On this page I will post my personal views alongside unbiased and factual information on the EU Referendum. I trust this will be a useful point of reference for residents.
(Written 13th March 2019)
I promised that I would update residents on the rationale as to why I didn’t support last nights “Meaningful Vote” on the Withdrawal Agreement.
Firstly, it is worth mentioning that when I took on this job, I realised that it was incredibly unlikely that I would be able to keep everyone happy, so it has always been very important to me that I keep to not only my own principles but the Manifesto commitment that I was re-elected on in 2017.
The reality of the situation is that I still stand by our commitment to leave the Single Market and Customs Union, I agree that “No deal is better than a bad deal”, I agree that we would be leaving “on the 29th of March with or without a deal”, I supported the Prime Ministers commitment to “obtain legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement” and I agree that our instruction from the referendum was to “take back control of our laws borders and money”. In short, my position has remained completely consistent and not changed at all…It is the actions and language of those who want to block Brexit who have essentially changed the landscape, with the gradual introduction of no Brexit being floated as being a real possibility.
As I have detailed before, the majority of the deal that the Prime Minister has negotiated, whilst no means perfect, is largely acceptable, but the critical point remains the “Backstop”. This mechanism has the potential to trap us indefinitely in a void whereby we are in a customs union but without the ability to have input to the laws that will Govern us. To put this into context, we would be in a situation whereby 27 of our closest competitors would essentially be legislating for us, without us having the ability to amend or any way of us terminating the agreement. I would question whether any sensible business would enter into a contract like this…? Yet that is what we are being asked to agree to the EU under the current Withdrawal Agreement.
With that in mind, I was encouraged to hear on Monday night that the deadlock had seemingly been broken and the necessary legal changes to the backstop had been agreed. This gave the prospect of getting a deal which we could get behind, deliver on the promises made and move on to the next stages of the negotiations having cleanly left the EU.
As ever with these agreements, the devil is in the detail though and so before approaching last nights vote, I wanted to ensure that I had looked very carefully at the legal advice given both by the Attorney General and others with significant Legal expertise who looked in detail at the amended terms in the short time given.
Sadly, the combined advice received, essentially amounted to the same message. Nothing significant had changed.
The Attorney General admitted that the tweaks to the backstop were not legally binding and that whilst they reduced the risk of the UK being trapped in the Backstop Protocol, critically, it didn’t remove it.
Additionally, there still wouldn’t be an exit mechanism from the Protocol which would be under the UK’s control. Instead, it would either need the EU’s consent or require arbitration, which is not only likely to be a lengthy and uncertain procedure but also require reference to the European Court of Justice for any questions of EU law involved.
None of this sounded like taking back control to me.
With these factors in mind, I had no option but to vote against the deal on the table and send a clear message again to the EU. I will also vote not to take “no deal” off the table, and if it comes to it, against a lengthy extension of article 50.
On a final point, I find it extraordinary to hear again today from the EU negotiators that Parliament has to tell them what it wants. It has! Not only have we set out conclusively what is not acceptable, a clear instruction of what we would agree to was given on the 29th January, where there was a majority vote for the “Brady Amendment”. Something they are acutely aware of that. I would put it that it is not a case of us not asking, but more the EU not listening...
I accept that there has to be compromise in any negotiations and feel that we have given more than our fair share. It is over to the EU now to see what they offer, but the clock is again ticking. Parliament has legislated to leave on the 29th March this year and that is still what I want to see.
(Written 28th February 2019)
Firstly, I would like to update residents on the Prime Minister's statement on Tuesday.
In it she announced that the next “Meaningful Vote” on the proposals that she brings back to Parliament will be held by 12th March. If the Government loses that vote then there will be a further vote the following day on whether "no deal” is taken off the table. If the vote is in favour of “no deal” being taken off the table, there will be a further vote on whether there should be a short extension of Article 50.
This throws up a number of possible scenarios, depending on the result of each vote. What should be noted is that irrespective of the result of the vote, “no deal” would only be off the table for the March 29th deadline. If a short extension to Article 50 was also agreed, if we reached the end of it and no agreement had been reached on a deal, the default position is still “no deal”.
It is impossible to say at this stage how I would vote in each (should they be necessary) as it depends very much on the concessions we receive from the EU. The ball is very much in their court on this. However, if it were on the current basis, where nothing has changed, I would vote against the deal, against taking “no deal” off the table and against an extension of Article 50.
It may not surprise residents to hear that I completely disagree with the new Labour Party position to re-run the EU Referendum. However, this point goes beyond party politics.
Whether you voted leave or remain it does not define your preference of political party.
And most people believe in, respect and are grateful for the democracy that we enjoy in the UK. The people have already democratically decided to leave the EU. To go back on this is an affront to liberty and places our constitution in a perilous situation.
Labour’s proposed second referendum would also rule out a WTO ‘no deal’ Brexit.
In other words Labour are saying to 17.4 million people in this country - including 67% of residents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth, some of whom would have been Labour voters - thank you for your first vote, but you got it wrong, you don’t understand, now try again.
As I have said, I do not believe we should take no deal off the table. Parliamentary arithmetic is placing huge pressure on the Prime Minister to do this but I believe it is wrong; this says to the EU that we will accept anything they offer. This will undermine our negotiating strategy.
My stance remains that I would like a deal both the UK and the EU can be content with, but I will not accept this at all costs. No deal is better than a bad deal.
(Written 30th January 2019)
Last night I voted for the 'Brady' Amendment which means the PM will now go back to the EU with the strongest possible hand to try to renegotiate the Backstop.
I voted against the amendments which were designed to delay or disrupt Brexit. I also voted against the non-binding amendment to take 'no-deal' off the table. Although this passed, I believe this will weaken our negotiating hand. I stand by the principle that leaving on WTO terms without a deal is better than a bad deal. Although I would still prefer a deal which is acceptable to both sides.
(Written 24th January 2019)
North Warwickshire and Bedworth's MP Craig Tracey spoke in Prime Minister's Questions, urging Parliament to honour the EU Referendum result.
