Over recent weeks, I have received thousands of emails from residents expressing their views and asking questions about the Brexit process and the debates taking place in Parliament. I thought it would be helpful to set out my position as Rugby and Bulkington’s representative on the choices that Parliament, and the country, are currently facing.
Although I campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU, I have always said that the decision made by the country, and residents here, should be respected. I have consistently supported the Prime Minister since voting in favour of triggering Article 50 and I do not accept the arguments made by those who have called for revoking Article 50, or holding a further divisive referendum. I have always said that our future relationship with Europe must maintain our strong economic links and retain Britain’s place as one of the best in the world for business.
I recognise that Rugby and Bulkington voted decisively to leave in the referendum in 2016, and I have always had in mind my role as a representative of my constituents here, with a responsibility to consider their broader interests as we leave the EU.
What I have done - the Prime Minister’s Deal
On all three occasions that the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Declaration negotiated by the Prime Minister has come before Parliament, I have voted to support it. The Withdrawal Agreement delivers on the result of the referendum by enabling the UK the take back our money, our laws and our borders and delivers certainty for EU nationals living in the UK, UK nationals living in the EU and for our business community. Support for the Prime Minister’s deal enables the transitional period to begin and for more substantial negotiations on our future relationship to take place. I firmly believe that it represents a good deal to enable us to move forward with an ambitious future trading relationship, based on a Free Trade Agreement or membership of the European Free Trade Area alongside Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. Britain was of course a founding member of this organisation in the 1960’s.
I know that many people have been concerned by the impact of the Northern Irish Backstop. I visited Northern Ireland with the BEIS Select Committee in November 2018 to find out more from those who will be affected the most. I learnt that in Northern Ireland, businesses are less concerned than politicians about the impact of the backstop. Indeed the Chamber of Commerce in Newry, on the very border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, were very vocal in their support of the Prime Minister’s Deal and the need to provide certainty on the future relationship between the UK, Ireland and the EU.
Recognising concerns after the first vote was lost, the Prime Minister secured a number of additional legal texts in the weeks following to address these and reassure those who believed that the UK would become “trapped” within the backstop if future talks did not prove successful. As a consequence, the number of MPs able to support the deal has increased each time it has been voted on.
Why I do not support a No Deal Brexit
I have never believed that leaving the European Union without a deal, and without meaningful transitional arrangements, would be in our country’s interests. There would undoubtedly be a great economic shock and the evidence I have heard from a variety of industries and businesses in front of the BEIS Committee over the past two years makes it clear that a great many businesses, who rely on integrated supply chains and frictionless trade with Europe, say that they simply would not survive a No Deal. I believe that it is vital to listen to the voice of business because businesses create a strong economy to provide the jobs and the wealth which enables Government to deliver the services that we all need.
A Second Referendum
I voted in favour of giving the British people a say on our membership of the EU in the referendum of June 2016. It would be wrong to now say, 3 years later, that the British people got it wrong the first time and ask them to reconsider this matter because Parliament has failed to agree a way forward. I have always voted against holding a second referendum, which I believe would be even more divisive than the first.
Common Market 2.0
To break the Parliamentary deadlock, a number of my colleagues in Westminster have put forward a cross party proposal for the UK to re-join the European Free Trade Area – the so-called Common Market 2.0 option. This proposal enjoys broad support from MPs and offers a Brexit which would give us many of the benefits of a strong trading relationship with Europe, whilst being outside the political institutions of the European Union. Under EFTA, we would have far greater control on freedom of movement, and would also have the freedom to delay, adapt or derogate from Single Market laws and EU directives. This power has been used by Norway and Iceland over 400 times, and less than a third of EU Directives affect the EEA in the first place.
We would also have the flexibility to do our own trade deals. As the 5th largest economy in the world, we would be able to benefit from being outside of the EU’s common external tariff and outside the Customs Union. The existing EFTA states already have 27 deals covering 43 other countries, and I am confident that the UK would be able to build on this in the coming years.
Finally, as a member of EFTA we would be free from the European Court of Justice. That would mean that we would be beyond the principle of “Ever Closer Union” and free once more to take control of our own destiny. The proposals for Common Market 2.0 are for a strong Brexit, which retains the important trading links that many in the UK signed up for in 1975 when we first joined the European Community, whilst taking us out of the political structures of the EU. I will therefore continue to support this proposal, as I did in the first round of indicative votes on March 27 2019.