he agreed with Mr Redwood.
Mr Jenkin outlined that he saw two aspects to the motion the House was debating, that the government will produce a plan for Brexit and that most members of the House would vote for the activation of Article 50 by the end of March 2017. He said that this raises the question of why there is a the need for a Supreme Court case on the issue, “it prompts the question of why there is a court case, and why the courts have chosen to become involved, particularly once the motion is carried. We do not need a court to tell the House that it is sovereign.”
“The House could stop Brexit whenever it wanted, as it could stop anything else that a Government do if it chose to do so. It is unfortunate that a different kind of judiciary is developing, as I do not think that Parliament ever voted for that.”
After taking an intervention from SNP MP Angus MacNeil in which he warned that rushing into Article 50 may leave the UK without a trade deal with the EU after the negotiations were concluded, Mr Jenkin asserted that “a great deal of industry is quietly preparing for the possibility that there will not be an agreement.”
Later in his speech Mr Jenkin said that the government should look to put as little as possible into and not overload the agreement with the EU after Article 50 is activated. He made several suggestions about a couple of negotiating positions the government should take.
“Our opening pitch should be very simple. We should make an offer—a zero/zero offer: we will give EU countries zero tariffs on their exports to our country, if they will give us zero tariffs on their imports from us.”
“We should also offer an opportunity for mutual recognition of services agreements so that we can continue trading in services, as we do now. That, again, would be in everybody’s interest.”
Mr Jenkin finished his speech by speaking about the need for a simple repeal Bill to remove the European Communities Act from UK statute, “We need a repeal Bill of only a few clauses, setting out the principles by which we leave. It is worth reminding ourselves that the Czech Republic and Slovakia were one country and within six months of deciding to split, they split, and they are better friends now than they ever were before. That is the kind of relationship that I look forward to having with our European partners.”
Mr Jenkin voted twice this week, both times on the motion calling on the government to activate Article 50.
On Wednesday he voted: for the Labour motion calling on the government to publish its plan for Brexit before Article 50 is activated; and for the government amendment to the motion which called on the government to activate Article 50 by the end of March 2017.
Mr Jenkin voted with the majority and was loyal to the government on both votes this week.
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee carried out one oral evidence session this week. The session was for the committee’s inquiry into the government accounts.
Four MPs were questioned during the hearing: Craig McKinlay MP, Parliamentary Representative on the Financial Reporting Advisory Board, Dr John Pugh MP, co-author of Options to improve Parliamentary Scrutiny of Government Expenditure: a report to the Chancellor, and Rt Hon David Gauke MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Julian Kelly, Director General, Public Spending and Finance at the Treasury was also questioned during the session.