This week in Parliament we get stuck in to the detail of Brexit. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is a 66-page piece of legislation which does all the technical stuff needed to transpose laws and regulations that currently reside with the EU into UK law. About a year ago I decided to raise myself from the disappointment I felt at the referendum result to work as hard as I can to respect that result and get the best future outside the EU for my constituents. In Parliament MPs adopt three approaches. There are a few for whom Brexit is a sort of theocracy and this means either overtly or secretly wishing for no deal and for Britain just to walk away. To me that would be a very bad outcome. On the other polarity, there are those who so much want the UK to remain that they will use any opportunity to undermine or sabotage the Government’s attempts to achieve an orderly exit. For different reasons this, too, would be wrong and damaging to our democracy. Then there are the rest of us. Most MPs from across the Labour and Conservative benches, both leave and remain supporters, want the best deal possible. People who have long campaigned for leave are now talking about a quite lengthy transition period. Ardent remainers like me are finding common ground on securing the best protections for areas currently under EU competence such as the environment.
There will be times when I will challenge the Government and this may see me being accused of undermining Ministers. The opposite is the case. It is my job as an MP to scrutinise legislation and suggest amendments where necessary. That happens in every Bill in every week Parliament sits. But at the end of the day I see it as vital that this Bill gets passed.
Meanwhile, across the Channel, negotiations continue. It is extraordinary how either naive or dim some commentators are. When the EU negotiators say Britain has not provided position papers or is being too slow, such statements are accepted as the gospel truth by many newspapers and by BBC journalists. However, when a UK Minister or spokesman says something even mildly in disagreement with the EU negotiating team, it is labelled as unhelpful or crass. There seems to be no understanding about what happens in a negotiation.
As anyone who has negotiated in business or in the EU (I have done both) will realise, negotiations are tough and complex. Take the so-called divorce bill: the EU wants the UK to pay the maximum amount; the UK wants to pay as little as possible. Each side starts miles apart with tough-sounding rhetoric and, after a while, come closer and then agree. It is in the EU’s best interests to destabilise the UK position by causing people in the UK to question their Government’s tactics. These are the games we have played in negotiations with the EU down the years. I hope some in the media are a little less supine in their coverage of our negotiated exit and, in the coming weeks and months, challenge both sides.
This is the start of a long and complex process. I will do my best to keep my constituents informed at every stage.