We have been presented with a golden opportunity as a country.
Our withdrawal from the European Union will mean for the first time in a generation the British people, not Brussels, will control our law making, borders and who we trade with.
There is not a hard or soft Brexit. Leaving the EU means leaving the Single Market so we can control our own borders once more. It means leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice so we can take back control of our law-making. It means unshackling ourselves from the Customs Union so we can boldly forge our own trade agreements with not just our European friends, but our global partners as well. I have set out in more detail what each of these EU institutions currently do and why it is so important for Brexit that we free ourselves from them.
I worked in the Department for Exiting the EU from January 2018 to November 2018. During this time I was responsible for a vote on the final agreement; was the Minister responsible for the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill; responsible for security partnership and justice, including how UK courts will be structured post-Brexit and; and responsible for ensuring the county regions of England have their views properly represented and travelled to county councils across England.
It was an immense honour to serve the Prime Minister and play a part in delivering the historic opportunity of leaving the European Union. However, upon close examination of the Withdrawal Agreement, I was unable to support the deal and therefore took the difficult decision to resign from my Ministerial post. I will be voting against the deal if presented in its current form. My reasons for doing so are below.
Not taking back control of our money
Under the proposed agreement the UK would pay to the EU around £39 billion including:
- Continued EU budget contributions during the transition period up to December 2020
- Unfunded projects (i.e. where the EU has committed to future projects it has not yet funded)
- EU pensions – including those for EU Commissioners and civil servants
I cannot justify paying such a huge amount of money. We, as a country, have made sacrifices to repair the damage of the last financial crisis and the shambolic state of the public finances we inherited from Labour in 2010. This money shouldn’t be sent overseas to Brussels. Furthermore, we wouldn’t be guaranteed any future trading relationship in return. We would therefore be handing over vast amounts of money for nothing in return.
Not taking back control of our laws
Under the Prime Minister’s proposal, we would be bound to EU laws in a number of policy areas, including social policy, environmental policy, employment policy and customs. In effect, the UK would become a rule taker and subservient to Brussels as we will be forces to obey EU laws and losing the ability to shape them.
The present deal also means that the European Court of Justice will be the arbiter of EU laws and power in the UK, relegating our courts, even the Supreme Court, to a lesser or junior position.
Under the proposals, the ECJ remains in control of the agreement and those areas of EU law that remain effective in the UK. Sovereignty was a core issue in the referendum and reason for voting to leave the EU. This agreement is not what people voted for.
We’d be locked in a Customs Union
The proposed agreement means that a ‘Joint Committee’ of both the EU and UK will be established to oversee a future trading relationship – yet to be negotiated. However, if an agreement cannot be reached by the EU, UK, or both parties, we will be forced to accept and enter a ‘backstop’ Customs Union with the EU. This will mean we cannot strike new trade deals with our global partners and will lose out on one of the major benefits of Brexit.
Moreover, we would be surrendering our sovereignty as to leave the backstop, we would have to first seek the approval of the EU. This would be at odds with the 2017 Conservative Manifesto, which I stood on and which stated that “we will no longer be members of the Single Market or Customs Union”. If I were to support this deal, I would be going against the many promises I made to the people of Fareham that Brexit is an opportunity to reclaim our sovereignty.
It undermines the integrity of the UK
I am a unionist to my core and will defend our precious United Kingdom. That is why I am opposed to the agreement because it creates internal borders within the UK. Northern Ireland would be treated separately if we enter the backstop. NI would become a rule taker in areas such as goods, agricultural products and VAT. I cannot accept a border down the Irish Sea, so I cannot accept this agreement.
The agreement contains a separate protocol, including clauses specific to NI not affecting the rest of the UK – this separatism could also trigger calls from the SNP in Scotland for independence, threatening the whole union.
Vote of no confidence
After the Prime Minister passed the vote of no confidence, I will now continue to apply pressure from the back benches to ensure we get the Brexit that people voted for. I hope she is now able to renegotiate effectively with the EU over key issues such as the Backstop, which risks placing a regulatory border down the Irish sea and leaving us in a customs union indefinitely.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister has now committed to holding a meaningful vote on the week beginning 14th January - with MPs due to debate the deal on week beginning 7th January. While I do not support the Withdrawal Agreement in its current form (for the reasons outlined above) I am glad that MPs will be able to have their say. I am also hopeful that the PM can bring back more than verbal assurances on the backstop, and will stand up for the UK and call for strong legal assurances and clarity on the backstop. We cannot allow the UK to be held indefinitely in a customs union with the EU, or allow the EU to in effect dismantle the union.