I’VE never hidden the fact that I voted for ‘Remain’ in the EU referendum back in 2016. I did so in truth simply because it was the easiest option at the time.
I did not vote that way because I am any fan of the EU, and since the result I have spoken to my constituents about sovereignty, democracy and the immense frustration that caused them to vote overwhelmingly to leave. I am passionately of the view that we can build a stronger and more prosperous future outside the EU, and that we must fulfil the democratic mandate we were given in the referendum.
Brexit is about what it means to be British. Get it right and Brexit will mean that our children can be part of a global economy – travelling and doing business with the whole world. They’ll be able to live in an outward-looking country that is more at ease with itself, more able to control its own destiny and which has a positive relationship with Europe and with countries all over the world.
The British people responded in unprecedented numbers to vote to leave the European Union. They voted to take back control of our laws, borders, money and trade and to see a fundamental change to the way that we are governed. That’s why it’s so vitally important that we deliver on this mandate.
But I’m concerned that the Prime Minister’s Chequers proposal won’t deliver Brexit either. Her proposals would force us to continue to accept the EU’s rules, regulations and taxes in the form of a ‘common rulebook’. Worse still it would give us absolutely no say on the creation of those laws. This is precisely the bureaucracy people voted against in 2016 and instead of us ‘taking back control’ – as was promised – we’d continue to be locked in step with the EU.
And by failing to bring about an independent trade and regulatory policy, we will be unable to pursue trade deals with the rest of the world because we would be trapped in a customs arrangement with the EU. The Prime Minister referred to a ‘Brexit prize’ in her Lancaster House speech of 2017. That prize can only be secured by an independent trade and regulatory policy.
This Brexit plan would see us still governed by the European Court of Justice and we’d have to pay a £40bn exit fee without getting anything in return.
And we wouldn’t have control of our own immigration policy either. This was supposed to be our chance to take back control of our immigration system so that we attract the right mix of talent from abroad and so that we could ensure that citizens from the rest of the world are treated in exactly the same way as EU citizens when it comes to their right to access the shores of Britain.
I could go on. Everyone knows that Chequers doesn’t have the support of our party, opposition parties, the country or even the EU.
This week saw the publication of a clear and workable, alternative plan. The trade experts at the respected Institute for Economic Affairs published a detailed blueprint for a free trade deal. This plan would give us full control of our money, borders, laws and trade – allowing us to sign free trade deals with the rest of the world.
Businesses would be given certainty and could start planning according to a clear set of rules for trading with our EU partners. But most importantly of all, it would actually respect the referendum and deliver Brexit.
Voters in my constituency want us to get on with the job of getting out of the EU to deliver a brighter future and an advanced free trade agreement for the UK. However we voted, they want us to work – across all parties –- to deliver the Brexit which the British people voted for.
So it’s time to think again and negotiate a treaty of the kind the EU is actually offering us. I want to hear the Prime Minister tell Conference that she is seizing the initiative, that we’re changing tack, chucking Chequers and leading the way to deliver the best Brexit for the UK with a free trade agreement that works for us and the EU.
Ben Bradley is the Conservative MP for Mansfield. He is a member of Global Britain which is campaigning against the Chequers deal.