Caroline Nokes: The Brexit deal must pass, the public have had enough
We now must try to build a prosperous nation outside of the EU together, says Caroline Nokes MP.
On Saturday I will be voting for the deal the Government has negotiated with the EU to allow the UK to finally have an orderly exit as promised following the referendum of 2016.
I have consistently voted in line with the outcome of that referendum, respecting the democratic outcome. It has not been without misgivings, I wanted to remain part of the EU, recognising the freedoms and advantages it has brought us. But it is impossible to ignore what people said in 2016, and the Government had been very clear in 2016, it would implement what the people decided.
Frustratingly, the referendum was not counted in parliamentary constituencies, but rather local authority areas, so there has always been some doubt over how my constituency actually voted. An academic study seemed to back up what was in my postbag which suggested that on a ward by ward basis the constituency voted remain – but we will never know for sure.
Ultimately I have always been a democrat. What use would it have been for me to claim to be a proud, liberal European, but refuse to implement the democratic decision of a majority of British people in the largest democratic exercise ever undertaken in this country?
That support has always had a caveat, however, in that we must leave with a deal.
Joining Theresa May’s Government immediately after the referendum I was privy to many of the plans being put together to exit the EU. By the time I was sitting around the cabinet table it was abundantly clear that leaving without a deal could be catastrophic for some areas of our economy and I would never feel comfortable taking that risk and knowing I would be putting my constituents’ futures at risk.
I voted for the deal at every opportunity; I voted for it when many of the biggest proponents of Brexit were in the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn. The deal had become – and in many ways, remains – entirely political. Labour promised to implement Brexit, but most of their MPs have consistently voted against leaving with a deal, leaving us very much on a cliff edge.
What has always been needed was for MPs to put their own views aside and vote for a deal which delivers on the referendum but does not significantly damage the livelihoods of their constituents. I believe I have consistently done that – though the hard remainers and hard brexiteers would, of course, disagree. Although I have to say I loathe both those terms, at some point we have to stop defining ourselves by our view on the EU, that has gone on long enough.
I will be going through the voting lobby on Saturday in the knowledge that my vote has consistently been used to give us the best chance of leaving the EU with a deal. We will be able to move forward, heal the divisions and hopefully return to some normality.
This deal really must pass, the public have had enough, MPs have had enough, the EU has had enough; we now must try to build a prosperous nation outside of the EU together. We can only do this as a country united and I very much hope to see the aye lobby full on Saturday afternoon.
Caroline Nokes is Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North.