The 23rd June was a momentous day in our history. The British people voted to leave the European Union. In my constituency, the vote was just under 60% in favour of leaving. I have updated people several times about my views on Brexit, which can be found below:
Guardian article December 2018:
"It is your decision. Not politicians. Not Parliament. Just you. If we vote to leave, we will leave. They’ll not be another renegotiation or another referendum.”
Those were the wise words of David Cameron before the referendum. He was not the only one. MPs across the political spectrum confirmed that this would be the final decision. But what about the final decision come Tuesday’s vote in the House of Commons?
I am serial loyalist. I have never rebelled against the Government. Since first being elected in 2015, I have faithfully trooped through the Government lobbies and every fibre of my being instructs me, urges me along the path of loyalty. Yet my every instinct tells me that the Prime Minister’s deal is wrong.
The Prime Minister is absolutely right to say that people just want us to get on with it. But this proposal does not do that. It will lead to years more wrangling, both with the EU and amongst ourselves. As the Attorney General set out in his legal advice, there is a risk that we could be subject to protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations. Hardly the level of certainty that our businesses want. Even worse. We can’t get out of it of our own volition. Loss of sovereignty was the main reason that I voted Leave. To take back control. This proposal leads to the exact opposite. It cedes control to the EU.
Don’t just take it from a committed Brexiteer like me. Listen to some of my colleagues, who voted remain, such as Jo Johnson and Sam Gyimah. Both resigned from the Government. Sam Gyimah put it starkly, saying that we will have surrendered our voice, our vote and our veto, and we will be reliant upon the EU to strike a deal that lies in our national interest. He is right.
There is also the European Court. It is technically right to say that we will be leaving the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). But that is little comfort, when the CJEU will still retain such a significant and prominent role under the proposed Treaty. When the backstop kicks in, the European Court will have a say over rules such as those relating to movement of goods; VAT and excise; and agriculture and environment law. Further, in any dispute where interpretation of EU law is in question, the agreement shall be referred to the CJEU to interpret. As we have seen in the recent case seeking to revoke Article 50 and stop Brexit, the CJEU is an overtly political court. We need to be out of it. Full stop.
There are other fundamental objections to the deal, such as that it risks the integrity of the United Kingdom. And yet, the Prime Minister has said that it is this deal; or no deal; or no Brexit. No Brexit would be a betrayal impossible for us to countenance. It is not an option. The trust between people and politicians rightly would be destroyed. If Brexit is stopped, we will never be forgiven. Business fears a Corbyn Government – yes, far more than no deal. But if we stop Brexit, a Corbyn Government would be inevitable.
So what about no deal? The negativity and fear mongering around this prospect knows no bounds. If we are driven down this path by an intransigent EU, let’s cut out the scare tactics and change the name to a “Clean Global Brexit”. Let us be straight forward, if the EU doesn’t accept a sensible Free Trade Agreement such as a Canada style deal, there will be difficulties. But it is in our country’s national interest to look beyond the immediate short term.
We were warned of this at the time of the referendum. Thanks to the Treasury’s economic forecasts, we know that people voted to leave despite being told that they would lose their jobs; despite being told that they would be poorer; and despite being told that there would be an immediate and profound economic shock. Since when we have seen record levels of employment with more than 600,000 new jobs created.
In any case, there is an alternative to no deal and to no Brexit. A Canada style trade deal was offered to Great Britain back in March 2017. We now go back to the EU, and propose “Super Canada”, but for the whole of the United Kingdom. This is our final offer. In fact, we are going to walk away and prepare properly for a Clean Global Brexit. But our offer is still on the table.
And we must stop the doom mongering. After all, we have been preparing for no deal for over two years and more than £4 billion has been set aside for these preparations. If the EU won’t accept Super Canada for the whole UK, we will be ready. And in the fullness of time, when countries like Germany and France realise that they are losing out, they will encourage the EU back to the negotiating table, and sensible discussions will follow.
It will be a Clean Global Brexit, and one that leads to a bright future for us and a sensible trade deal with the EU. It was the people’s decision to leave. Not politicians. We will leave. And on Tuesday, it is not for Parliament to block it.
Telegraph article in November 2018:
This is the full text of an article, an edited version of which was published on the front page on the Daily Telegraph on Saturday 17th November.
You never know quite why you are being summoned to see the Chief Whip. I feared that I must have said something wrong, or tweeted an off-key comment. And yet, after a meeting which lasted little more than a few seconds (possibly 10?), I was invited to become the then Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab’s aide (PPS or Parliamentary Private Secretary). Immediately and instinctively I accepted.