The local MP was one of 67% of residents who voted to leave the European Union in 2016.
Speaking at PMQs, Craig said:
"North Warwickshire and Bedworth voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU in 2016, and from the many conversations I have had with constituents since, I am in absolutely no doubt that if they were asked again, they would vote the same way. Does the Prime Minister agree therefore that there is no credibility in the argument for a second referendum and that our constituents want this Parliament to do what it promised and honour the referendum result, which, as Opposition Members seem to have forgotten, was to leave the EU?"
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, responded:
"My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not just he, I and all Conservative Members, but all Labour Members stood on manifesto pledges to respect the result of the referendum and to leave the EU. I have set out several times my concern about returning to the British people in a second referendum. People sent a clear message. We asked them to make a choice, they made that choice, and we should deliver on it."
Mr Tracey last week voted against the PM's Withdrawal Agreement, predominantly due to the Norther Irish Backstop.
North Warwickshire voice in Parliament reflected:
"Those who are calling for a second referendum are in contempt of democracy. They certainly do not represent the views of local residents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth. It is so patronising to hear individuals claim 'we didn't know what we voted for'. Not only would a second referendum on our membership of the EU be morally wrong but there would be significant democratic and constitutional consequences for our country. I believe we must accept the democratic result to leave the EU and focus on reaching an agreement that both sides can be content with, failing that we should leave on WTO rules."
(Written 16th January 2019)
Why I voted against the withdrawal proposals:
As I stated before Christmas, without significant and substantial improvements to the Withdrawal Bill proposal I would be unable to vote for it.
I believe that the democratic will of local residents, and that of the majority of the country who voted to leave the EU, must be realised. We 650 MPs in the House of Commons have a responsibility to deliver the mandate to leave of 17.4million – the largest ever mandate in the UK’s history.
Yesterday I was restricted to just two minutes in Parliament to outline my views on the proposals, but below is the intended full speech I planned to give, which sets out my reasoning for voting against the Prime Minister’s deal.
It is no secret that I voted to leave the EU as did 67% of my constituents and nearly seventeen and a half million people across UK.
The reasons for voting to leave varied across the country, but I have spoken with thousands of my constituents before, during and after the referendum and they were clear what they voted for. They wanted to see:
· An end to Free Movement and for control of our borders
· Sovereignty for our Parliament
· The ability to trade freely around the world
And I very much share these sentiments.
I appreciate the negotiations have been tough – however, the Prime Minister has gained concessions from EU – the End to Freedom of Movement being most notable – which is particularly welcomed by my constituents.
I also agree that it is in the best interests of both UK and the EU to reach a deal. But not at all costs.
If we aren’t prepared to walk away from negations then we were undone before we even started.
It is concerning that under these proposals the United Kingdom, as a Union is under threat - in its current format - if we vote this deal through history will look back unkindly on this Parliament for the consequences it will have for our Union.
Northern Ireland and the integrity of the UK may not have been at the forefront of constituents’ minds when voting – but it is imperative that we protect it.
We are told that the Backstop will supposedly come in to effect as matter of last resort – however I don’t buy this. I know the UK would approach the next stage of negotiations in the spirit it was intended, but I have no such confidence in EU.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that we do not want the Backstop and nor do EU. Which begs question why do we have it? Somebody must want it!
I believe PM when says we don’t want it - so that leaves only the EU. And it is easy to see why: this gives them the upper hand in negotiations.
And it is a fact that the Government’s own legal advice states clearly that “the protocol would endure indefinitely”.
I understand that compromise is part of any negotiation but I do not feel that the goodwill shown by PM has been reciprocated.
Another concern regarding these proposals around the legal status of Withdrawal agreement and that it leaves us no guarantees on political declaration (our future relationship with the EU).
In reality this places the UK at the mercy of the EU. Once this deal is agreed on by Parliament, which would only need to be agreed by a majority of the EU states, to a position whereby on all future parts of the deal, they would need to be unanimously agreed by each of the 27 Member States. Put simply, if any one of them didn’t like any element of the agreement, they could potentially vote it down or add their own wish list to it! Evidence of this in practice can be seen in the trade deal the EU negotiated with Canada whereby one region of Belgium halted the whole deal.
We cannot then then unilaterally leave the transition period or even prevent the backstop.
Surely the political declaration should offer at very least cast iron protective guarantees to move it as close as possible to the legal status of the withdrawn agreement.
Moreover the deal on table potentially gives away our sovereignty and £39bn with nothing guaranteed in return!
In my view this isn’t a good deal.
Ultimately we need an agreement from both sides that we can get behind - this one stacks all the decks against us.
I would argue that the tone of these negotiations is reflective of the very reason so many millions voted to leave in first place. The EU continues to prove that it is unwilling (or unable) to reform – and I fear they would be quite happy to keep us tied to their rules for as long as possible.
I was keen that we reached an agreement that I would be able to support, however, in its current format, I cannot.
The proposals do not meet two of the criteria set out earlier by constituents: taking back control of our sovereignty and the ability to freely trade.
Therefore I believe that, if necessary, walking away and trading on World Trade Organisation rules isnot something we should automatically be afraid of.
I have listened to businesses across my constituency and more widely. I have heard their concerns - many organisations are simply not ready for no deal scenario, particularly in supply chains.
We need to consider the impacts of that and look at what measures can be put in place.
This could have a particular impact in constituency because of the type of industry we have - logistics and “just in time” manufacturing sectors.
It is only right to make constituents aware - many who are strongly against this deal and who have suggested that we walk away – of the potential risk in this regard be it short, medium or long term.
However, I have also met with many who are a lot more optimistic. For example on Small Business Saturday I met with Sykes Timber a 150 year old timber business who export around world. This includes export to EU member states and they are already in talks with those businesses about how they will come to compromises on tariffs. I am pleased to say that they were very positive about business resilience & future, even in no deal scenario.
This re-enforced my belief - as former small business owner myself – that businesses adapt to their markets and external influences.
Furthermore it is work remembering that tariffs do not mean a complete cessation of trade.
