DISCUSSIONS continue over the EU Withdrawal Act. In one respect, I am glad that the Prime Minister chose not to progress with the “meaningful vote” on the deal which she has so far negotiated, because I believe it to be fundamentally flawed in a variety of ways. If we are to save the Union, the so-called backstop with regard to the Northern Irish border must be deleted. But there are several other aspects of the deal which are almost equally unacceptable.
The Prime Minister must therefore now seek a fundamental renegotiation with the European Union; and if they are not prepared to consider the points we make, then we must urgently prepare to leave the EU on March 29 without any further discussions.

I am increasingly of the view that that could be managed, albeit with a period of turbulence in the short term. Most of the world’s trade is conducted under WTO terms and there is really no reason why we should not do so as well. At the very least we must be ready to make it plain to our EU partners that we are fully ready to leave without having come to any formal agreement with them, which may of itself be sufficient to make them see reason. After all, EU countries need a trade agreement with the UK at least as much as we need one with them.

While I greatly admire her dogged determination and stamina, if the PM is unable to initiate that fundamental renegotiation in the time available, then I am beginning to come to the view that she must step aside in favour of a tougher negotiator who may be better able to deliver what 17.4 million people voted for on the June 23, 2016, namely a clean and straightforward break with the EU. Whatever the outcome of tonight's vote of no confidence in Mrs May, the mere fact that is occurring and that a significant number of Conservative MPs indicated their lack of confidence in her should surely be enough to demonstrate to her and to those around her in 10 Downing Street that she must now renegotiate the deal or risk losing the confidence of her Party.

This is a complex and fast-moving area of politics and I will, of course, try to keep you up to date on it as we go along.

I know that my approach will be highly satisfactory to the 52 per cent of my constituents who voted to leave, will be a slight disappointment to those with whom I disagree about holding a second referendum, and will no doubt be disappointing (although unsurprising) to those who would like to remain in the EU.

As your MP I believe it to be my duty to lay out plainly what I believe, knowing that many of my constituents with whom I am otherwise in alignment will not agree with me. That is the very nature of a binary decision such as this, and I would much prefer that my constituents should at least know with clarity where I stand even if they do not agree with me.

I am very sorry that the Gazette & Herald has announced that it will no longer carry the MPs’ columns from the end of this year, as I think it an important route for letting you all know my views and actions.

However, I will continue to distribute a weekly newsletter to the close to 20,000 addresses currently on my database and will happily add any other Gazette readers who might want me to. A quick email to jamesgraymp@parliament.uk is all that is needed to keep up to date.