Henry Smith MP Statement on the United Kingdom’s European Union Exit
The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union is an issue about what is in our country’s national interest. Like 588 other Members of Parliament, I stood on a manifesto promise at the General Election last year to deliver Brexit.
In June 2016, 58 per cent of voters in Crawley, and a majority throughout the country, chose to leave the bloc. This vote to leave was the largest ever in British electoral history. In February 2017, the House of Commons supported the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act by 494 votes to 122.
I believe Brexit is an opportunity to extend our global horizons using our unique international links, as well as a chance to rejuvenate our democracy at home. I continue to hold the Government to account over our EU withdrawal. This includes questioning the Prime Minister and other Cabinet members frequently in the House of Commons about the Government’s plans.
As a member of the European Scrutiny Committee for five years from 2010, I saw at first hand the lack of accountability and control there was regarding EU directives being directly transposed into UK law.
The Prime Minister has now received approval for her withdrawal deal from the remaining EU 27 nations. I believe this arrangement is not in our country’s best interests as it potentially prevents us from seeking those worldwide opportunities, and delivering on the majority will in the referendum.
Following publication of the Prime Minister’s deal, and after being in the House of Commons chamber to hear her statement, it became clear to me that allowing and maintaining the bloc’s jurisdiction over us without any say, limiting our global scope to complete our own trade deals and threatening UK constitutional integrity with particular regard to customs arrangements – including the potential inability to ever leave a customs union without the permission of Brussels – is ultimately the reverse of taking back control.
I am fully aware that some people are calling for a second referendum, with discussion of the 2016 vote being an ‘advisory referendum’. Neither side went into the vote in 2016 believing that the Government could, or would, ignore the result. Indeed, the Government at the time spent over £9 million of taxpayers’ money on a leaflet to every household in the country not only urging people to vote Remain, but stating that the decision of the electorate would be carried out. It was clear that this was a once in a generation decision.
On 17th December I received assurances from the Prime Minister that Brexit will take effect from 29th March 2019. Earlier in that session, the Prime Minister outlined a new parliamentary timetable for the deal she has negotiated with the European Union.
Debate will start on 9th January 2019, with a vote on the deal to take place the following week. I have written to the Speaker of the House of Commons to request that I am given time to contribute in the debate.
In her 17th December statement to Parliament, the Prime Minister said that “discussions are continuing to explore further political and legal assurances” with regard to the Northern Ireland backstop, adding that, “We are looking at new ways of empowering the House of Commons to ensure that any provision for a backstop has democratic legitimacy and enabling the House to place its own obligations on the Government to ensure that the backstop cannot be in place indefinitely.”
I await the outcome of these further discussions. Of course, I work for my constituents and the British national interest first, as it should be, before toeing a current policy line my conscience cannot allow.
Therefore, I have told the Prime Minister that I cannot support her current proposals without change.
Henry Smith MP
31 December 2018