Successful businesses are successful for a reason; they always have to deal with changing environments and adapt to that change. I
As someone who believes in leaving the EU I want us to seize the opportunities Brexit brings.
To conclude I feel that this withdrawal agreement proposal doesn’t represent what either I or the majority of my local constituents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth voted for in 2016.
In its current format I am unable to support it.
To reiterate I believe that getting an agreement is the most favourable option but not at all costs.
It is not too late to change course, we can still secure amendments which deliver wholly on referendum result.
Those changes need to include getting rid of Northern Ireland Backstop and having guarantees on our future relationship, then I suspect that we will see the proposals will likely command a majority in the house.
Importantly, we must deliver the democratic will of British people. They are understandably frustrated at the games of some politicians who seek to frustrate the democratic result of the referendum.
I implore the Prime Minister, go back, I know the EU have said this deal is final, but we know that they constantly move the goal posts; they said we wouldn’t get an end to free movement without being in customs union but the Prime Minister has achieved that.
So let’s get a deal that will bring a majority in this house and deliver the Brexit that my constituents and millions around the country voted for in 2016.
(Written Christmas 2018)
Brexit continues to dominate the political landscape and is such a fluid process, often providing uncertain and unclear potential outcomes. I feel we need to believe in the UK and what we are capable of as a nation. I firmly believe that a successful outcome to Brexit can bring a more united country that both looks and moves forward in 2019.
Since the EU withdrawal agreement proposals and political declaration were published I have been making my position clear to the government. I had a number of concerns, predominantly surrounding the Northern Irish backstop, and I wanted to see improvements to this deal.
The Prime Minister has now postponed the vote and will meet with European leaders to seek improvements. I welcome this move.
As someone who voted to leave, alongside 67% of voters in our local community, I am determined to make the right decision for residents and the country as a whole.
I still believe that no deal is better than a bad deal, but my preference would be for a deal which both sides can be content with. I am realistic enough to know that compromise is part of negotiations, but I will not support a deal at all costs if it is not in our interests.
Finally I would like to reiterate that I do not believe there should be a second referendum on our membership of the EU. This is not a solution. The democratic will of the people to leave was clear and must be respected. To repeat a democratic process which provided the largest ever mandates in our history would not only be morally wrong, it would set a dangerous precedent for our constitution. It would also erode trust in our liberal democracy.
(Written 8 December 2018)
Firstly, can I thank constituents for their patience over the last few weeks. I appreciate that this is a huge decision for our constituency & country. In my role as MP, it was important though that I was given as free a hand as possible challenge the deal put forward.
Over the last two weeks I have made attempts to improve the EU withdrawal proposals that have been on the table, having repeatedly made my concerns to the Government, at all levels, clear over what I feel needs to change.
Unfortunately there is no indication that any improvements will be made to the proposals in the key areas of concern. If this turns out to be the case then I will have no option but to vote against the agreement on Tuesday.
I understand that some people have wanted me to come out and condemn the proposals from the beginning, but I believe that with such a momentous decision for our country it was important that I tried to achieve change before declaring publicly in advance of the vote.
Before the vote I will continue to push for these changes in the interests of the people of North Warwickshire and Bedworth and indeed the UK as a whole.
(28 November 2018)
Government briefing notes on the proposed withdrawal agreement can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uplo…
(Written 27 November 2018)
Having had the opportunity to thoroughly examine the withdrawal agreement and the subsequent political declaration, which outlines our future relationship, I have identified a number of areas which are of concern.
There are certainly merits to the current deal which I know constituents will welcome, such as the end to free movement, and I accept that in any negotiation compromise is necessary. However, it is my opinion that the proposals do not fully provide what we voted for in 2016 and there are uncertainties in the text which have the potential to leave us in a never ending transitional limbo. I have no doubt that the UK would approach the next stage of negotiations in the spirit that they were meant, but I do not share the same confidence with our EU counterparts. Each Member State would effectively have a veto as we move to a position where they would be required to give approval in a unanimous vote.
As a result, I have requested a meeting with the Government’s Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox QC to discuss the consequences of what is being proposed and potential outcomes. I will also be writing to the Prime Minister to outline my concerns and will continue to make that case to Government Ministers behind the scenes, as I have done previously.
Clearly, It is in both the EU’s & our own interest to work out a good deal. But not at all costs. I still believe there is the opportunity to achieve this, but the clock is ticking.
We have 2 weeks until Parliament has to vote on this issue and there is still a lot to play for. I will be using that time to make the case for the Brexit that I believe local people voted for and is in the best interests of our nation.
(Written 16th November 2018)
Now that this latest stage of the EU agreement has been released, a document of some 550 pages, I intend to take time to fully analyse it and digest its consequences for the UK and my constituents.
I do not believe that a knee jerk reaction is sensible or appropriate in judging one of the most significant moments in the UK’s recent history. That Is not an approach I would have taken in my business, so I see no reason why such a critical issue should be treated any differently.
When the Chequers White Paper proposals were released I took time to read over the document. After coming across a number of concerns, I wrote to the Prime Minister to stress that the majority of people voted to leave so that the UK can take back control of our laws, trade, money and borders.
In responding to me, the Prime Minister gave me assurances over these terms.
I need to be able to confirm that the document released yesterday meets those assurances that I have been given and that the key elements of what Brexit represents to local residents is respected.
If I feel that it doesn’t, I will take these concerns back to the Prime Minister.
(Written 19th July 2019)
Having read the White Paper I still harbour a number of concerns. I want to ensure that the reasons the UK voted to leave the EU; namely to take back control of our sovereignty, borders, trade and money are respected.
In view of this, I have written to the Prime Minister to set out these specific concerns and to seek clarity regarding the UK position. I am looking forward to the PM’s response.
I was pleased that the Government recently accepted the amendments to the Customs Bill proposed by Conservative ERG members which I was happy to support.
This is undoubtedly a challenging time for our country. I said at the beginning that negotiating a deal would not be easy. Inevitably some compromises are a reality in any negotiation, however the democratic will of the people must be respected.
