Burnham-On-Sea’s MP James Heappey has said ‘the public haven’t changed their minds on Brexit so now it’s time for MPs to give voters what they want’.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph over the weekend, the MP laid out his position, saying he is not part of any ‘parliamentary conspiracy to block Brexit’ ahead of a looming Commons vote on Theresa May’s updated Brexit plans.
He writes: “In Westminster there is no shortage of politicians willing to tell you that people did not know what they were voting for in the referendum. The public were duped, so these MPs say, by a dodgy campaign that promised them the moon on a stick. Some of those politicians will be honest enough to admit that they think Brexit should be cancelled and the people saved from themselves before any lasting damage is done. While I don’t agree with them, I grudgingly respect their conviction.”
“Yet many more MPs are unwilling to be quite so clear on their suggested remedy. Hesitant to say they want to block Brexit, they talk of a People’s Vote or a People’s Assembly. Others want to tie the whole Brexit process in knots in the hope that it all becomes too difficult and goes away. They believe Brexit is a calamity; they want to see it done in, but they don’t want their fingerprints on, or anywhere near, the corpse.”
He continues: “You’d think that if Brexit really was so disastrous and if the people really had been so completely misled, these MPs would be on TV openly championing its demise. But they’re not – and that’s because hundreds of them represent constituencies that voted to leave, and when they escape SW1 at the end of the week, they meet constituents who say they know exactly what they voted for. They’ve not changed their minds and they’re not scared that we’re teetering on the brink of disaster. They’re just angry that Parliament seems incapable of delivering what they voted for and still very much want. That anger is growing, too. The Brexit process is being meddled with, parliamentary procedure is being arbitrarily changed and people are starting to feel cheated.”
“I see it back home in Somerset all the time. Politely, often nervously, constituents will ask if we can talk about the “B Word”, and then they lean in close to say how disappointed they are with the way MPs are behaving and to check what I’m planning on doing in the days ahead.”
“I hate that they think that I’m part of this parliamentary conspiracy to block Brexit. I hate that they believe that Parliament isn’t working in their interests. And I hate that in an open, liberal democracy such as ours, they think – justifiably – that a small number of MPs can work with the Speaker to stack the deck against them.”
He continues: “Two weeks ago I voted for the Prime Minister’s deal. If you gave me the chance to vote for it again, I would. Since it was unveiled I’ve felt able to look my constituents in the eye and say that, while imperfect, I believe it to honour the result of the referendum. I hope in the weeks ahead, the Prime Minister can deliver something on the backstop that will allow colleagues previously opposed to the deal to support it.”
“However, I also know that she might not be able to pull it off and, if she doesn’t, I’ll have to front up to a very simple question: no deal or no Brexit? I’d choose no deal.”
“I don’t doubt that no deal might bring consequences for our economy but the Government has levers at its disposal to mitigate. The Government does not, however, have any levers to pull that would reverse the breakdown in trust between the electorate and its elected representatives if we were to quit on Brexit altogether.”
“More importantly, there comes a time when you just have to make a stand. For months now, Parliament has been assuming that with the nation’s collective backs against the wall, the public want us to find a way out of it. They don’t. They want us to stand up for ourselves; to set out our requirement for a change to the backstop and if it doesn’t come then we hold our ground and leave without a deal. As a former soldier, I know only too well that sometimes you just have to stand and fight. Of course I’d prefer a deal but I trust in our amazing country and our capacity to work through whatever challenges no deal might bring. I also refuse to be complicit in the skulduggery of those who lack the courage to say to their leave-voting constituencies that they want to block Brexit.”
“The majority of people in this country have an instinct for fairness. However they voted in the referendum, they’ve accepted the result. They can see what’s going on in Parliament and they don’t like it one bit. Its time MPs realised that each and every one us has a responsibility to stand up and be counted. To show that we respect the decision of our constituents and we believe in the boundless ability of our great country.”
Burnham-On-Sea MP’s stance on Brexit
Burnham-On-Sea’s MP defended the Brexit deal at a heated town meeting attended by 200 residents on November 29th, 2018. He said “crashing out” of the EU with no Brexit deal would create a situation that would be “quite brutal”. And Burnham’s MP added that holding a second referendum would be “a huge betrayal” to voters.
Mr Heappey also made an impassioned speech to Parliament during a debate over Theresa May’s Brexit deal in December. During the speech, below, he also infamously said: “I left work last night embarrassed to call myself an MP”.
In the debate, he criticised MPs for “digging our trenches deeper and refusing to find compromise.”
In the June 2016 EU referendum, residents in Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge voted to leave the EU. Across Sedgemoor, there were 41,869 votes to leave and 26,545 votes to remain. Several polling stations in Burnham and Highbridge reported 70% turnouts, far higher than previous General Elections.