23 January 2017

The question for MPs like me who campaigned hard for Britain to remain in the EU is a simple one. Do I seek to undermine the decision taken in the referendum by being a sort of Parliamentary insurgent opposing Brexit at every stage, or do I engage with the process to help to ensure we get the best deal possible?

The risk from just being one of the “noises off” is that you are just that: off. I want to be on the pitch, holding up a liberal conservative view that believes in free trade and wants a deep and dynamic relationship with our European friends and allies in the future. We live in a world that is fast changing. Many jobs in which people currently feel secure, won’t exist in a few years’ time because of the advancement of automation and robotics. The ability of companies in West Berkshire to trade successfully will depend on being part of supply chains or grouping of businesses, some of which may be based both inside and outside the EU. The future, while full of opportunity, is complex and for many, scary.

So clarity is everything. I now accept that seeking an arrangement like Norway’s won’t work. This is where we would still pay into the EU, would still be subject to free movement of labour and all the other conditions of membership of the single market. The Eurosceptic ultras have a malign view of Europe, its cultures and traditions. They must not be allowed to become the established UK view. The Europhile ultras seem to want to ignore a democratic process and just whine and whinge from the side-lines. I will recognise the referendum result by supporting the triggering of Article 50 and will engage with leavers and remainers who share my dislike of the ultras on both sides. I will push for a deal that serves the needs of West Berkshire businesses and those who work for them. This will need understanding and support from the vast majority of my constituents who occupy the centre ground view that what we need is neither a hard or soft Brexit, but a clever one.