I still believe in the positive potential that Brexit gives the UK – we must seize these opportunities.
Having read the White Paper I still harbour a number of concerns. I want to ensure that the reasons the UK voted to leave the EU; namely to take back control of our sovereignty, borders, trade and money are respected.
(Written 10th July 2018)
I understand that leaving the EU is a really important issue to residents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth. As someone who also voted Leave, it is important to me too.
From the information that became available following the recent Chequers Meeting, I had immediate serious concerns around some of the proposals on offer, particularly around our sovereignty and future trading ability to enable us to enjoy the full opportunities that I believe Brexit offers.
However, before commenting, I wanted to have the opportunity to listen to the Prime Minister speak yesterday and fully digest the other information currently available. Having now done this, whilst there were some re-assurances, particularly around freedom of movement, that were welcome, some of my concerns still remain unaddressed.
It is important to remember that whilst there has understandably been much speculation about what the latest proposals from the Government mean, their White Paper, which will provide the full details, has not been released yet.
In view of this, the sensible course of action is not to rush into a judgement, but to weigh up the implications once the full facts are available. I look forward to being able to consider these details fully as soon as they are available.
Last week we finally had some clarification as to Labour’s policy on Brexit and, for all Labour leave voters, it appears to be a betrayal.
Jeremy Corbyn has pledged that he would keep the UK in the Custom’s Union with the EU – allowing free trade within the group of countries in the Union but this would mean we will not be able to negotiation individual trade deals with anyone else; much like the current situation of being an EU member. There are a number of problems with that which I would like to address:
1) During the referendum it was clear that by voting to leave we would be leaving all of the EU’s institutions. By staying in the Custom’s Union we would in affect not be completely leaving. Therefore this is a direct contradiction to the democratic will of the people.
2) Staying in the Custom’s Union would prevent one of the major opportunities which leaving the EU presents: to take control of our trade. By being part of the Custom’s Union we will not be able to negotiate new trade deals with the rest of the world. The EU Custom’s Union block will still control this.
3) This stance weakens the UK’s hand in negotiating a deal with the EU.
4) Critics have argued, and I suspect with some justification, that this is a cynical attempt by Labour to divide the Government. Many of their shadow Ministers have previously said that the UK cannot stay in the Custom’s Union after Brexit and now those same Ministers are saying we can. Labour are hoping that Conservative ‘rebels’ will join them to defeat the Government in a vote on this. They hope this could lead to a vote of no confidence and potentially force another general election.
5) I have heard the claim that Jeremy Corbyn is a man of principle. Well I am afraid that cannot be true, during his whole political career Corbyn has argued to leave the EU, now that a political opportunity has presented itself, Jeremy Corbyn’s principles have gone out of the window.
I feel it is important to highlight this significant U-turn by the opposition as Brexit is very important to the majority of local residents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth. Indeed this U-turn has been criticised by some Labour MPs such as Frank Field who has said staying in the Customs Union would be ‘ratting on’ Labour leave voters.
As a leave voter myself, with two-thirds of constituents voting for Brexit, I pledged to do everything I can as Member of Parliament to ensure the democratic will of the people is respected. At least now we are clearer as to where the opposition stand on one of the most important issues in modern British history.
In comparison Theresa May set out what the future relationship between the UK and EU could look like once the UK leaves in a recent speech.
The Government is seeking a free trade agreement but crucially the UK will not be a member of the Custom’s Union or Single Market.
Staying in the Single Market would mean having to implement new EU legislation automatically and in its entirety, and would also mean continued free movement.
The Government has been clear that it is leaving the Customs Union and a customs union – neither would be compatible with a meaningful independent trade policy.
We have put forward two potential options for our future customs arrangement with the EU:
Option one is a customs partnership between the UK and the EU: At the border, the UK would mirror the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world, applying the same tariffs and the same rules of origin as the EU for those goods arriving in the UK and intended for the EU.
Option two is a highly streamlined customs arrangement, where we would jointly agree to implement a range of measures to minimise frictions to trade, together with specific provisions for Northern Ireland, including to ensure the requirements for moving goods across borders are as simple as possible.
Ultimately the Government is seeking to the deliver the best possible future for the UK outside the EU and the Prime Minister has set out 5 tests to obtain this goal:
1) Respect the result of the referendum;
2) Be an enduring agreement;
3) Protect people’s jobs and security;
4) Deliver an outcome consistent with the kind of country we want to be;
5) Strengthen our Union of nations and bring our country back together.
This ambition is something I will continue to support the Government in achieving.
Brexit continues to dominate politics in the UK as one of the most significant issues facing the country in a generation. As I outlined during the referendum this was not be an easy process with uncertain times in the short-term, and we are still at this stage. However, there is a fundamental underling principle in all of this - the British people have spoken through the democratic referendum and their will must be respected. We are fortunate to live in such a liberal democracy, particularly when you look at what is happening in Zimbabwe or North Korea. Democracy ensures the rights and views of the populace.
In North Warwickshire 67% of votes cast were to leave and I was one of them. Since then I have pledged to do everything in my power as MP to ensure your instruction is enacted and I have supported the Government’s work in leaving the EU.
Unfortunately in Parliament, ever since the Referendum we have seen attempts to undermine democracy by derailing and delaying Brexit. This has mainly come from Labour and the Lib Dems but not exclusively, as some MPs on all sides of the house are proving a thorn in the Government’s side. Some would argue they are concerned for the process in which law is taken back from Brussels and placed into Parliament’s hands, others simply have never been in favour of leaving. Either way the British people have spoken and they have said to leave, which must be respected.
I can also understand frustrations with some aspects of the negotiation process with the EU, but I would like to make the following points;
· The Prime Minister and the UK have shown maturity and goodwill which is not currently being reciprocated by the EU during negotiations. An example of this is the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK ex-pats in the EU. Following the Prime Minister’s Florence speech the ball really is now in the EU’s court, she has offered an olive branch which they would be wise to accept.
· At this stage I am currently open minded to a transitional phase for leaving, but this must be a short-term period which allows British businesses and institutions to fully prepare for life outside of the EU. However, it must have a very definite end date and cannot be open ended.
