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Dear Constituent

Thank you for contacting me about recent Brexit and political events.

Over recent weeks I have received a high volume of correspondence from constituents from all views on Brexit. Many have written to express concern about the prospect of a no deal Brexit, others have asked me to ensure Brexit is delivered deal or no deal. Some want the referendum decision ignored, others want a second referendum.

Since the news broke last week that the Prime Minister intended to prorogue the Parliament in order to hold a Queen’s Speech, events have moved at a pace. We are now looking at the prospect of a General Election in the near future. By way of responding to you, I will focus my thoughts on my decision to vote against the Party whip on Tuesday in order to legislate to allow Parliament a say on a no deal departure from the EU.

I did so in the fullest knowledge of the consequences this might have for me as a Conservative MP.

I strongly believe that we must leave the EU. Despite voting remain, I am a democrat and I believe that the result of the referendum must be honoured. I am not part of any faction in Parliament that wants to frustrate or prevent Brexit. I voted to trigger Article 50 and voted on three occasions in Parliament for a deal which, if more had voted with me, would have ensured that the UK would have left the EU by 29th March.

I have supported the Prime Minister and was initially optimistic with his desire to secure a deal which can be agreed by both the EU and the House of Commons. I have also been invigorated by the Prime Minister’s energy and his wider policy agenda.

Whilst I commented against much of the bluster of those oppose to the proroguing of Parliament, I had concerns that part of the reason was to thwart Parliament’s ability to do its job. I have been concerned at comments which indicated that the Government might take a view on laws passed by Parliament as to whether they will comply with them. I am also staggered that threats of withdrawal of the whip or deselection would be made against people who have served both the Conservative Party and our country for many years, often at the highest levels in Government.

With others I met the Prime Minister for an hour prior to the vote on Tuesday. Whilst he declared his desire for a deal, he was short on detail as to how that deal was being sought. Not much was said to reassure those of us who had read an article in the Daily Telegraph that morning setting out how efforts to achieve a deal were at best perfunctory. My mind was made up when following further discussions, it became clear there was an intention amongst some that there would be an election at which people like me would be “purged” and prevented from standing as Conservative candidates.

One of the legacies of the appalling remain campaign, the negativity and incompetence of which was shaming, was the so-called “project fear”. This has trashed the brand of those of us who have investigated what a no deal Brexit would look like. Anything I say can, with some understanding, be attacked for being just more of the same. However, I have spoken to Civil Servants, Ministers, their advisors, trade bodies, businesses and constituents of mine who run companies large and small about the implications of no deal.

To pursue such a course would fly in the face of everything I have worked for or believe in. I represent people who work in many different areas of the economy and, whilst people on high or even moderately high incomes would be relatively immune to difficulties, I strongly believe that the impact of no deal would exert a heavy toll on those least able to afford it.

I am a proud Conservative who believes in a Party in which, unlike others, debate and difference are not only tolerated but to a degree encouraged. Politics is at its best when parties conduct debate in a generous, open manner and when Governments govern with pragmatism and with the well-being of the whole nation at its heart. The left-wing extremists leading the Labour Party and the forces that are pulling at the delicate fabric of the Union will, I fear, be enhanced as the impact of a no deal Brexit are felt. The plan of revolutionaries down the ages are for what they would call, “the forces of reaction” to create the chaos which allows them to prosper. In short, they want to create a narrative of a Conservative no deal against which they could campaign to their advantage. This would be an even more profoundly damaging to our country and to the life chances of those I represent.

To say my mind has been in turmoil in recent days would be an understatement. I recognise that my actions have consequences. After much consideration I have decided not to seek re-election at the forthcoming General Election. You can read my statement on this here: http://richardbenyon.com/statement-from-rt-hon-richard-benyon-mp-for-newbury/ .

I am sure many people will be bemused by what is happening in Parliament and unclear about why I and twenty other colleagues took the actions we did. I hope these words might have given you some explanation. I can assure you that voting in the way I did was for me, a matter of principle but I respect everyone who holds a different opinion. For too long words like “compromise” have become pejorative in our national debate. Any compromise suggested is attacked as being a “betrayal” or worse. It is only through compromise that we can emerge from these dark days.

Yours sincerely

Richard Benyon