I voted in 2016, as did the country, to leave the European Union. The country also voted, in large part, in the 2017 General Election for the two parties standing on a manifesto platform that they would honour the result of the 2016 Referendum. It is, therefore, in my view, Parliament’s democratic duty to ensure we leave the European Union.
I do not think the Withdrawal Agreement is ideal – far from it. I did not therefore, in the first instance, in late January, vote for it – it has, in my view, a number of flaws, not least of which is the Irish backstop arrangement. I did so in the hope that a rejection of the Agreement by the UK Parliament may facilitate the EU renegotiating fairer terms. Clearly , as subsequent events have proven, this is not going to happen.
Therefore, on 12th March I voted for the Withdrawal Agreement. My reasoning for this was quite simply because, as activity over recent weeks by MPs apparently intent on thwarting Brexit altogether has shown, there is a real risk that if the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved there may be no Brexit at all, which would, as I have said above, be a failure by Parliament to respect the decision of the electorate to do so in 2016.
These are uncertain times and the lack of clarity in Parliament is understandably unsettling for people. Indeed, it is, in my view deeply regretful – whatever view people take in this complex debate, they are looking to the Government to show leadership.
All sides of this debate are looking to their MPs to represent them in Parliament and I very much regret that I am unable to satisfactorily represent all of my constituents’ views although I do very carefully consider them. Indeed, an additional reason I was compelled to vote in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement on 12th March was the message I have received recently on doorsteps whilst discussing Brexit with constituents. I have been door knocking every weekend over the past six weeks listening to constituents views which are overwhelmingly and increasingly that they want MPs to get on with this issue and resolve Brexit. I agree.
Personally, as someone who tries her best to serve residents here effectively and well, I feel very sad that the protracted process in Parliament of implementing Brexit has, understandably, affected the public’s view of MPs generally and of our democratic processes. Although I think it too soon to say how it may affect party politics – the situation is currently so fluid – the last thing I want is for it to result in people not using their votes in future elections – for as Churchill is reputed to have said “Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all the others.”
There is no easy solution to the Irish border issue – an alternative suggestion which has been made is that areas of cross border activity could be solved by an extension of modern technologies which already exist in relation to certain current matters regarding the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Whichever solution is found – as with so much of Brexit – will involve compromise – and that is, I believe, what the public now want to see all MPs do in order to break the current unsatisfactory impasse.
With regard to the Prime Minister’s position, Theresa May has already said that she will be departing before the next General Election and has offered to go much earlier to facilitate the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement. Whoever replaces her, I would want them to fully endorse and get behind the Family Manifesto which I co-wrote in 2017 – see www.strenghteningfamiliesmanifesto.com. I will be asking every Prime Ministerial leadership contender to state if and how they will do this. It has the backing of over sixty Conservative Members of Parliament; it contains many practical policy ideas to strengthen family life in this country, which I believe is one of the most pressing concerns of our time. I am pleased that some are being implemented but more help and support is needed for all families right across our country – every family has its challenges over time! Family breakdown in this country is amongst the highest in the developed world and this affects a range of issues including mental health problems in the young, educational attainment and employment productivity, depression and addiction, debt, loneliness in old age, housing pressures, repeat offending, and many other challenges. It is critical that whoever is our future Prime Minister is, sustains a domestic agenda for Government – this should not be subsumed by Brexit.
Clearly events over the last few days have been swift moving and will continue to be so, but put simply, my view is that we should and must leave the EU. Any action I take in Parliament is, and will continue to be, in an endeavour to implement the mandate given to MPs to do so as a result of the democratically held 2016 Referendum.
Finally, may I say that I continue to believe that it is a great honour and high privilege to serve the people of this constituency as their Member of Parliament and a role which I approach with the same keen desire to make a positive difference for them as I did on my first day in Parliament almost nine years ago.