Backing the PM’s deal

The Parliament I returned to on Monday is almost as divided as it was before Christmas. It is still divided into several factions; those who support Mrs May’s EU deal and those who oppose it, those who want a general election and those who want a second referendum. No one has come up with a better deal – including “no deal” – that commands more support than that of the Prime Minister. 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 carefully draw my own conclusions.  

There is no doubt that the vast majority of people are very supportive of the Prime Minister, and rightly so in my view. 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 and at the most recent General Election. 

The much debated “backstop” in the EU Withdrawal Agreement, if used at all, would allow us continued, contribution free access to the EU whilst having total control 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. 

If we do not support this deal, then anything could happen. This would have unknown and potentially untold consequences. The vast majority of local employers who have contacted me want certainty and do not want a “no deal” Brexit. 

There might also 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 investment and on jobs. 

I think it’s time to come together and support the deal. 

 First published in the West Briton 10/01/18

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General Election Results

It’s good to see that more people participated in last week’s General Election than in the recent past. More people registered to vote and the turnout for the General Election here is growing from 69.1% in 2010 to 70% in 2015 and 75.8% last week.

I am pleased that many more people are getting actively involved in our precious democracy too and am grateful to the enthusiastic team of local Conservative campaign volunteers. Despite the tactics deployed against me by an aggressive minority of keyboard bullies and poster defacers, whose intimidation seeks to undermine our democratic process, I am pleased that more people voted for me last week than the previous two General Elections. I am looking forward to continuing my work for all my constituents, irrespective of who they voted for. It is a great honour to be the local MP for this great constituency.

The General Election campaign, like the Referendum campaign, highlighted divisions across the UK. Gaps that need to be closed. From the many conversations or email exchanges I have had with local people, listening to their concerns, I know that there is more that unites us than divides us. I am confident that this community shares my passion and determination to face up to the challenges and opportunities we all face and build a stronger, fairer society that works for everyone.

While the Government does not have the majority it hoped for, it does have the ability and resolve to lead our nation through the Brexit negotiations that begin in a few days time. As I said on election night, I will be working hard to build bridges across the political divide, to find the common ground for the best Brexit and bring the country together with a shared vision of a united Britain.

First published in the West Briton 14/06/17

Brexit and the Environment

The Bank Holiday weekend gave me some time to enjoy our precious natural environment. Many people have asked me what is going to happen to environmental policy post Brexit.

The two outgoing energy and climate ministers, Amber Rudd and Andrea Leadsom, were on opposite sides of the referendum debate but swiftly presented a firm, united front, emphasising continuity in energy and environmental policy.

Both remain in cabinet positions. The appointment of Greg Clark and Nick Hurd to DECC’s successor has been greeted with warmth by leading environmentalists: both have long championed the UK’s commitment to climate and the environment. As Margaret Thatcher said: “The core of Conservative philosophy and of the case for protecting the environment are the same. No generation has a freehold on this earth.”

The UK’s own Climate Change Act, enshrining legally binding emissions reductions, is a major benefit and was passed by an overwhelming cross-party majority. The act is unaffected by Brexit, and the government’s decision to recently approve the fifth carbon budget was an explicit confirmation of this.

A Conservative manifesto commitment to develop a 25 Year Environmental Strategy is currently reconsidering how to deliver its environmental ambitions post-Brexit. This is an opportunity for us to go beyond EU targets and put in place more sustainable resource management policies and environmental protections. While new measures are put in place we have domestic legislation, as well as international commitments ratified by the UK, such as the Bern and Ramsar Conventions that protect our environment.

As someone who grew up here, I have seen first hand how EU policies have benefitted us, particularly the bathing water directive. I remember swimming from our local beaches where raw sewage was routinely discharged. Thankfully this is now a rarity so I am determined to build on these successes.