Thank you for contacting me regarding Brexit.
In 2016, during the EU referendum, I passionately helped lead the campaign to remain across Northumberland and the North East. However, we were defeated. The country voted to leave, as did Northumberland and the North East as electoral areas.
I am a democrat, and I believe that we must deliver on the result of the referendum. Disregard my views for the moment though, and look at what all political leaders said, and did, before and after the referendum. All said before the referendum that they would abide by the result. Likewise, after the referendum in 2016, it is important to remember that both main parties in Parliament agreed and voted to abide by the result. Then, at the 2017 General Election, more than 85% of votes cast nationally, and in the Hexham Constituency, were for parties that promised to deliver on the result of the referendum.
I have always been clear that I would prefer to leave the European Union with a deal. That is why I supported and voted for the former Prime Minister's Withdrawal Agreement three times. I believed then, and continue to believe today, that it was a pragmatic deal that delivered on the result of the referendum, provided a close long-term relationship with Europe, protected citizens' rights, and gave certainty to employers. I will continue to argue for a negotiated agreement as the best way for us to leave the European Union.
If you want to avoid a no-deal Brexit, and you believe that the result of the referendum must be delivered, then a negotiated agreement needs to be passed. There is no other way to leave. If opposition Labour and Liberal Democrat representatives in the House of Commons had supported the Withdrawal Agreement at the start of this year, we would not be having a debate about leaving without a deal, and Britain would have left the European Union with a negotiated agreement on March 29th. I remain of the view that it is not too late for them to change their mind. Some have, though many have not.
I accept that there is now no way that the Liberal Democrats are going to support a withdrawal agreement. Despite voting for a referendum in 2015, and agreeing to abide by the result, they now wish to have a second referendum and negate the first vote. I am disappointed, but they are playing politics.
Different branches of the Parliamentary Labour Party have different policies on leaving the EU. 26 Labour MPs have come together to say that they would now support a withdrawal agreement. Others support a second referendum on any Brexit deal.
I continue to believe that the best possible way for us to leave the European Union is with a deal. I have expressly voted three times for a deal and will continue to make the case for a compromise agreement. The Article 50 process has already been extended on two occasions; however, I believe that any further extension would be deeply regrettable.
Whilst I have no doubt that long-term the UK could thrive, a no-deal Brexit would clearly bring short-term challenges. That is why it is so important that we prepare for every eventuality. A great deal of time and effort has been committed to ensuring that this country is ready for our EU exit, in whatever form, and ministers from across the Government have made clear that the protection of our economy, our manufacturing, our food standards and our public services is the top priority.
Important steps are being taken to support our manufacturing industries, including an increase in the annual investment allowance from £200,000 to £1 million, and support for the Made Smarter programme promoting the automation and digitisation industry. Locally, Northumberland's largest manufacturing employer – Egger – have said that they are fully committed to Hexham, whether we leave the EU with or without a deal. Bob Livesey, Commercial Director at Egger, said recently: “Ongoing investments and commitment by the Egger Group in its UK operations over recent years place us in a relatively strong position to meet the potential demands of the future, whatever these might be.” Further information is available here: www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/17362520.tynedale-businesses-are-confident-in-the-face-of-uncertainty
It is my hope that the Prime Minister will be able to secure a deal that can command a majority in the House of Commons, so that we can leave the European Union with a deal, and as soon as possible.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.