· I still very much believe that no deal is better than a bad deal. In fact the fear of World Trade Organisations rules being implemented to future trade with the EU is, in my opinion overplayed. I was one of a number of MPs who urged the Prime Minister to start planning for a no deal scenario and pleased that this has been taken notice of.
Ultimately I believe it is in the EU’s and UK’s interests to reach an amicable tariff-free trade arrangement following Brexit. I am of course monitoring the situation carefully, particularly how the EU reacts to the Prime Minister’s generous diplomacy.
It is imperative that we continue to make plans for ‘no deal’, this will not only ensure we are organised as a country for this eventuality, but will also send a clear message to the EU that we are prepared to walk away if they continue to reject progress on negotiations.
As I say, this is by no means an easy process, but ultimately we must remember why we chose to liberate ourselves from the European Union and look at the bigger picture when we will have control of our laws, trade, borders, democracy and destiny.
These are reasons for long-term optimism despite the short-term uncertainty.
Craig's Speech for the EU (Withdrawal) Bill debate 7th September 2017
“Thank you for calling me to speak in this debate, which is likely to be one of the most important in this Parliament.
I voted to leave EU, as did 67% of my constituents across North Warwickshire & Bedworth as during the campaign it was clear that there was disillusionment with what it had become.
The message I got loud and clear from the doorstep was that yes, there was a degree of concern over uncontrolled immigration, but the overriding frustration was around our sovereignty and consequently the ability to control our own laws.
This Bill will repeal the European Communities Act from the day we leave, bringing a welcome end to the supremacy of EU law in the UK.
And although the ECJ will continue to provide the means for interpreting EU-derived law created prior to the date of departure, It will no longer have jurisdiction in the UK after we leave.
I support the main purpose of the Bill in ensuring that the UK has a functioning statute book once we leave the EU, which is obviously in the national interest.
Obviously, nobody benefits from a cliff-edge departure, so it will provide businesses and individuals certainty that the same laws, which existed before the UK’s withdrawal, will still exist afterwards, as far as practical.
The reason behind this Bill is not to introduce major policy changes, being largely technical in nature, but is the way to ensure that the UK Parliament, and the devolved administrations become the supreme law making bodies in the UK.
Future laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff.
When I look back at the re-negotiations prior to the referendum, the result could have been very different had the EU showed a willingness to reform, or allow some concessions prior to the vote.
There seemed a complete lack of desire for the UK to stay and the fact we came back virtually empty handed was not a message missed by my constituents.
And like many of them, I have seen first-hand the negative impacts that EU laws and regulations can have on our local economy, during the 20 years spent running my own small business.
Many of the regulations and laws which affected my firm stemmed from Brussels, yet I was unable to trade with its markets!
To put this in to some context, only 5% of our businesses export to the EU, yet 100% are caught by its red tape, with small businesses usually disproportionately affected.
During the Referendum campaign, research across West Midlands small businesses showed that:
- they represented 99% of Employers, employing 58% of local people.
- by a ratio of 4-1 they thought EU laws made it harder to take on staff
- by 2-1 that EU regulation hindered them, not helped them
- and a massive 70% thought the UK not EU should be in charge of negotiating trade agreements.
I am mindful though that we need to create an environment that works for everyone, not just those of us who voted leave, so I would ask the Govt to take into account the following two points as this Bill moves forward.
Firstly, businesses are already making decisions in preparation for March 2019 and they require legal certainty in order to meet their commitments to customers once we have left the European Union.
Given that much of the detail of the new legal framework will be brought forward through secondary legislation, it is vital that the process of the Withdrawal Bill and programme of statutory instruments be prepared well in advance of March 2019, to provide them with the confidence that they need.
Secondly, in order to avoid a legal vacuum upon leaving the European Union, it is important that any inconsistencies within existing EU legislation are addressed prior to transposition into UK law.
I would therefore stress the need for Government to consult fully with stakeholders throughout the process of drafting and laying statutory instruments, to ensure that any inconsistencies between EU and UK legislation, especially their practical implications, are fully addressed by these measures.
So to conclude, yes, there may be challenges ahead, but let’s not paint some idealistic picture that had the vote gone the other way, then it would be plain sailing in the years ahead had we remained “In”.
I firmly believe that there are exciting times ahead for the UK outside of the EU.
And with due considerations given to the issues I mentioned, I believe this Bill will provide the pathway to the smooth exit that we all want to see.
The opposition’s new position of leaving the EU but staying in the single market and customs union, would mean leaving only in name.
The single market and the customs union are the main and essential components of the EU and their decision to vote against and amend this Bill, is the latest attempt to destabilise the democratic mandate clearly given to us by the electorate.
In contrast, I will be backing it in the Lobby on Monday, supporting both my constituents’ and the UK’s democratic decision to leave the European Union.”
On 29th March Theresa May respected and carried out the will of the people by enacting Article 50 to begin the formal process of leaving the EU.
In our local community the overwhelming majority of people voted to leave the EU as I did. I was pleased to play my part in Parliament to vote through the Article 50 Bill and vote against attempts to derail or delay Brexit.
I would like to see coverage of Brexit be shone in a more positive light in the media. Yes I accept it was a divisive campaign and debate, however the people have spoken – that’s called democracy - so now we must unite and use this as an opportunity for positive change. As the Prime Minister said it is a unique chance for our generation to shape this change.
We all want to see a Britain that is stronger than it is today. We all want a country that is fairer, so that everyone has the chance to succeed. We all want a nation that is safe and secure for our children and grandchildren. We all want to live in a truly Global Britain that gets out and builds relationships with old friends and new allies around the world – now is the opportunity.
We are determined to get the right deal for every single person in this country. As we face the opportunities ahead of us on this historic journey, our shared values, interests and ambitions can – and must – bring us together.
The next two years of negotiations will not be easy, I have no doubt that the EU will show the same stubbornness and short-sightedness it did when David Cameron tried for significant reform. Those who run the EU need to quickly recognise that people in Europe want change and want the EU to modernise and be more flexible. If they do not I believe more countries will follow the UK’s lead and leave the EU. If this happens EU leaders will only have themselves to blame.
