After decades of passionate debate across our nation, this Conservative government gave the British people a clear choice; stay in the European Union or seek a new and equal partnership with our friends in Europe.
I spoke to hundreds of people in Crawley throughout the referendum campaign who shared my view that we should grasp this opportunity to make our country stronger, fairer and build a more Global Britain by leaving the EU.
We still continue to be reliable partners and willing allies with our friends in Europe but we voted for change, and this government is committed to delivering the will of the British people. As servants of the British people, we must act on this historic decision and in no way frustrate the people we were elected to represent.
Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 by the end of the month, a moment unlike any other in our history, and our government is working around the clock to prepare for the negotiations that will shape the future of our great nation. The Article 50 legislation passed through the House of Commons with a sizeable majority, I sincerely hope the Lords follow that lead and don’t risk weakening the Prime Minister’s hand in the forthcoming negotiations.
Let’s be clear, this bill has a simple and straightforward purpose – to implement the referendum result and allow the Government to get on with the negotiations. It shouldn’t be an opportunity to grandstand, posture and prevaricate over a decision already made by millions of people who now want us to get on with the job.
The contribution made by EU nationals is hugely valued and Theresa May has made it clear that we want to secure their status as early as we can, whilst also securing the rights of British nationals living in other member states. It’s a top priority as part of the upcoming negotiations and the government is confident it can be resolved quickly.
I don’t believe it is right to bring the wider debate about Brexit into a discussion over legislation which purely 'kick-starts' a process. Both the Commons and the Lords will have plenty of opportunities to debate and vote on the wider ramifications of leaving the European Union over the next two years as we shape our future relationship with Europe.
The Prime Minister has made her commitment to EU nationals clear and I hope the Lords let her get on with the job. Together, we can embrace the opportunities ahead by laying the foundations of a stronger, fairer, better Britain outside the European Union.
Henry Smith MP