The road to Brexit - how Peterborough’s MPs have voted, and what they’ve said

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The UK is facing another delay to Brexit, with EU leaders offering an extension to the Article 50 process until the end of October in the hope a deal can be agreed.

Originally the UK was meant to leave the bloc on March 29, but this has been delayed twice with MPs failing to agree on any course of action, having rejected the Prime Minister’s deal three times.

Shailesh Vara and Fiona Onasanya

Shailesh Vara and Fiona Onasanya

Nearly 61 per cent of voters in Peterborough backed Leave at the 2016 referendum. Here the Peterborough Telegraph charts how the city’s MPs Fiona Onasanya (independent, Peterborough) and Shailesh Vara (Conservative, North West Cambridgeshire) have voted on the issue, and what they’ve said during the process.


Before the referendum, the PT asked Mr Vara to explain in 50 words how he intended to vote.

He said: “This has not been an easy decision for me, but on balance I believe it is in Britain’s best interest to remain in a reformed European Union. Staying in means more jobs, lower prices and more financial security for British families. It means Britain being stronger, safer and better off.”

Ms Onasanya was elected after the referendum and after Article 50 was triggered.

In a hustings before her election victory, she said: “We have to respect the will of the people. We need to negotiate terms that protects our ability to trade with Europe and trade outside of Europe.”

September 11, 2017

The EU Withdrawal Bill, which converted all EU law into UK law while also ending the supremacy of EU legislation, was passed, despite Ms Onasanya voting against it.

She said: “The vote on this bill was not about whether Britain leaves the EU, but on the new powers it would introduce.

“This Withdrawal Bill would give unregulated power to the cabinet and allow it to sidestep parliamentary scrutiny altogether.”

Mr Vara supported the bill.

June 13, 2018

Ms Onasanya voted against the Government in a series of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The then Labour MP backed negotiations for a continued customs union and access to the EU internal market.

She also supported transferring the EU’s charter of fundamental rights into domestic law, guaranteeing the right of challenge to a domestic law if it fails to comply with the general principles of EU law, maintaining EU environmental protections and allowing MPs to have a “meaningful vote” on the final deal.

Mr Vara, who was then a government minister, voted with the Government.

January 8 and 9, 2019

Ms Onasanya, now an independent MP after being expelled by Labour, failed to vote on amendments to the Finance Bill, including one which would impact on the Government’s ability to prepare for a Brexit no deal.

Mr Vara, who had resigned as Northern Ireland minister in opposition to the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, unsuccessfully voted against the Government.

The following day Ms Onasanya failed to vote on an amendment forcing the Government to come back within three days, rather than 21, to debate the implications of not having a Brexit deal if the Prime Minister’s deal was rejected.

Again, Mr Vara voted unsuccessfully against the amendment.

January 15

Both MPs voted against the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, which was comprehensively defeated. Mr Vara, a staunch critic of the deal and now a prominent Leave supporter, said the UK had nothing to fear about a no deal situation, with trading on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.

January 29

Mr Vara voted to support renegotiating the withdrawal agreement with the EU with the proposed Northern Ireland backstop being removed with “alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border”.

The vote was passed, with Ms Onasanya absent after being jailed earlier in the day following her conviction.

February 28

Mr Vara voted against a Labour amendment which included a permanent customs union, close alignment with the single market and commitments on rights, security and EU agencies, and an SNP amendment to rule out no-deal “under any and all circumstances” and regardless of exit date.

Ms Onasanya was absent.

March 12

Both MPs again vote against the Prime Minister’s deal, which was comfortably defeated.

March 13

Ms Onasanya voted for an amendment, which passed, to rule out no deal at any time. Mr Vara opposed it.

March 14

Mr Vara voted against a motion, which was approved, to ask the EU extend the Article 50 process so the UK would not leave the bloc until June 30.

Ms Onasanya was absent for the vote, with her office saying she had a medical condition.

March 25

Ms Onasanya voted for Parliament to take control of the Brexit process by supporting a motion to allow MPs to organise a series of indicative votes on different Brexit options. Mr Vara opposed the motion, which was approved.

March 27

MPs failed to agree on eight indicative options.

Ms Onasanya voted against no deal but backed the public having a vote on any deal Parliament agrees before it can be ratified.

She also supported common market 2.0, which calls for UK membership of the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area, participation in the single market and a “comprehensive customs arrangement” with the EU after Brexit, but means the UK would retain freedom of movement.

Mr Vara supported no deal and was against another public vote.

Neither MP supported being in the customs union.

Ms Onasanya said: “I have always said that the question is not if we Leave but how we Leave. Compromise will be key to finding a consensus.”

Mr Vara tweeted: “People expect the Government to run the country, not backbenchers. Particularly not backbenchers who wish to override a mandate given by the public and on which they were elected.”

March 29

Mr Vara voted for the withdrawal agreement “with reluctance” as he described it as the “least bad choice to deliver on the referendum result”.

He later blamed the “biased” Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, who he accused of trying to block Brexit.

Ms Onasanya tweeted that she was not supporting the deal as “nothing has changed”.

MPs again voted the agreement down.

April 1

Another set of indicative votes again saw MPs fail to reach any majority.

Both MPs voted in the same way as the time before.

April 3

Ms Onasanya’s vote was crucial as a bill to seek a further extension to the Brexit leaving date, which aimed to prevent a no deal Brexit, was passed by one vote.

The MP supported the bill, saying she could “not support crashing out” and that “how we leave is important, so compromise is the key”.

Mr Vara voted against the bill.