Brexit Update

20th September 2019

We are living through tumultuous times and I wanted to deal directly and properly with the concerns constituents have raised. 

As you may know, I campaigned to Remain in the EU Referendum in 2016, but I also promised to respect and honour the result.  Despite the obvious weaknesses and failings of that campaign - on both sides - I have been clear and consistent that I will honour that pledge. When MPs ask the people in a Referendum I deeply believe that we must respect that result. 

Here in Mid Norfolk people voted 62:38 for Leave.  Although as I pledge at each election I believe sincerely that my duty as MP is to try as best I can to represent the interest of ALL the people of Mid Norfolk - including the children and young people who can’t vote - and the interests of the whole community, not just the people who vote for me - the Referendum was a simple Leave or Remain question, and all of us who voted to Remain have to accept that we lost. 

So the issue then becomes HOW we leave.  I believe it is essential for the interests of the Mid Norfolk (and national) economy, and therefore our public services and all the things that Government provides which are funded from a growing economy, that we secure a Withdrawal Agreement which provides what was promised in the Referendum (and what I believe the vast majority of Mid Norfolk residents want: to be in the “Common Market but NOT the political union”). 

This isn’t straightforward because the “Common Market” is based on a Common Customs Union, and Common Trading Standards, which are the very things many Leavers specifically want to Leave.  That is why I strongly supported Theresa May in negotiating to get a sensible Withdrawal Agreement for an orderly withdrawal and a workable long-term relationship providing continuity for today’s businesses and sectors (like automotive, aviation, medical research, food & farming and higher education) deeply dependent on collaboration with European projects and partners, but freedom to begin to orientate more of our trade to the fastest-growing global markets worldwide, beyond the EU. 

When - in March - it became clear that a coalition of MPs in Parliament who HAD voted to trigger Article 50 were determined to vote AGAINST the Withdrawal Agreement (for their own disingenuous reasons - Opposition MPs just for the sake of opposing, second-referendum MPs to try and force a second referendum, and hard line no-deal Brexiteers to try and force no deal on March 29th) I supported the Prime Minister in seeking an extension.  

It was also clear to me that after a series of negotiating errors, Theresa May had run out of runway to negotiate and that we needed a new leader to try and complete the negotiations. 

After the EU elections in May it was clear to me that unless we resolve the ongoing Brexit Civil War which has gridlocked our country, Government and Parliament, we will not be able to move on.  And worse - we are likely to see extremist politicians exploit the vacuum for their own claims to power.  History shows us how dangerous this is.  I believe that Jeremy Corbyn’s neo-Marxist front bench would be a disaster for this country. 

With public anger at this impasse deepening dangerously, I believe the Conservative Party has to step up and bring new energy, ambition and resolution to getting a sensible Withdrawal Agreement AND launching a bold domestic policy programme of reforms to tackle the deep grievances with UK politics and government which have incubated this crisis. 

That is what Boris Johnson offered, is delivering and why I support him. I simply do not accept in any way the caricature of him being put about by the more extreme anti-Brexit campaigners as some sort of right wing  extremist.  

Anyone who follows Conservative politics knows that Boris Johnson's track record as Mayor of London shows a long commitment to liberal Conservatism, public services, public transport, environmental activism,  support for an activist Industrial Strategy, UK aid and International development and major investment in infrastructure and a deep commitment to making Government work for the silent majority of citizens who work and pay their taxes and want Government to work for them.

I am supporting him because he is committed to doing what I think we need to do: 

  • get on and show the British people that we WILL honour the EU Referendum result 
  • negotiate hard to get a good deal 
  • launch a bold programme of domestic reforms to tackle the domestic grievances (infrastructure, connectivity, schools, NHS, social care and better housing and planning and public transport) which are the priority of most UK citizens  

No Deal

The painful truth of the negotiations with the EU (who have shown themselves to be masters at preventing individual member states from breaking rank in the past) is that to get the deal we want we will have to be prepared to show that we are prepared to embrace the threat of a no deal - which would be hugely problematic for the EU as well as us. 