I voted against House of Lords amendments which would have damaged the negotiating hand of our country upon leaving the EU and would have slowed the process.
The Article 50 Bill has now passed through Parliament and has been given Royal Assent. I am pleased that Article 50 can now be triggered.
Tonight Parliament voted on the triggering of Article 50, to leave the EU after days of debate in the Chamber. I was sceptical that there should be a need for such a vote after the British people sent a very clear message for Brexit at the referendum.
As residents will know, I voted to leave the EU and my view that the UK will be better off out was reflected by the vast majority of people in our community, with 67% in favour.
Furthermore, as a whole, the British people voted by a clear majority to leave with more people turning out in the referendum than at any general election since 1992. No Prime Minister or Government in British history has ever received as large a mandate. Parliament also voted by a majority of 373 to invoke Article 50 by March this year in a previous vote.
I have subsequently been asked which way I will vote if it ever came to Parliament - I can unequivocally state that I will be vote in favour of the Government's White Paper to leave the European Union.
I can also confirm that I will continue to do all I can in my role as North Warwickshire and Bedworth's Member of Parliament to ensure the democratic will of my constituents is respected.
Therefore I am pleased that tonight Parliament has voted by a huge majority to begin Brexit negotiations.
Article 50 and Brexit:
I have been clear in assuring all residents that I will do all I can to ensure the will of the people - to leave the EU - is upheld, and this includes voting to trigger Article 50 should a vote come to Parliament.
There has already been a vote in Parliament on the timetable for invoking Article 50 and the decision of the House of Commons on this was overwhelming. Over 440 MPs voted in favour of invoking Article 50 by 31 March 2017, and only 75 MPs voted against it.
The decision on who can invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be a matter for the Supreme Court. I would not want to pre-empt the decision of the Supreme Court, but I have always been clear that Parliament must respect the wishes of the British people.
Whatever the decision of the Supreme Court, the country voted to leave the EU and the UK will be leaving. The Government has also been clear that there must be no attempts to remain inside the EU and no attempts to re-join it through the back door.
High Court Ruling:
Naturally I am very disappointed by the High Court Verdict as I am sure the majority of residents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth who voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU are.
The Government has said they will challenge this ruling and have no intention of letting this change our timetable for triggering Article 50.
People can see through this challenge as an act to derail Brexit and in doing so subvert democracy which I find shameful; the will of the people must be heard and must be respected. I will do all I can in my role as MP to support the Government in the process of leaving the EU.
These are my post-referendum comments:
Firstly I would like to reiterate that this was a democratic vote for the people of the UK to decide whether to leave or remain in the EU. The Country voted by 52%-48% to leave. This was a democratic process and we are fortunate enough to live in a democratic country, therefore the will of the people must be respected. Furthermore there was a large turnout across the country and everyone was entitled to their own opinion.
You may be interested to know that on a local level, in our community of North Warwickshire and Bedworth, residents voted by two-to-one to leave the EU. This was an overwhelming 67% - 33% margin. As you may know I also voted to leave and I am pleased that my position reflected the vast majority of the people I represent.
I respect those who voted to remain and they will undoubtedly be disappointed, however, that is not to say that they should feel that we do not have a bright future ahead of us.
I believe that this is an opportunity for our country in terms of the economy – the net £10bn per year cost of membership for the EU can be invested in the UK, trade - with countries around the world as well as Europe, and sovereignty - to have our destiny in our own hands.
It will now be for the new Prime Minister to set out the plan, terms and timetable for leaving the European Union.
It is now important that we come together as a country to move forward. Yes there may be uncertain times ahead in the short-term, however it is important not to underestimate what our country is capable of and I am convinced that we have many reasons to be optimistic about Britain’s future.
Whilst ultimately it is the people who will decide, not the politicians, which is only right, as North Warwickshire & Bedworth’s elected representative, I feel I should explain my position.
First, I would like to point out that without the Prime Minister’s campaign for reform or the Conservative Party’s victory last May we would not be getting this opportunity to have our say. Indeed for many people, including myself, this is the first time we will have a direct vote on our relationship with Europe. In 1975 the British people voted to stay in the European Economic Community; predominantly a trading bloc at the time with a handful of European countries. I don’t believe that many people at the time envisaged what the EEC would evolve into.
I admit to being a Eurosceptic, which goes back to my time of running my own small business and the effect of the interference and red-tape the EU had. However, I wanted to see the final deal before making a final decision.
Now that that has been delivered, I have decided that I will be voting to leave the EU.
Although the Prime Minister managed change beyond what I thought the rest of the EU would allow, for me it does not go far enough. When I weigh up both sides of the argument – and there are pros and cons for both – I keep coming to the conclusion that the UK is better off out of the EU.
By being out of the EU we have control of our own destiny and sovereignty over laws in this country. Surely we are capable of governing ourselves better than anyone and we should have people we can hold accountable for those decisions, which is currently not the case.
Being out of the EU will give us more control over our borders and welfare system. Our population continues to surge; hospitals, schools, housing and transport systems are struggling to cope. Furthermore this government has worked hard to end the something for nothing benefit culture so that it always pays to work and I do not believe we should be told we cannot stop in work benefits to EU citizens.
There will always be economic uncertainty in the EU when you have countries so diverse as Greece and Germany sharing a common currency. Moreover, when I look back at the negotiations I must question the EU’s desire for the UK to stay. Did they really go far enough to appease the British people? It is baffling when you think of the UK’s net contribution to the EU project. I firmly believe the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU.
I must point out that I do not believe the EU is all bad. The open market is a positive thing for business and trade, the original idea to bring peace to Europe after the Second World War has been largely successful and being at the top table of a large international organisation is a position of global influence. So leaving is not without its risks. Options such as the Norway or Iceland models would need to be considered if we do vote to come out, but when you consider the UK’s huge economic, social, cultural, military and historical standing in the world, we have incredible potential and I have confidence in what we could achieve in the future.
