Justine Greening: Time for honesty '“ I backed Theresa May in confidence vote, but her Brexit deal must be ditched next week

EARLIER this week, I was one of 200 MPs who voted against having a disruptive Conservative Party leadership contest to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister.

Justine Greening says there should be a second referendum on Brexit - do you agree?

People would have rightly seen the Conservative Party as entirely inward looking instead of focused on how to get the country out of the mess Brexit has become.

However, just 14 weeks before Brexit, the position Britain finds itself in is deeply concerning. The Brexit debate in Parliament is on hold but the Brexit clock is still ticking.

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Justine Greening backed Theresa May in this week's confidence vote.

Yet, as things stand, we have no planned vote on any deal in Parliament and no Plan B.

The Prime Minister must have the courage of her convictions and bring her deal for Parliament to vote on before Christmas, not after.

More delay for another month will just cause more business uncertainty and waste more precious time Britain doesn’t have.

Justine Greening is the former Education Secretary.

Minor drafting changes obtained in Brussels will not alter the outcome of the Parliament vote on the PM’s Brexit deal.

As a former accountant, I was trained to go into the detail, and too much of the PM’s deal simply doesn’t work in our country’s interests.

The issues go well beyond the Northern Ireland border challenges. They’re often technical, but they affect real jobs and real lives and they all need a fix.

When I read the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement, I was taken aback by what we’d signed up to. For example, the Government has agreed that if the British Government wants to take steps to support British business, such as our steel industry and crucial for jobs in Yorkshire, the EU gets to be the judge and jury as to whether it thinks the steps we take are anti-competitive under EU state aid rules.

They’ve agreed the EU can give us as little as 30 days’ notice before fining us, and can decide whether and when the UK has complied for those fines to stop. That’s unacceptable.

There are other examples in the 585 pages of the legal Withdrawal Agreement MPs are being asked to vote for.

The Government has signed up to allow the UK to be barred from representing ourselves in international meetings on financial regulation that affect key regional financial hubs like Leeds and the City.

Instead, the EU will represent us even though we won’t be part of the EU anymore. Britain signed up to continue following their financial regulation rules – irrespective of whether they are in our interests. Britain is totally exposed to the decisions taken in Brussels, with no voice and no seat at the table.

So what’s the alternative? You might hear talk of “Norway” as an option. That’s essentially signing up to have all the EU rules, including free movement of people.

It’s an even bigger loss of sovereignty for Britain than the Prime Minister’s deal and isn’t the Brexit leavers voted for. Again, as a result, it has no chance of being supported by a majority of MPs in Parliament.

We’re just going round in circles in Parliament and have been for some time. The truth is that there’s no Parliamentary majority of MPs for any route forward.

The country needs Government to make smart decisions based on the practicalities on the ground, not some preferred version of Parliament and Britain which isn’t real.

Simply delaying things to hope that something else turns up becomes more irresponsible by the day, because time is running out, and fast.

The clock is steadily being run down on Brexit, the deadline of March next year looms and yet there is no agreed plan. We have to find a direction.

I think politicians need to be honest. No Brexit deal will have a majority supporting it in Parliament.

If it existed, we’d have found it over the past two-and-a-half years. We need to confront that truth and then work our way out of the gridlock.

I’ve reached the conclusion that the last resort available to us on Brexit is to cut to the chase. Not a rerun of 2016, but recognition that Parliament can’t decide and allowing people to choose directly at the ballot box from the detailed Brexit option we have today.

It’ll be faster in the end and we’ll get a result. It’s the only way we can finally get on to what people actually want fixing – education and more opportunities, health, social care, all the rest of our lives.

That’s what I’m doing – being honest about where we’re really at in Britain. It’s not responsible to kick the can down the road to next year, and I also don’t think it’s responsible to just ignore the reality of gridlocked Parliament either.

By asking voters, we can have 
a route that at least gets us through to a Brexit conclusion and then onto the rest of the real world challenges we face in Britain.

The alternative is to continue to have MPs still with their heads in the sand, Parliament going round in circles as it has been for two years and Britain risking sleepwalking towards an “accidental” chaotic no deal Brexit.

It might be unpalatable but that’s the choice facing Britain now. It’s decision time.

Justine Greening is a Conservative MP. Born in Rotherham, she served as Education Secretary until January.