Over the last few months I have received an unprecedented amount of correspondence about Brexit. I have only a small team of staff and we have received more than 4,000 emails and letters on this one issue alone since November. 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 individual responses on this issue for the time-being.
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 and votes in recent weeks.
If you have any specific concerns about how Brexit may affect you, your family or your business, then please do get in touch with my office and I will be sure to get back to you as soon as possible.
- What is your view on Brexit?
I remain 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 in the House of Commons Brexit committee, and my speeches and questions in the Commons, I have sought to play a constructive and positive role in trying to find a way through the current confusion and fog of uncertainty. I am clear that we need to find a way forward that can help bring our deeply divided country back together.
- Why do you support the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement?
I support a Withdrawal Agreement that takes us out of the 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 negotiated with the EU over the last two years provides a transition period for businesses to plan with certainty; lays the foundation for cooperation with the EU but containing 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 treats 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 have therefore supported the Withdrawal Agreement in all of its votes in Parliament. Had it been passed when we first voted in January, 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, as originally planned. Instead, we have further confusion and talk of delays which I find deeply frustrating.
- Do you support a second referendum?
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. The problem all along has been that there was no specific plan for actually unwinding our membership of the EU. That is what Parliament has been struggling to define and agree.
- Do you support a ‘No Deal’ Brexit?
A ‘No Deal’ outcome would see the UK move immediately to what is called WTO trade rules which would involve immediate tariffs (taxes) imposed on our exports to the EU. There would also be new regulations and checks that could lead to delays at UK ports. In my speeches in Parliament I have argued strongly against a No Deal Brexit because of the sensitive industries in Pembrokeshire that rely on tariff-free access to EU markets. Oil refining is one such industry; agriculture is another. The negotiated Withdrawal Agreement would enable us to leave the EU but keep tariff-free access to EU markets. This is a better approach for Pembrokeshire than No Deal.
I also do not agree with those who think that No Deal would just mean a ‘short, sharp shock’ followed by complete freedom from the EU. Even under No Deal, the UK will need to seek a number of agreements with the EU to ensure that basic trade can continue as normal. The EU have been very clear that they will insist that the terms of the original Withdrawal Agreement (money, citizen’s rights and the commitment on the Northern Ireland border) are honoured before any such ‘mini deals’ are signed. So, whether we leave with a deal or not, the truth is we have a lot of ongoing negotiation with the EU still ahead of us.
- 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. The Government is right to try to formulate a plan to take the UK out of the EU without damaging these industries. 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. So we are now in the position where Parliament has forced the Prime Minister to seek an extension to the Brexit process. I opposed the Bill in Parliament brought forward by backbenchers to force this delay.
- 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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