As I write this article, Parliament is shortly to be dissolved. A General Election looms that will be of the utmost importance for the future of our country.
It has certainly been a topsy-turvy year. The result of the Brexit referendum in June last year, precipitated a political and constitutional crisis for the United Kingdom which is still being played out and which is likely to dominate our politics for quite a few years to come.
I am well aware that opinion in my constituency on this issue is as divided as the country was in its totality. Some see the vote as a moment of liberation and look forward to the changes it will bring, and the opportunities it will allow to carve out new trading relationships outside of Europe and to have greater control of our domestic laws and regulations including those over immigration. Others, equally sincerely, see the decision as a serious mistake that threatens both our economic well being and our security in a world which is increasingly dangerous.
What is clear to me, however, is that the decision of the electorate in the Referendum must be respected and that I should support a reasoned process to give effect to it. It was unfortunate that during the autumn quite a few people lost their heads over the triggering of Article 50 and came to believe that this would in some way be thwarted by Parliament or by the judiciary in their judgment that only Parliament could trigger a profound constitutional change of this kind. These criticisms were entirely misplaced and the proper process followed since has ensured that our system works correctly to give effect to the referendum decision through Parliament with proper scrutiny of its details.
We have also been fortunate to have a Prime Minister with the determination both to see the complex challenges of Brexit through and to do this with a constant eye to maximising opportunities and minimising the risks involved to our economic well being, security and quality of life.
As someone who has always advocated a close relationship between the UK and the European Union, I accept the result of the 2016 Referendum. I therefore strongly support the Prime Minister’s determination to secure a negotiated arrangement for leaving the EU and for forging a new trading relationship for the future, providing certainty for trade and business whilst giving us control of migration and releasing us from the direct effect of EU Law. I also believe that the people of our country will benefit from a close continuing relationship with a strong EU and I will work to help build these important links for our future. I very much hope, therefore, that the Prime Minister will be able to achieve something close to the goals she set out in her speech at Lancaster House in February.
It is also the case that we must not allow Brexit to overshadow the many other issues that need to be addressed in this election and afterwards. Despite the difficult global economic conditions since the financial crisis of 2008, Conservative led governments since 2010 have been successful in growing the economy, putting more people into employment than ever before, reducing welfare dependency and cutting annual government borrowing by around two thirds from its previously unsustainable levels.
We cannot take for granted, however, that this will be sustained. Brexit raises clear risks, although to date it is noteworthy that the economy has sustained an even keel despite Brexit’s potential to disrupt economic growth. But the greatest disruption will occur if we end the coming election with a Labour led government. Mr Corbyn’s approach, as far as he has set one out, combines extreme left wing ideology with economic, defence and security policies which are as dangerous as they are incoherent. Putting Labour in power would destroy at a stroke all the good that has been achieved through policies which, although not always easy to implement, are now clearly showing clear evidence they were the right thing to do for our economy and our country.
I am looking forward to debating these issues as the General Election progresses over the coming weeks.
It has been my privilege to represent the constituency for the last twenty years. If I have the good fortune to be re-elected, I look forward to being able to continue to play a constructive role in Parliament in addressing these important issues.