I must hold the record for being the PPS who has served for the shortest period of time. Less than 48 hours after I shook hands with the Chief, the Prime Minister held her mammoth Cabinet meeting, which resulted in Dominic resigning. How careless of me to have lost my boss in such a short space of time. Regret it? Not one bit. Trust your instincts.
And what do my instincts tell me about the Prime Minister’s proposed deal? They tell me to stop. To read. To look at the detail. I am, after all, a lawyer by training. In fact, it is incumbent on each one of us, every single Member of Parliament, to look at the detail.
But when I look at it, my worst fears are confirmed. The bar of expectation had been set so low that I hoped and prayed that it would be better. The reality is that the deal may be even worse than we had been led to expect.
I am not even an ardent Brexiteer. I certainly did not come into politics to squabble about Europe. The Brexit question was and is quite simple for me. I believe that our laws should be made in Westminster, by our elected politicians, and not in Brussels. It is a question of sovereignty.
As to the deal, I needed to be persuaded of two things. Firstly that any transition is strictly time limited and that we can get out of it. And secondly that the whole of the United Kingdom would be treated in the same way (integrity of UK). In the House of Commons the Prime Minister, characteristically did not shy away from hard facts. It was pointed out to her that the protocol gives the UK a choice either to implement the backstop or to seek an extension of the implementation period. She confirmed that it would be a matter for negotiation with the EU. That is not good enough.
I have not been aiming for “no deal”. My preference was and remains a comprehensive free trade agreement. In any event, how terrible the phrase “no deal”. How negative. From here on in, we should and we must call it, “A Clean Global Brexit”. It will be a clean break and we will be trading on world terms, hence a few weeks back I coined the phrase a “Clean Global Brexit”. I would encourage likeminded colleagues to adopt this phrase, and abandon the negative other.
But the prospect itself is not terrible or negative. We will be trading on World Trade (WTO) terms. I would prefer a deal. There is a small chance that such a free trade agreement is still possible. But unless and until the EU is ready to treat our country with respect, and recognise its own disadvantages in the face of no deal, we must redouble our preparations for a Clean Global Brexit, trading on WTO terms.
And that’s my advice to the Prime Minister and anyone who wants to be the next PM. Theresa May said yesterday that colleagues “must do what they believe to be right”. This echoes what David Cameron said when he told MPs at a 1922 meeting before the referendum that we must vote with our heart and not what other people tell us. Ironically both persuaded me to act. The first, David Cameron’s, persuaded me that I should follow my conscience and campaign and vote to leave. The second, Theresa May’s, that it is right to speak out now, before it is too late.
Many people will struggle to support this proposal. A Clean Global Brexit will be bold. It will not be easy. Our leader must not pretend otherwise. There will be short term, administrative difficulties. We must not shy away from that fact and I know it to be the case. But so too did our everyone who voted leave. We knew. In fact there was a continuous refrain about how bad it would be. Do you remember project fear? It has never left us. If anything, project fear stepped up a gear the day after a referendum, and has been accelerating ever since.
There is no doubting the Prime Minister’s courage, her stamina and her sense of duty. How does she do it? What strength. What fortitude. So many said yesterday that they admired her: Conservatives yes, but so too and powerfully those on the opposite benches. However, sadly, the Prime Minister does not appear to believe in Brexit. There is still time for her change tack. If not, then we need a leader who does. We need a leader with vision who can take this country into the future, unafraid of a Clean Global Brexit.
Thoughts in 2016:
This is going to be the issue by which the 2015-2020 Parliament is defined.
I have been appointed to the European Scrutiny Committee. This is an important Select Committee that scrutinises all legislation that is proposed to be effected in this country. The sheer number of new laws that we consider is staggering, with up to 1,000 individual pieces of legislation or proposals considered by the Committee each year. As the question of Brexit looms large during this Parliament, the Committee will be an important part of ensuring that we make a success of Brexit.
On that last point, the European Research Group (ERG) is being reformed. I have been asked to be the Deputy Chairman, and the whole purpose of the ERG is to support the Prime Minister in making a success of Brexit. This will be the group to watch over the next few years, as we help to support the Government and shape a positive vision of our Country outside the European Union. Not turning our back on Europe, but simply rejecting the political union, and reclaiming our place as a global trading nation sitting at the centre of a new prosperity zone. Watch this space.