In ordinary circumstances, today would be the beginning of recess – a time for elected representatives to catch up with local residents and community groups, to support people with casework and to get out on the door step and listen to peoples concerns.
But these are not ordinary times, and the business of Brexit continues to dominate our politics, dragged out by hardliners on both sides who seem intent on either rewriting history or rerunning democracy.
Despite a concerted effort to delay, confuse, or even sabotage this process, the truth is that both the question and the answer were clear.
We voted to leave the EU with a managed deal. That is what the Government’s formal notice of the election stated at the time and that is what the people voted to do.
During the EU Referendum, the Government’s booklet outlining the impact Brexit would have made clear that there would need to be a deal as part of the renegotiation’s of ‘new arrangements with the EU and over 50 other countries around the world’.
My own stance is clear – I respect the result of the referendum, I voted to trigger Article 50, and I am committed to delivering a Brexit that works for the Potteries. But I cannot in good conscience sit idly by and let Britain leave without any deal at all. To do so would be a dereliction of my duty to my country and to my constituents.
I know that is an answer that will upset many readers, on both sides. I increasingly hear from some constituents that they would sooner crash out without a deal than accept further delays. I understand their frustration. In fact, I share it. But I owe it to them to be honest, and the honest truth is that a No Deal Brexit would be devastating for our community.
That’s because the fundamental purpose of a deal is to put in place some of the key legal frameworks that we are going to need to make sure things keep running smoothly.
Take our national security as an example. In 2017, 1,520 foreign criminals were arrested on our streets and deported thanks to the European Arrest Warrant. In that same year, 201 suspects who had committed crimes here in the UK were apprehended and brought back to face trial under the same powers.
Without a deal, that European Arrest Warrant agreement between us and the rest of Europe simply ceases to exist on 29thMarch. That wouldn’t just make it harder for us to catch criminals who are still at large, it would give 1,000 people currently doing time in British jails the opportunity to make a legal challenge. Do we really want to risk dangerous criminals being allowed back on our streets because we don’t have the legal framework to keep them behind bars?
But security isn’t the only concern, our economy would be at risk too. If we crash out of the EU without any deal, we will be left with just two options when it comes to trade. The first option would be to accept EU tariffs on our goods, a whopping 12% in the case of ceramics. That would have serious consequences for local manufacturers.
Then there is option 2, to use WTO rules to set our tariffs to zero across the board. Sounds like a good deal right? But that won’t apply just to our neighbours in the EU, it would apply to every country across the board. That means China could flood our ceramics market with shoddy, inferior products at a fraction of the price; or that big American corporations could force British farmers out of business as our supermarket shelves fill up with chlorinated chicken and steroid-enhanced beef. Our manufacturers would be at the mercy of foreign competitors who use state aid and slave wages to run our great British firms out of business.
These are the issues that have been missing from so much of this debate, and it is to the shame of the Government and the media that they are not being talked about properly.
The truth is that there are real and immediate consequences of leaving the EU without any framework for a future relationship.
So we need a deal, but not at any price. That’s why I voted down the Prime Ministers because itwasn’t good enough for North Staffordshire. It offers no guarantees on immigration, sovereignty, or our future trade arrangements, it does not deliver on any of the issues that matter to us in the Potteries.
It is time for the Government to stop playing games, to reach out and to put together a deal that can command the support of Parliament and the country. That is what people deserve, and it is what I will continue to work towards.