Update on Brexit

As you might imagine, as we approach the 31st October deadline to resolve Brexit, much of my time in Parliament over the last week has been dominated by this challenge. 

This week the EU Withdrawal Bill was published and set out how we will leave the EU.  This Bill turns the years of negotiated agreements between the UK and EU into legislation.  We also considered the Future Political Declaration that sets out the negotiating parameters for our future relationship with the EU.  Over the past three years, Parliamentarians and Parliamentary Committees have considered these negotiations. 

The Bill and the agreement that it seeks to implement represent a compromise, one that I believe delivers the commitments I made at the last General Election.  I want to ensure that, as we leave the EU, we have a close and special relationship with our neighbours and allies. While we are leaving the EU we are not leaving Europe. 

We need to take account of the shift we are seeing in attitudes among other Governments in the European Union. Those Governments are no longer hanging on, hoping somehow that the United Kingdom is going to change its mind.  They are impatient.  They are increasingly exasperated with all political parties and at the inability of the UK political system to take a decision on this matter. 

I believe EU Governments want Brexit brought to an orderly conclusion as soon as possible in a way that does as little harm as possible to the interests of the EU member nations.  That interest includes the future constructive and close relationship that they, like most people here, want to see. 

There are strategic challenges that face our country and every other European democracy.  Climate change, terrorism, serious and organised crime and the mass movement of people.  As European democracies, we are having to confront those challenges in the context of a shifting balance of world power, with a Russia that is aggressive and actively seeking to divide democratic European states, a China that is assertive and offering economic opportunity but championing a model for government and society at odds with that embedded in our own democratic and liberal values, and a United States whose unquestioning support for European security and a rules-based international order can no longer be taken for granted.  

While we need to get on with the task of trying to build a different but close and enduring partnership with our European neighbours and allies, we also need to work together to meet the challenges that confront us all as fellow democracies on a shared continent.  

Passing the necessary legislation will enable us to take one step closer towards starting on that task. I am pleased that the legislation cleared the first hurdle but frustrated that it is now stalled. 

It is not clear what will happen next, but there will be further delay to our departure from the EU. I will continue to work with MPs of all parties for a resolution. 

First published in the West Briton 23/10/19