How did I vote?
I voted to remain in the EU, but the majority of people did not. I respect this democratic decision and believe that whilst MPs should seek to scrutinise the actions of Ministers, we should be constructive and focus on how we can get the best outcome for Britain.
It’s a hugely complex negotiation. That is why I oppose those amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill which restrict ministers’ ability to negotiate freely and get the best possible deal.
I don’t support having a second referendum. Once the negotiations conclude Parliament will then be able to debate in detail and vote on any deal agreed. That is the right way for this matter to proceed.
What about the single market and Customs Union?
As for the Single Market, it is very clear to me that the EU will not offer us partial membership. So it is wiser to focus on the terms of our accessing the single market, rather than seeking membership. There will be particular issues which may need specific solutions, in markets like the automotive, pharmaceutical and aerospace sectors. Our professional and financial service sector will also have particular needs. However, these can be tackled without seeking membership of the single market – the issue is getting the right terms of access.
Regarding our customs arrangements, I do not believe it is viable to seek to stay in the existing Customs Union, after the end of the transition period. In particular, it would tie our hands from securing other trade deals with the rest of the world. However, customs arrangements will be required and the signs are that both sides in the negotiating accept that basic principle.
What about migration post-Brexit?
One of the main reasons people told me they voted to leave was to get better control over immigration. I respect the fact that most people are concerned about how our public services can cope and they want better managed borders, controlling who is here. It’s a perfectly fair concern and that is why the idea of complete freedom of movement isn’t right for us. Indeed it’s proving increasingly unpopular and divisive for many Europeans.
So we should replace freedom of movement with managed movement. That will mean measuring and managing the flow of workers to and from the UK. I personally think that this can be done, through investment in our borders and customs, by modernising passport checks and controls and by distinguishing between different types of people – students, tourists, workers etc. – in how they are managed.
Let me also be clear that I completely reject racist language or behaviour towards foreigners living here. There should be no room for hatred. People who come to contribute, to work and to peaceably live here should be welcomed.
What kind of country should we be after Brexit?
The Government’s twelve point plan set out by the Prime Minister was in my view measured and realistic. The aim is for an amicable ‘divorce’ from the EU and to then develop a new, positive relationship with our neighbours. I want a country which is outward-looking: working with friends around the globe in defending peace and freedom, democracy, and promoting free trade.
So on matters, for example, concerning security or counter-terrorism it’s clear that there will be new arrangements put in place for us to collaborate with our neighbours. The poison attack by Russia of the Scripals in Salisbury has shown the strength of our relationship with many European neighbours.
On trade I am a realist. We already trade with many countries without having a free trade agreement. So we should first focus on increasing our exports, and increasing the number of firms who export –which is currently just 11%. Trade agreements will take time and we must always focus on getting the best deal, but we will be able to create new opportunities, over time, with a good number of large markets. I welcome the new laws which will enable us to transfer across the 40 or so existing EU trade deals into UK trade arrangements.
We can take this opportunity to re-think our approach to skills and training, to harnessing new technologies and to what sort of food and farming we want in the future. We also need to think about how we can reduce the regulatory burden for small firms and start-ups. There will be new opportunities to forge relationships with non-EU universities and research bodies.
If we focus on where the opportunities lie, I believe we can turn this change to our benefit. It’s something this country has done in the past and I believe we should focus on this – a dynamic, modern and open Britain whose horizons are global.