I believe in democracy and whether I win or lose by 1 vote in an election, never mind 1.3 million, then I have to respect that decision. My constituency voted Leave, as did I, and the margin locally was just under 20 percent.
The ballot paper presented voters with an unambiguous choice to remain in the EU or to leave. The consequences of either decision were communicated by campaign groups through a variety of print, audio-visual and digital media. The Government also sent a document to every household in the UK on the benefits of staying in the EU.
In every election it is up to the electorate to judge the merits of the different arguments and over 17.4 million voters decided to leave the EU. Both main political parties also pledged in their manifestos at the General Election 2017 to respect the EU referendum result and these parties received over 80 per cent of the vote.
I warned back in February 2016 that "Britain can stand alone outside of Europe, but we will not have the chance. Project Fear will be launched this weekend and if we dare to vote to leave, then we will be told we face mass unemployment, surging interest rates, increasing prices, rapid inflation and increased risk of terrorist attacks."
In June 2016, I stated that “I am saddened I was right, but I am shocked at how Project Fear manages to keep reaching new lows, frightening pensioners, patients, public sector workers, home owners, students and anyone who dares to think that we are a great country and as the fifth largest economy can stand on our own two feet in the world. Quite simply, whichever way you vote in the referendum is your choice and neither side can tell you what is really going to happen, but the companies in Stevenage will still be here, employing local people, who will buy from the shops and pay taxes to keep the economy going and fund our public services. Neither side has the answers, as no one ever knows what the future will hold – this is your choice and you must decide, but I promise you and your family, that whatever the result is - I will stand up and fight for the best deal for Stevenage.”
We are now two and a half years on since the referendum was held and the divisions in our country have not been healed. The atmosphere remains toxic. The shouting from both sides has overshadowed our progress with record investments in our NHS, Schools, Housing, Transport and a million more people in work. The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and last year saw the highest level of foreign direct investment projects into the country in our history. The future of the UK is bright. Forbes has ranked the UK as the best country for business in 2018 and PwC predicts that the country could become the fastest-growing economy in the G7 between now and 2050. Manufacturing orders are also at their strongest since 1988 and unemployment is at its lowest since records began. We live in a stable and liberal democracy, we have a significant role in maintaining international peace and security and we are open to the world for business.
I want a free trade deal with Europe, our largest trading partner, but I also want trade deals around the world. The scaremongering about “No Deal” and “crashing out” is irresponsible and damaging consumer confidence at a critical time, when we should be supporting manufacturers and retailers during the vital Christmas trading period. Millions of jobs depend on our High Streets and we cannot have first class public services without a strong economy to pay for them.
I cannot support the Withdrawal Agreement in its current form. There is much to dislike, but I accept the need for compromise in any negotiation. However, I cannot compromise on an “indefinite backstop” that prevents us from ever leaving the European Union and delivering on the result of the referendum.
Member of Parliament for Stevenage