What happens now is down to you. This is a once in a life time opportunity and a decision that cannot be taken lightly. I suspect that you will hear scare stories from both sides over the next few months and I urge everyone to seek out the facts before making a final decision. From my point of view that is to vote to leave; however the very minimum that comes from this significant moment in our history is that the Prime Minister has negotiated a better deal for the UK than that which we currently have and as your elected Member of Parliament, whatever the result, I will carry on working hard to get the best for North Warwickshire and Bedworth.
House of Commons Library Overview
In some areas, the environment, for example, where the UK is bound by other international agreements, much of the content of EU law would probably remain. In others, the Government might decide to retain the substance of EU law, or to remove EU obligations from UK statutes.
Much would also depend on whether the UK sought to remain in the European Economic Area and therefore continue to have access to the single market, or preferred to go it alone and negotiate bilateral agreements with the EU.
Business and trade
The EU is the UK’s most important trading partner. In 2014 it accounted for 45% of UK goods and services exports (£230 billion) and 53% of UK imports (£289 billion).
The share of UK exports going to the EU has declined in recent years. In 2002 the EU accounted for 55% of UK exports. As the Review of the Balance of Competences put it, the central argument is whether the benefits of membership of a large trading bloc exceed the costs.
Some argue that membership of the EU allows the UK to benefit from better trade deals than it would be able to negotiate on its own.
On the other hand, EU membership entails some compromises and limits the UK’s ability to prioritise its own interests. Leaving the EU would allow the UK to set its own trade and investments policies but there could be costs in doing so on its own rather than as part of a group of countries.
Overall economic impact
The impact of withdrawal would be most felt in areas such as foreign direct investment (FDI), the UK’s contribution to the EU Budget and the effect of immigration on the labour market. There is disagreement as to the severity of the impact on FDI of a UK withdrawal.
On the whole, it can be concluded that membership of the single market is one of a number of important determinants of FDI; but outside the EU, the UK may be able to establish a regulatory regime more favourable to overseas investors, which could offset the effect of its departure.
The Government contributed an estimated £8.5 billion to the EU in 2015, around 1% of total public expenditure and equivalent to 0.5% of GDP. (source: HM Treasury EU Annual Statement)
Although the UK is a net contributor to the EU, certain regions where living standards fall short of the EU average receive significant levels of support from the budget through the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund, boosted by matched funding from government or the private sector.
Withdrawal would leave a policy vacuum which the Government would have to fill to avoid certain regions and sectors losing out.
Immigration and labour market
If the UK wished to remain in the single market but outside the European Economic Area (EEA), like Switzerland, it would probably have to accept certain EU rules by arrangement. Whether these would include the free movement of people would depend on the outcome of UK-EU negotiations.
Most studies on the impact of migration on the UK economy have found weak or ambiguous effects on economic output, employment and wages on average. However, impacts vary according to the characteristics of migrants and wider economic performance at that time, and across different groups of workers.
Research on the impact of immigration on the public finances generally suggests the overall effect is small. Studies indicate differing impacts for migrants from inside and outside the EU, and for recent migrants compared to those who have been in the UK for longer.
Business and financial services
The argument centres on whether the benefits of having a more tailored and flexible national regulatory regime outweigh the loss of access to the single market that may come with pursuing an independent agenda.
A huge amount of existing financial services regulation is derived from the EU. The UK has frequently led reform in this area. It is likely therefore that a significant amount of this legislation would remain post-withdrawal, though not necessarily in the same form or to the same extent.
The majority opinion of City firms is that the UK should remain within the EU.
An EU exit could foreshadow significant change to UK employment law, much of which flows from Europe. The Government would face pressure from employers’ associations to repeal or amend some of the more controversial EU-derived employment laws, such as the Working Time Regulations 1998 and Agency Worker Regulations 2010.
But trade unions would probably strongly oppose any perceived rowing back on rights originating from the ‘Social Chapter’.
Withdrawal from the EU would allow for change to the following areas of employment law, which stem largely from Europe: annual leave, agency worker rights, part-time worker rights, fixed-term worker rights, collective redundancy, paternity, maternity and parental leave, protection of employment upon the transfer of a business and anti-discrimination legislation.
Food and environment
Departure from the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its subsidy and regulatory regimes would have a drastic impact. The CAP represents almost 40% of the EU budget and the largest element of the UK’s EU costs.
Leaving the regime would probably reduce farm incomes, as the UK Government and Devolved Administrations would be unlikely to match the current levels of subsidy and/or would require more ‘public goods’ in return for support, such as environmental protection, which the UK Government views as the overarching market failure in this sector.
However, it might bring wider benefits to the economy as a whole, as the UK would be free to negotiate bilateral trade deals with countries outside the EU and at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and would have more flexibility on pricing.
The failure of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has led some to suggest that fisheries management would be more effective if the UK withdrew from the EU.
One issue that would have to be determined from the outset of withdrawal is whether the UK would allow access by foreign vessels to the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
If so, the UK would have to maintain a very close working relationship with the EU to enable the monitoring of landings and to co-ordinate on wider regulation in the sector. It would also have to agree some kind of mechanism for agreeing catch limits.
If the UK decided to exclude foreign vessels and assume full responsibility for fisheries in the UK EEZ, there would be a number of implications for the UK and the management of fisheries in the area.
The environment is an area in which UK and EU law have become highly entwined. The effects of an EU exit would depend on whether the UK decided to lower, raise or maintain current environmental requirements in areas such as air and water quality, emissions, waste, chemicals regulation or habitats protection.
If the UK left the EU, it would have more scope for changing environmental objectives in the UK and there would also be a less far-reaching judicial process to enforce the implementation of environmental policy and challenge its interpretation.
Energy and climate change
The Government is unlikely to want to reverse the trend for more transparency and a level playing field at EU level which is currently being implemented by the Commission’s Third Energy Package and by the 2015 Framework for Energy Union.
