Michael on Brexit: it is time to deliver

On Thursday, 23rd June 2016 over 17.4 million people in this country voted to leave the European Union. The referendum was the biggest democratic exercise in the country. In the Borough of Northampton 58.4% voted Leave. I respect that result and I feel I have a duty to help achieve an orderly exit from the EU.

Leaving the EU means leaving the Single Market and Customs Union, ending freedom of movement, ending the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU on our laws, and an end to sending vast sums of money to Brussels every year. The Prime Minister’s deal achieves all of this and I support it.

This Government has agreed a Withdrawal Agreement which sets out the terms of the UK’s smooth and orderly exit from the EU and a Political Declaration which outlines our future relationship with the EU. This deal also protects the rights of EU citizens living in this country and the rights of UK citizens in other EU countries- as well as settling our financial obligations.

As part of the Prime Minister’s vision for Brexit, the UK will also leave both the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and become an independent coastal state in which our fishing community will gain a fairer share of the fish in our waters. Both sides have also committed to creating a ‘free trade area for goods’ between the UK and the EU which will include zero tariffs and no quotas. This would mean the UK having an unprecedented economic relationship that no other major economy has – which is especially significant considering that we will no longer have to abide by freedom of movement. Therefore, the Deal the PM has negotiated achieves free trade on goods – allowing our businesses to continue to trade with our EU allies – whilst putting an end to freedom of movement, allowing us to take back control of our borders and create a skills-based immigration system. Moreover, the Prime Minister’s deal allows us to create an independent trade policy giving us the freedom to negotiate new trade deals with old friends and new allies.

It was clear from the debates in the House of Commons that there is broad support for many key aspects of the Deal. On one issue, however, there obviously remains widespread and deep concern: the backstop.

In the unlikely event that our future relationship with the EU is not ready by 2021 we have two options: extending the implementation period with the EU beyond December 2020 or the so-called backstop agreement.

The backstop is a mechanism that guarantees no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The backstop will only be needed if our future relationship with the EU is not ready by 2021, the backstop is therefore merely an insurance policy.

Crucially, it is important to note that the EU do not want the UK staying in a backstop longer than necessary as they believe it would give us an unfair competitive advantage. The backstop will only be temporary and there is already a mechanism designed to end it. The backstop is something neither side actually wants to ever have to implement but it is responsible to have it as an insurance policy if needed.

It is also important to note that if we entered into the backstop, we could call for a review at any time. If both sides agree the future relationship is ready, the UK would then leave the backstop. A Government spokesman recently commented on this matter, saying “If the EU were not willing to engage in a genuine negotiation to replace the backstop with the future relationship or alternative arrangements, for example if it had closed its mind from the outset to the UK position on fisheries, that would put it in breach of its duty of good faith under the agreement, and we can refer this to independent arbitration”.

The Agreement and Political Declaration has been agreed by the Cabinet and all other EU leaders.

There are no credible alternatives that delivers the Brexit vote in full as the above graphic shows.

In my view it is now time to get on with implementing the democratic will of the people, stop creating divisions and back the Prime Minister’s deal for Brexit. The British people do not want further delay, which rejecting this deal would cause.

The cynical attempts to remove the Prime Minister in recent weeks would have not achieved anything and would not be in the national interest. The Prime Minister has my total support – her Brexit deal delivers on the referendum result and she is obviously the right person to lead our country. On the day that a no-confidence vote was announced, I made my views clear: to vote in favour of supporting the Prime Minister. I was interviewed live by Sky News, BBC One’s Victoria Derbyshire programme as well as BBC Look East, BBC Radio Northampton, CNN and the Chronicle and Echo. I made clear in every interview that it was not in the national interest to change the Prime Minister during this crucial time and that I fully supported the Prime Minister, who I have worked with for many years and know to be a person of unwavering duty.