If we agree on nothing else, perhaps we can all agree that few of us have ever experienced such political turmoil. As we go into the Christmas break, Parliament is still divided into several factions; those who support Mrs May’s deal and those who oppose it, those who want a general election and those who want a second referendum. These same divisions exist across our nation, in our communities and in our homes.
I have received around one thousand letters and emails from constituents passionately expressing their views one way or another, with each appealing to me to do the ‘right thing’ by representing their position in Parliament. It is my job to listen to the arguments and then draw my own conclusions. There is no doubt that the vast majority of people I speak to in Thirsk and Malton are very supportive of the Prime Minister, and rightly so in my view. This is part of the reason I have given my backing to the Prime Minister and why I supported her in the no confidence vote last week.
I agree that her deal is not perfect, but it does offer a compromise which I can support and I would urge others to do so too. As I have said before, this deal will give us free, no tariff, unlimited quota trade with the EU, minimal or zero frictions at the borders, complete control over immigration and would avoid a hard border between North Ireland and Ireland. There will be no payments to the EU and we will be out of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies and there will be no customs union, so we will be free to strike trade agreements with nations outside the European Union. These key objectives, which are often referred to as the Prime Minister’s ‘red lines’, actually represent the promises made to British voters in the referendum campaign.
The backstop, if used at all, would allow us continued, contribution free access to the EU whilst having total controls over migration. This is why it is designed to be, and will prove to be temporary; for the first time ever, and contrary to the EU’s oft-repeated position of not splitting the ‘four freedoms’, they have done exactly that. Any suggestion that such an arrangement would, in effect, become permanent would cause an existential crisis within the EU. Their incentive not to use it, or to leave it quickly would be at least as great as ours.
I hope that, when we come back from a restful, Brexit-free Christmas break we can look forward to resolving this complex and divisive issue once and for all. We can then concentrate on all the other domestic issues which are important to us all, such as ensuring our children have the best possible education, meeting the growing demands on our health and social care services, building badly-needed new truly affordable houses to rent and to buy, tackling climate change, making sure that we leave the environment in a better state than we found it, continuing to strengthen our economy, building a fairer society and getting a fairer deal for the North
Let me be clear about one thing, if we do not support this deal, we run the very real risk of losing Brexit completely, so we must get a deal agreed in Parliament. If we do not, then I believe we may be forced to go back to the people and have a second referendum, which may reverse the 2016 decision. Although I have made no secret of my preference for remaining in the EU, I think this would be wholly undemocratic. Some people think we should leave without a deal – or a managed deal, as it is now fashionably called. But this would have unknown and potentially untold consequences for businesses and may well lead to significant job losses. Alternatively, there might be a vote of no confidence in the present Government, which could result in a General Election, which Mr. Corbyn might win. For most, I do not need to explain the consequences of this for our economy, on taxes, on investment and on jobs.
I am appealing to everyone to do what this country is so good at times of crisis. Let us all pull together, get behind our Prime Minister, rebuild our confidence and our standing in the world and look forward to a bright future outside the EU from March 29th 2019.