Thank you for contacting me about the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and European Union.
I have been receiving a lot of correspondence from constituents about the agreement expressing different views. Some are demanding I don’t support it because they hope we will remain in the EU, others are demanding I don’t support it because they hope for a no deal Brexit. Others want me to support it because they want certainty for their business. Others want me to reject it because of the open-ended nature of some of the provisions of the future relationship with the EU. I have never thought I would please everyone!
But I have also received a good number from people asking me to support the Prime Minister and her deal. Indeed, on a recent walk around Newbury, I conducted a very unscientific poll which gave a significant majority for the view that people would back the Prime Minister’s deal above any other option.
Since the result of the referendum was announced, I have been clear that I would support the Government’s programme for leaving the EU. I was also clear about this during the 2017 General Election campaign. I have not diverted from that view and I will set out a few reasons why I support the Government’s position.
The Withdrawal Agreement will ensure that the UK takes back control of its laws, borders and money. An end to free movement, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice coming to a close and vast budget payments to the EU ending once and for all. We will also be out of the Common Agriculture Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. These were the key issues the leave campaign were demanding in the referendum. As a former Fisheries Minister, I have been paying close attention to the progress of negotiations and under this agreement we are on track to be out of the Common Fisheries Policy. The UK will also become an independent coastal state once more. We will take control of our own waters and access will be negotiated on an annual basis in line with international precedents. In doing so, we will ensure that our fishermen will once again have a fair share of the catch.
This Agreement is also important as it ensures EU and UK citizens will have their rights protected, including for healthcare and pensions. They will be able to continue to live their lives broadly as they do now. A number of correspondents are concerned for the status of EU citizens living in the UK or UK citizens living in Europe. The Agreement guarantees those rights and as someone who has long stated that I would do all I can to protect EU nationals living in West Berkshire it would be irresponsible of me to vote against it.
The Political Declaration on the UK and the EU’s future relationship has also been agreed. Both sides have agreed to create a free trade area that will mean no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions for goods. This is a unique deal. No other advanced economy in the world has such a relationship with the EU. At the same time, the UK will be able to negotiate its own international trade deals from the start of the implementation period. This will allow us to take advantage of the estimated 90 per cent of world growth that will come from outside the EU in the future.
Both sides have agreed that we should have ambitious arrangements for the services sector. New arrangements for financial services will ensure that access to EU markets cannot be revoked on a political whim. Further provisions will be made for digital, intellectual property, mobility and transport.
Businesses in West Berkshire want to see certainty. This deal gives certainty by ensuring there will be a transition phase and the ambition to develop a trading agreement which will ensure continued free trade with our closest market.
Our new security and defence partnership with the EU will be more extensive than any other, with continued cooperation in Europol and Eurojust. Sharing of data on DNA, passenger name records and fingerprints will continue and there will be a surrender agreement to ensure that criminals are brought to justice.
The big question is whether it will get through Parliament in the so-called “meaningful vote”. The answer is I don’t know. As things stand it looks as though it will fail. In those circumstances I will do all I can to prevent the UK leaving the EU in March without a deal of some kind.