My view of the European Union is not something that I have developed recently. It goes back to 1973, when as a young man I was completely opposed to the then Prime Minister Ted Heath taking us into the Common Market without consulting the British people. For me, Brexit was about fixing a problem that should never have happened; taking back sovereignty that should have never have been given away.
In what was one of the largest democratic exercises that this country has ever seen, the people made the decision to leave the European Union. Even in the hours before the result was known, no-one was suggesting that they would query the outcome, the mandate of the people’s decision, or the legitimacy of the vote. MPs across the political spectrum voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50 by 498 votes to 114, and we will be leaving the EU at 11pm on 29th March next year.
The decision to leave has been made, and it is now Parliament’s duty to vote on the terms of our withdrawal from the European Union. After careful consideration and reflection, I cannot support the Draft Withdrawal Agreement as it currently stands. This deal does not honour the manifesto on which I stood for re-election in Southend West, and the election pledge I made to my constituents.
The Draft Withdrawal Agreement would see us stuck in a potentially indefinite backstop arrangement, shackling us to a customs union that we have no unilateral right to leave. This is a complete capitulation of the sovereignty that 17.4 million people voted to regain. The separate regulatory regime for Northern Ireland threatens the very integrity of our United Kingdom. Our laws could still be dictated by Brussels and we would still be subject to the jurisdiction of the ECJ. I will not support an agreement which amounts to political hokey-cokey, one leg in and one leg out.
Any deal that means the UK fails to regain complete sovereignty over our laws, shackles us to the EU indefinitely, and hinders our freedom to forge our own path in the world, is nothing short of a betrayal of the vote to leave. For that reason, I will not be supporting this deal.