This week in Parliament, I voted to “trigger Article 50,” the UK’s formal notice that we are leaving the European Union.
Some in Theresa May’s Cabinet talk as though it will be boundless prosperity.
Some “Remainers” talk only of Britain hurtling off a cliff, all doom and gloom.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. After a long and difficult marriage with the EU, we’re getting a divorce.
It won’t be a smooth road. There will be bumps and potholes. Divorce begins with two sides shouting at each other. Eventually, the war of words ends and negotiations begin. This is where we must get to.
I argued for Remain. But the decision is made. Britain won’t re-run the Referendum. We have to make the best of it.
When the Government sends a formal letter to the EU, the two sides will sit round a table for two years, agreeing the terms of the separation. Even after divorce, a new relationship will evolve. It is in Britain’s interests to keep co-operating over security, terrorism, people smuggling, environmental standards and much more.
Inaccurate claims were made both sides during the referendum – remember the false promise that the NHS could get £350million a week extra? False promises damage trust. That rhetoric has to be replaced by honest discussion, and honest endeavour, to achieve the best outcome from the path the country has chosen. I believe there’s a deal to be had which most Leave and Remain voters can accept.
So how should this move forward? First, there are a few things Theresa May must do. She isn’t just Tory leader. She is Britain’s Prime Minister. She must start talking to other party leaders. And do her share of listening.
In the Prime Minister’s recent speech, she pledged that the UK will keep workers’ rights after Brexit. She also pledged to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ by seeking a period of stability after we leave, while our trading arrangements with the EU single market are sorted out. Good access to that single market is vital for jobs in Doncaster, with no extra tariffs or bureaucracy.
Theresa May said she wants the negotiations to guarantee that EU workers currently living here, can stay. It would be wrong to move the goalposts now and make someone leave a job. Likewise, we need rights for Brits living in Europe too. I also want us to be open to EU students; our universities need them; and none of us want any restrictions on travel to Europe – Doncaster’s airport relies on it.
Free movement, as we know it, will end. The UK will put some rules to manage migration. We need fair rules, not an end to all immigration. Both sides will need to compromise.
In the next two years, Parliament will vote on the deal; and I’ll be asking my constituents for their views on it. Watch this space.
MP for Don Valley and former Europe Minister.
This article was first published in the Doncaster Free Press, Thursday 2 February 2017