Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Newspaper column 5 February 2020 - Looking forward after Brexit

As I am sure we are all aware, the UK left the European Union on Friday. I know that for many this was a moment of celebration – the culmination of three and a half years of struggle to deliver on the 2016 referendum result. For others it is the end of years, even decades of campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.

But I am also very much aware that there are plenty of people form whom this is a moment of regret and sadness. Those who believe this is not the path the country should be taking. So while I was one of those who allowed themselves to enjoy the moment at 11pm on Friday, it was also with a deep sense of the task ahead.

My strongest emotion on Friday was one of relief. As someone who has lived through the past three and a half years at the heart of the wrangling in Parliament, it is a relief to finally reach this point so that we can move on. It is a great relief to be able to deliver on what the vast majority of politicians said they would do – respect the referendum result. In that sense it is a relief that we have shown that democracy is alive and well in our country and that when a majority of people vote for something it actually happens.

Any sense of celebration is tempered by the need for us to now come together as a country, heal the divisions that have been so raw in recent times and face the future with a renewed sense of common purpose and confidence in our nation. So while I fully understand all those who felt the desire to make a big show of their celebrations of this historic moment, I also fully support the Prime Minster who sought to keep things fairly low key.

The reality is that not much has changed since Friday. Officially we are no longer a member state of the EU. We have left all its institutions, no longer have MEPS and will take up our seats on international bodies as an independent state once again. However, we are now in an eleven month transition phase until the end of this year. During this time we will continue to abide by all EU regulations.

This period of time will primarily be used to negotiate our future relationship on trade and cooperation in areas such as intelligence and security. It will also give time for Parliament to put the necessarily legislation in place so we have the legal framework we need for the UK Parliament to take over the democratic responsibility for areas that have been under the EU until now. Due to the make up and deep division in the previous Parliament we were unable to pass the legislation before. Now Boris Johnson has a majority we can get on with passing these bills that will provide our farmers, fishermen and businesses with many of the details they need to know about the future regulations they will need to operate under.

This week Parliament will begin debating the Agriculture Bill, which will provide the legal framework for our famers once we are out of the EU Common Agriculture Policy. This will lay out the way we will support our farmers and the standards we will expect them to adhere to for important things such as animal welfare and protecting our environment and countryside.

Also last week we began the process of the Fisheries Bill and Environment Bill being presented to Parliament. One of the key aspects of leaving the EU is the UK being once again in control of our own fishing waters. This bill will return power to the UK Parliament to decide who is allowed to fish in our waters and will mean we can ensure our own fishermen get a fairer share of the quota.

The Environment Bill will establish our commitment to protect the environment and enable us to be in control of the standards we operate by. I am particularly interested in the measures this Bill will provide for protecting our seas and holding water companies more effectively to account for discharging sewage.

In the coming weeks we will also have a new Immigration Bill, that will provide the new policy the UK will operate by once we end free movement of people and control our own borders.

So we have a busy and important time ahead in Parliament now we have actually left the EU. This is primarily what Brexit is about. Returning the democratic responsibility for all these things, and many more, to our own Parliament where you can hold me as your MP to account for the decisions we make.

This is a historic time in our nation’s history. I count it a huge honour to be representing our constituency in Parliament at this time and I will never forget that it is you, the local voters who put me here, and you that I am ultimately accountable to.