On Sunday night before bed my 12 year old asked me, “Mummy, why are Parliament spending so much time on Brexit when we need to sort out global warming?”
It was a good question, although demanding an answer that would have delayed bedtime!
Tuesday’s overwhelming rejection by Parliament of Theresa May’s deal means Parliament will need to spend longer on Brexit.
But as the deal offered was simply a stop-gap for two years – possibly longer – whilst negotiating the details of our permanent relationship with the European Union, it would have consigned us to years more of negotiation and uncertainty.
The fact that Theresa May agreed before Christmas to step aside for another Conservative leader would mean those negotiations being influenced by would-be successors with different visions for that deal.
So Parliament now needs to find a solution that can command the support of a majority of MPs.
Our Parliament isn’t geared up to cross-party talking. Government and opposition parties sit opposite each other, MPs of different parties have little formal contact, and debates often become polarised.
The exceptions are Select Committees and All-Party Groups where MPs of both government and opposition parties have to work together to produce reports that all agree with.
I work closely with Conservative MPs on the Work and Pensions Select Committee every Wednesday and am an officer on a wide number of All-Party Groups, including chairing the Quarrying Group and Small Shops Group, and the Group on Universal Credit, which I set up.
These groups enable us to build working relationships. From discussions with Conservative MPs I believe there could be a majority in Parliament in favour of a Customs Union which is a large part of what businesses want, and I’ve said I will discuss that.
The Prime Minister has now said that she will reach out. I’ve been asked by one of her aides to send my reports of the business summits I held and the surveys of residents in High Peak, to help Number 10 assess what business needs and voters wan. I’ve sent them and hope that the views of High Peak will prove enlightening.
I believe we need a good deal negotiated, which people could support, but that on seeing the shape of that deal and its impact, we should be able to confirm it’s what we want before going ahead.
It may take a little longer, but a good deal we can all agree to would be worth it.
And I hope that cross-party working will help Parliament in future to tackle other pressing problems better, including climate change.