As we draw close to the end of 2018, the opportunity of the new year - a fresh start - comes into view. And during this next momentous year, the UK will be leaving the EU on the 29th March 2019.
It is something I campaigned passionately for during the 2016 referendum in the belief that our future will be so much brighter outside of the EU, as we take our place once more on the global stage, rekindling trading relationships with old friends and striking fresh deals with new ones.
We are ending the freedom of movement of people from within the EU and we will be introducing a new points-based immigration system to ensure that we always attract the best and the brightest from right around the world.
And we are also going to stop sending billions of pounds of British taxpayer money to the EU each and every year, allowing us to invest in our priorities here at home including our wonderful NHS.
So, I continue to believe that the country made the right decision on the 23rd June 2016, and that it is our responsibility in Parliament – as MPs – to deliver on the result of the referendum and ensure that the UK leaves the EU as smoothly as possible.
But it is also important in 2019 to try and bring our divided country back together - that those of us who voted to leave accept that the concerns of the 48 per cent who voted to remain in the EU should be taken properly into account.
So whilst the whole UK voted to leave the EU, and that is what we will certainly do in March, we will also seek to maintain the closest possible links with our EU friends and neighbours. In trade, in security, in research and educational collaboration, in culture and the arts, we will be a part of Europe even though we will be leaving the EU’s restrictive, bureaucratic and undemocratic institutions.
This is why, in a recent open letter to my constituents, I explained why I would be supporting the Prime Minister’s negotiated deal, and why I – as someone who spent several years, particularly through my EU Fresh Start Project, developing a sound understanding of the complexity of our relationship with the EU – am convinced that the deal delivers on the Brexit priorities that we Leavers voted for:
Regaining control of our borders, ending free movement and introducing an immigration policy based on merit and under our discretion;
Ending the supremacy of the European Court of Justice over UK laws at the end of the implementation period;
Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and developing our own British system of agricultural support;
Leaving the Common Fisheries Policy and deciding who we want to fish in our own territorial waters;
Ending payments to the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework budget, ensuring that we are spending British taxpayer money on key priorities;
Negotiating our own free trade deals as an independent trading nation;
Protecting the rights of UK citizens living in the EU, and vice versa, maintaining their access to healthcare, pensions and more.
I am determined that we will be leaving the EU in March next year as planned, and I will not stand by as those who wish to frustrate that process try to change the terms of our departure by calling for a second referendum, or attempt to impose conditions on the Government’s ability to prepare for all eventualities – including a “No Deal” Brexit.
A second referendum would be unacceptable. It would be a failure to deliver on the result of the People’s Vote in June 2016, and suggesting that voters need to rethink it and try again – because somehow they came to the wrong conclusion the first time around – would be unforgivable.
The Prime Minister is right to have gone back to the Commission to make clear that the UK must have legally binding assurances that we can exit the current backstop arrangements, providing certainty that there will not be a hard border on the island of Ireland, but also that we will never divide the most precious union – that of our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
However, should the EU fail to recognise that it is in all our interests to agree a deal for the UK’s withdrawal, it is right that this Government continues to prepare for all scenarios; indeed, this is Government policy.
I wholeheartedly believe that a bright future awaits us when the leave the EU, and I will continue to do everything that I can to deliver on the result of the June 2016 referendum.