By making that clear I am confident that the Irish, Germans, Dutch and Spanish and other countries will insist that the EU negotiators change tack from trying to frustrate our departure to find a compromise that can work for the majority of us. I believe it’s the right approach.

All those 550 MPs across the House who, like me, voted to trigger Article 50 accepted this logic when we did so. 

Withdrawing the Whip from the 21 Conservative MPs 

Internal Conservative Party discipline is obviously just that - an internal issue. But I accept that for all of us who value open democratic debate, and those like me on the “One Nation” wing of Conservatism, it would be alarming if it was the beginning of some sort of “purge”.  But it isn’t.  Firstly, it is traditional for those who rebel on a vote of Confidence to lose the Whip.  (Crucially - this needs to apply both ways - including to those who vote against a deal when the PM brings one back). I hope very much that the 21 rebels are able to vote for the Government and return.

Secondly, one of the reasons I reject the charge that the Government has been “hijacked by the ERG” is that, in fact, very few of the ERG were brought into Cabinet in the reshuffle, many MPs from the One Nation Conservative tradition, who voted Remain in 2016, like me, have been promoted in the new Government, and this summer has seen the new PM and Government launch a major series of reforms that I and others have long called for: 

  • ✔️An end to austerity 
  • ✔️Major new funding for schools 
  • ✔️Major new funding for NHS hospitals and social care 
  • ✔️Major new funding for infrastructure & public transport 
  • ✔️Major new funding for Defence 
  • ✔️Major new funding for Towns and High Street

In no way can this be characterised as a hard-line right wing Government. Indeed - one of the reasons I am supporting the new Government is because renewing the mainstream of centre ground politics is so key to seeing off the real extremists on the hard left and right. 

Proroguing Parliament?

At this time of year Parliament normally goes into Recess for the Conference season. 

Parliament normally prorogues each eighteen months with a new Queen's Speech for the new session. We are long overdue a Queen's Speech. 

By proroguing the Government has actually reduced the loss of Parliamentary time to five sitting days.  

Whilst the Government’s opponents have leapt on this as a “coup” I’m afraid this just doesn’t bear scrutiny:

1. Parliament always goes into recess for the Party Conference season.  

2. Prorogation and a Queen's Speech is overdue. 

3. Done this way we only lose five sitting days (Oct 7-11).

4. Parliament has just passed a Bill to stop no deal forcing the Prime Minister to either delay withdrawal or bring back Theresa May's deal if the EU won’t budge

5. Parliament has been offered a chance to call an election and rejected it. 

6. The ball is now firmly in the PM’s court to negotiate. Parliament is NOT the Government. Our constitution works on the basis of the Executive being accountable to Parliament - not Parliament taking over the Government. 

The next key moment is the EU Council on October 17th. 

The key time for Parliament to sit is actually AFTER that Council - to consider the status of the negotiations and the PM’s position then.  

I fail to see how Parliament not sitting for the five days of Oct 7-11 is an affront to democracy.  To be honest, I think the public are understandably fed up with Parliamentary and party political games and want us to get on and find a solution. 

 

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It is impossible to please all the people all the time - and I accept and welcome that all constituents will make their own judgements - but I wanted you to hear from me why I have taken the position I have.  

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It is a huge privilege to be the MP for our part of the world. 

I deeply believe that my core responsibility is to try and tackle public disillusionment with politics by: 

  1. Showing that I am listening to - and guided by - the views of this constituency.  Mid Norfolk voted 62:38 to Leave. 
  1. Continuing my local work as a hardworking constituency MP to tackle the challenges of inaccessibility, disconnection, marginalisation, and the silent suffering of people in villages and towns which are struggling to remain vibrant. 

I believe that by honouring the EU Referendum result and implementing a bold package of domestic reforms we can reunite this country, and re-inspire a New Generation that we are not withdrawing from our global and European responsibilities, but redoubling our commitment to build a more secure, resilient, prosperous and enterprising country in which everyone can realise their potential. 

 

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George Freeman: How technology will transform care and debate about our NHS

18th January 2015 The technological revolutions which have transformed so much of our economy and society are about to transform healthcare. | ConservativeHome


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