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Snap!

Since the Prime Minister announced a snap election journalists have spent many hours suggesting her reasons for doing so, such as the need for a personal mandate for Brexit, the natural pause in the Brexit negotiations during the French and German elections, and the Conservative lead in the polls. It is clear that a renewed Conservative majority would give the new government the representative mandate for Brexit it currently lacks. A referendum mandate via direct democracy in our system still does not have the same empowering authority as actually winning an election, even if fewer people vote for the new government than voted Leave in the referendum.The general election will also resolve the question of whether the government has the right to drive through the detail of the legislation which it considers to be in the best interests of the nation. Some were holding out the prospect of the House of Lords cherry picking its way through the Great Reform Bill and the other draft acts of Parliament necessary to deliver Brexit, and possibly delaying key provisions and forcing the use of the Parliament Acts to get stuff through. With a Commons majority of only twelve, and without a new mandate, the detail of the government’s Brexit legislation would have lacked democratic legitimacy. This risk was that we would have seen how nothing destroys the credibility of a UK government more effectively than the failure of its legislative programme. A new Government with a stronger majority will be entitled to insist on application of the Salisbury Convention, which requires the House of Lords to respect what has been passed by the Commons if it was set out in the government’s election manifesto, and to let it pass.

However, one of the more speculative reasons given for announcing the general election is that the Prime Minister hopes that a big win will give her the ability to take on, not the opposition parties, but her supposedly bothersome eurosceptic colleagues within the Conservative Party, who would prefer, we read, for the UK to leave the EU with no deal at all. This is complete nonsense.

I chaired the cross party group of MPs that set up Vote Leave and was a board director throughout, after spending nearly 25 years in parliament, on and off, campaigning for a reform of the EU and of our relations with it. I now chair the European Research Group Steering Committee, which is helping the government with EU policy. Is it me they are talking about?

I am flattered if they are, but there is no such group of eurosceptics in the Conservative party. It sounds pat to say so, but I have never known the Conservatives in Parliament more united behind a Prime Minister who is being so widely commended for her strong leadership, for the bold and positive Brexit strategy she is pursuing, and for her new and positive vision for our country’s future. By seeking to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, from outside the single market, and by continuing to cooperate on crime and security, as well as other matters, the Prime Minister’s vision for Brexit is one that takes back control over our money, our laws and our borders while preserving the most beneficial aspects of cooperation with our EU partners. This is a sensible approach which we have welcomed and supported.

The Prime Minister has also shown herself to be the only credible leader as we enter these negotiations and continue to face such challenging times. The Labour Party has at its helm a leader who even its own MPs don’t support. The Liberal Democrats are too small to mount any serious opposition. And in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon is so obsessed with independence that she has failed to deal with the serious problems faced by Scotland’s NHS, education system and economy. The Prime Minister alone has not only shown herself capable of securing the best possible Brexit deal, but also of dealing with domestic challenges, not least with the economy. I forecast that Labour’s threat to the economy will be just as big, if not bigger, than the issue of Brexit in this election. All Conservative MPs stand behind the Prime Minister, ready and willing to provide their support.

I have never felt so optimistic about our country’s future. A great constitutional question has been resolved and we have a brilliant Prime Minister ready to lead us into the next chapter in our country’s future. She deserves the big majority on June 8th and the future direction, prosperity and security of the UK will assured.

 

Sir Bernard Jenkin MP

Sir Bernard Jenkin MP has been Member of Parliament since 1992, and represents Harwich and North Essex. He is Chair of the House of Commons Liaison Committee and former Chair of  the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee (2010-19). For Politeia he was co-author of Britain and the EU: What must change (2015).

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