Over the last few months I have received an unprecedented volume of correspondence about Brexit. I have a small team of staff and we have received more than 5,000 emails and letters on this one issue alone since the start of the year. Given the importance of Brexit, I am taking the time to read every email and letter I receive. I have been working very hard to try to reply to all correspondence. However, the overwhelming volume of emails means that I just cannot provide replies in the normal timescale while still dealing with urgent casework.
Below is a list of the 'Frequently Asked Questions' relating to Brexit and some short answers which I hope will be useful in terms of explaining my position on some of the current arguments around Brexit.
If you have any specific concerns about how Brexit may affect you, your family or your business, then please do get in touch with me and I will make sure these are given priority.
- What is your view on Brexit?
I am strongly committed to implementing the outcome of the 2016 referendum. Pembrokeshire voted, very clearly, to leave the EU and I have promised to honour that. I have also been entirely consistent in arguing for a Brexit deal that safeguards important Pembrokeshire interests such as agriculture, oil refining and our trade with Ireland (via the ports at Pembroke Dock and Fishguard). As an MP, whose constituency has a border with the Republic of Ireland, I take a very close interest in the issue of how Brexit affects our borders and the complex and sensitive Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland question.
Through my work on the House of Commons Brexit Committee, and in my speeches and questions in Parliament, I have sought to play a constructive and positive role in trying to find a way through the current confusion and fog of uncertainty.
- What is your view on a ‘No Deal’ Brexit?
For the last three years I have been consistent in arguing for an exit deal that ensures minimum disruption to Pembrokeshire’s economic interests. During this time I have worked closely with Valero, the local ports, local farmers and many businesses across our County. The deal that was previously negotiated with the EU would have provided that stability as we leave the EU but it was defeated on three occasions by MPs opposing Brexit altogether and by MPs who do not wish to see any such deal agreed.
It is now increasingly likely that the only way the UK can leave the EU is under a No Deal scenario. I have urged the team under Prime Minister Boris Johnson to increase the pace of preparations for this outcome and to be open and transparent about key risks that need to be overcome. For example, the current plans for UK oil refineries under No Deal are not satisfactory. I will continue to seek a clear plan for protecting these and other key industries.
Nevertheless, leaving the EU with a better deal remains the Government’s preferred course of action and I will continue to support them in trying to get this agreed.
- What are your thoughts on proroguing Parliament for a Queen’s Speech in the Autumn?
There has been a great deal of misunderstanding and unnecessary outrage about the Government’s announcement. All this will do is extend Parliament’s annual party conference break by four days. All party leaders have been operating on the basis that this year’s party conference season would go ahead as usual. All of the parties have pressed ahead with their conference preparations.
There is no question that Parliament will be in full session as we approach the Brexit deadline of 31 October. Some people are under the impression that Parliament will not be sitting as a result of today’s announcement. This is not the case.
Neither does it block Parliament from making any decisions about Brexit, it does not prevent us debating a No Deal and, most importantly, it is not undemocratic. Prorogation in this way allows a Queen’s Speech when Parliament returns on 14th October. This particular parliamentary session has been the longest since the Civil War period and Parliament is prorogued every year in a similar way to allow the government to outline their policy platform. We have a new Prime Minister and Government and they have every right to start a new term in Parliament in the traditional way.
Opposition MPs and other anti-Brexit figures have been using every trick in the book to try to block and overturn the referendum result. I am all in favour of having robust debate in the Commons about Brexit and I am a regular speaker in these debates. However, Parliament cannot keep going around in circles on this. There needs to be a moment of resolution rather than further extensions and uncertainty. I support the Government’s efforts to try to bring this to a head and create certainty and direction.
- Do you support a second referendum?
No. Like most Conservative and Labour MPs, I promised to honour and to implement the result of the 2016 referendum and people expect us to do this. Most of the MPs now campaigning for a second referendum (or “People’s Vote”) are doing so with the intention of trying to block Brexit. I do not support this.
A second referendum would be deeply divisive, costly and would not actually resolve anything – either Remain would win and a large proportion of the country would consider this an outrage, especially if it was on a lower turnout than in 2016 or Leave would win again but we would still be in a situation where we need to actually vote on a specific plan for exiting the EU.
- Why did you support the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement?
I supported a Withdrawal Agreement as it would have allowed us to leave EU in a smooth and orderly way and in line with my Party’s election manifesto to pursue “a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement” with the EU.
The Withdrawal Agreement that was negotiated with the EU would have provided a transition period for businesses to plan with certainty; lay the foundation for cooperation with the EU but contain flexibility about the precise nature of the future trade relationship with the single market (i.e. close like Norway or more distant like Canada); and treated the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland (as the only part of Western Europe whose constitution is secured by an international peace treaty) with care and sensitivity.
I therefore supported the Withdrawal Agreement in all of its votes in Parliament. Had it been passed when we first voted in January 2019, then we would now no longer be a member of the European Union and we would be moving ahead with much greater clarity and certainty. We would have left the EU on 29 March 2019, as originally planned.
- Why is Brexit taking so long?
Brexit is proving a time-consuming and complicated challenge. After 40 years of becoming deeply integrated with the EU, leaving was never going to be straightforward. Some of our industries, such as car manufacturing, have developed on the basis of the ‘Single Market model’ where parts get transported quickly to our factories from all over the EU. A big part of the challenge since 2016 has been the lack of a clear, specific and agreed plan for Brexit.
I am not in favour of dragging this out month after month. The country needs resolution. Three times now I have voted to actually get on and implement Brexit. However, each time the deal to allow us to leave the EU has been defeated. Far too many MPs have spent the last two years telling their Leave voting constituents at the weekend how much they want to get on and deliver Brexit then turn up in Westminster on a Monday and use every trick in the book, and every excuse, to block it. I opposed the Bill in Parliament brought forward by backbenchers to force this delay and will continue to do so.
- How can your constituents keep up to date with what you’re doing?
Over the last three years, I have met regularly with groups of constituents and local businesses. I continue to hold regular public Q&A events in Pembrokeshire to discuss the issue of Brexit and what type of deal will deliver the best outcome for our County. Every week I publish an e-newsletter which updates subscribers on votes in Parliament and my approach to them. It also includes links to national and local media interviews so my constituents can follow my comments and interventions as the Brexit process unfolds. Alongside my constituency responsibilities, I am a member of the Brexit Select Committee and will continue to use my position there to defend Pembrokeshire’s interests and seek a unifying way forward.
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