Over the past few days, I have spent time reading the views of some of those millions who voted to leave the EU last year. Some wanted reassurance the wishes of the electorate will be fulfilled - I can say absolutely loud and clear that they will be.
As you know, I campaigned passionately for a Leave vote. David Cameron's renegotiation was unable to achieve the reform we wanted for our country, and it was clear that to truly take back control, we had to leave.
Together with Boris Johnson, Gisela Stuart and many others right across the political divide, I stood before the country to make that case. I penned article after article for national and regional newspapers to highlight the benefits of the UK leaving the EU. I still fully believe in everything we campaigned for – that we will have a superb future ahead of us once we complete our exit.
There is absolutely no doubt about the potential for us outside of the EU. As the Prime Minister highlighted last Friday “the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. We will no longer be members of its single market or its customs union”.
We are committed to concluding positive negotiations with the EU, giving certainty and security to businesses, and staying friends with the EU27, whilst implementing the result of the referendum as soon as is practically possible. As a champion of Leave, as someone who fundamentally believes that we are better off out, I want to assure all those who are urging us to get on with it that, to quote another determined PM, “there will be no ducking the bouncers, no stonewalling, no playing for time”.
A short implementation period of around two years gives businesses and the economy the opportunity to adapt to the outcome of our negotiations, avoiding a cliff-edge, and without unduly prolonging Brexit.
I am optimistic that the hard work we are putting in now will allow us to build free trade with the rest of the world. The number of countries who have already said that they want a free trade deal with us is impressive. From the USA to Australia to Japan, there is no doubt that as Iceland’s Foreign Minister, Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson, said recently “everyone wants to sell you goods and services. It’s just as simple as that.” And likewise, we want to sell to them as a global champion of free trade.
The Prime Minister is determined to make the most of these opportunities. In front of an international audience in Florence, she made clear that “the British people have decided to leave the EU; and to be a global, free-trading nation, able to chart our own way in the world”.
We are already the world’s 5th biggest economy, the 8th largest manufacturer, and we will be able to maximise the massive opportunity to trade freely around the world. It's easy to forget that 80 per cent of the world’s economies are not in the single market. Many businesses are also buoyant about the opportunities of Brexit. Our fantastic food and drink industry is booming, exporting £10.2bn in the first half of the year. More producers are targeting new international customers, and nearly a third of all food and drink companies say that they are planning to export for the first time in the next five years.
The UK has in recent weeks been reconfirmed as the leading global financial centre, with excellence spread across the UK from London to Birmingham to Edinburgh.
We are on course to have the highest employment rate in the western world (75.3 per cent), with nearly 400,000 new jobs being created in the year to July. This is fantastic news for individuals and families, giving more people than ever before the dignity of work and the opportunity to get on in life.
Companies are investing in our economy: Nissan is increasing its production in Sunderland by a fifth and doubling the amount of parts sourced in the UK; Müller is investing £100m into its UK business, mostly focused in the Midlands; Dulux has just opened a new £100m factory in Northumberland which will produce enough paint to redecorate every living room, bathroom and kitchen in the UK.
All of this is, according to some in the media, #despiteBrexit, a charge I utterly reject.
So, we are going to take back our sovereignty, our laws, our borders, and our money. We are leaving the single market, the customs union, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. We are taking back control, we are going to make a huge success of the opportunities of Brexit, and I am just as confident today as I was on June 23rd 2016 that a vote to Leave was a vote for the UK to embark on a new, outward-looking and positive destiny for our great country outside of the EU.