I had a conversation this week in which I referred to MPs as being Remain or Leave supporters, based on their 2016 vote. That person said, very reasonably, “Shouldn’t we be base things on their current positions, not on what they did in 2016?”
That’s fair enough. People change their minds. And their are some MPs, such as Ben Bradley who may have voted Remain in 2016 but whose words and voting record since have been strongly pro-Brexit (though I’m not aware of any who’ve gone the other way).
On the other hand, simple words aren’t enough. There are plenty of 2016 Remain voters who say, “I honour the referendum result, but…” and whose voting record and other actions consistently make it more likely that we will stay in the EU, for example by voting for Remain options unless they achieve their perfect (and very specific) type of deal. So with that in mind, I’ve made a small flow-chart to show how one can tell whether an MP, in 2019, should be considered a Leaver or Remainer.
A few points worth noting:
- Party is not relevant. There are staunch Leave supporters on the Labour benches and out-and-out Conservative Remainers.
- I give a greater benefit of the doubt to those who voted and campaigned for Leave in 2016. Doing so was a difficult decision for many, placing themselves on the other side to their party leadership. Even if they have made some dubious decisions more recently (e.g. Gove), I’m willing to believe that they are still genuinely committed to leaving.
- There’s nothing in here about whether an MP voted for or against Theresa May’s deal, a customs union, staying in the Single Market, Common Market 2.0 or other Brexit options. This is deliberate. There are many ways in which we could leave the EU and it’s entirely legitimate for MPs to argue for and advance the preferred option. What separates the sheep from the goats is whether, if they don’t get their first choice and time’s up, do they go ahead and vote to leave – or to delay and remain.