An EU exit would not remove the legally binding UK climate targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 although it could increase focus on all aspects of UK-based generation. This could especially be the case if exit resulted in poorer security of supply through decreased interconnectivity to Europe, reduced harmonisation of EU energy markets, or less investment into the UK by multinational companies.
An exit would affect the UK’s international climate targets under the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Currently the UK negotiates as a part of the EU block and has internally set targets that together with those of other Member States aims to meet the EU’s overall target.
Withdrawal from the EU would have to address that lack of a UK specific target under UNFCCC. It was also widely recognised in the competency review that the negotiating as part of an EU block was beneficial as it had more influence at an international level than if individual Member States acted alone.
If the UK withdrew from the EU, it would no longer have to comply with the human rights obligations of the EU Treaties, including with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Although the Charter was not intended to create any new rights, a breach can result in the UK courts disapplying UK Acts of Parliament – something they cannot do under other human rights instruments. The impact of the Charter is now being considered as part of the Government’s consultation paper on a new British Bill of Rights.
Depending on the nature of any future EU-UK relationship, leaving the EU could have significant implications for the rights of UK citizens to travel to and live in EU/EEA Member States, and for EU/EEA nationals wishing to come to the UK.
On the other hand, if the UK were to negotiate a relationship with the EU similar to the EEA states or Switzerland, it might find that it did not have any greater scope to control EU immigration to the UK than it did as an EU Member State.
The UK already maintains its own border controls. It is not part of the internal border-free Schengen Area, and Border Force officers conduct checks on EU/EEA travellers crossing UK ports of entry, as well as British citizens and non-EU/EEA nationals.
It has not opted in to EU measures facilitating legal migration of third-country migrants. But the UK recognises that there are benefits to practical co-operation and information-sharing with other Member States, for example to strengthen responses to organised immigration crime and current and future migratory pressures.
Police and justice co-operation
The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) has been controversial in this area. An independent review by Lord Justice Scott Baker in 2011 concluded that the EAW had improved the scheme of surrender between Member States and that broadly speaking it operated satisfactorily.
Opponents argue that it is used too frequently and favours procedural simplicity over the rights of suspects and defendants.
In immigration and asylum, criminal justice and police cooperation, the UK is not bound by EU law, but has an opt-in arrangement. It is likely that the UK would wish to replace some EU measures with various forms of bilateral or multilateral cooperation.
Some would argue that although this would be possible, there may be legal complications and uncertainties.
A UK withdrawal would have a minimal impact in some areas, e.g. family law. In other areas, e.g. data protection, the consequences of a UK withdrawal could be more complicated.
Entitlement to welfare benefits for people moving between EU Member States is closely linked to free movement rights. UK withdrawal from the EU could have significant implications both for EU/EEA nationals living in or wishing to move to the UK, and for UK expatriates elsewhere in the EU/EEA and those considering moving abroad.
The UK could seek to secure bilateral social security agreements on reciprocal rights with individual EU/EEA states, but negotiations could be difficult and protracted. Alternatively, the UK could seek a single agreement with the EU/EEA as a whole.
If a UK withdrawal meant the end of free movement rights, the UK would be able to impose restrictions on access to many social security benefits via immigration law. Entitlement to contributory social security benefits could be limited by limiting access to employment.
It would also be possible to restrict the ability of EU nationals to apply for social housing. Withdrawal might also have implications for UK nationals living in other EU/EEA countries, since Member States would be free to impose corresponding restrictions on entitlement to their benefits.
EU citizens benefit from reciprocal access to healthcare through the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). If the UK remained in the EEA it might be able to continue to participate in the EHIC scheme, or, subject to negotiation with EU Member States, participate on a similar basis to Switzerland.
If the UK left the EU, the Government would not have to provide student loans or maintenance funding for EU students. However, the UK would probably lose access to EU research funding and student mobility schemes.
Overall, universities and students would probably lose out, and universities are very concerned about their research funding. But the Government would save money on student finance.
If EU students were classed in the same way as overseas students and charged higher fees, this could have an impact on numbers coming to the UK to study and on fee income for universities.
A huge amount of UK consumer protection regulation is derived from the EU. For example, directives implemented in the UK protect consumers from unsafe products, unfair practices, misleading marketing practices, distance selling etc.
If the UK sought to remain in the EEA, it would join the EEA/EFTA states (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), which have participated in EU consumer programmes since the EEA Agreement came into force in 1994.
The UK would remain a member of the UN and its attendant agencies, and it is thus unlikely that the broad framework of UK law on aviation and shipping would change; similarly we would also likely apply those vehicle rules set down by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
One could also envisage the UK and the EU agreeing to maintain common rules on driver and vehicle licensing to ensure continued free movement across the continent. The UK might negotiate an agreement with the EU on air routes, safety and security etc.
There would likely be some areas where the UK would liberalise the arrangements agreed to across the EU.
Foreign and defence policy
Acting through the EU means a larger aid budget, the promise of access to the largest consumer market in the world and a louder political voice. All of these can be significant ‘soft power’ tools in the pursuit of European interests.
If the UK no longer co-ordinated its policy with Member States, it would lose access to these shared tools. However, many UK actions are taken in conjunction with the US rather than the EU.
Without the UK’s defence capacity and foreign policy experience, the EU’s voice in the Middle East, for example, would be less influential. But it can also be argued that an EU exit would not make much difference to the UK’s capacities in this region, that the US remains the most significant power there and that the UK could co-ordinate its Middle East policies more closely with those of the US.
In terms of military power and projection, a UK withdrawal would more likely place the EU at a disadvantage, with fewer assets and capabilities at its disposal, particularly certain strategic assets such as tactical airlift and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.
The UK’s ability to project military power would be largely unaffected, and any military shortfalls could be compensated for through bilateral arrangements. Ensuring the success of Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operations remains in the UK’s interest, but outside the EU the UK could choose to continue its participation in CSDP operations as a third party state.
The UK channels funds for development cooperation and humanitarian aid through two budget lines, both of them managed by the European Commission: the development part of the EU budget, and the European Development Fund.
In 2014, about 10% of the UK’s aid budget would have required reallocation if the UK had not been an EU Member State.