Teessiders are excited about the opportunities Brexit will deliver

Teessiders are excited about the opportunities Brexit will deliver

“If we get Brexit right, we can be a confident, self-governing country once again. A country that takes the decisions that matter to Britain here in Britain.” Those were the words of Theresa May when she spoke in Guisborough in my constituency during the closing stages of the general election campaign.

I couldn’t agree with her more, and nor could my constituents: a week after the Prime Minister’s speech, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland voted Conservative for the first time in twenty years. Meanwhile, other seats like Mansfield, Derbyshire North East and Stoke-on-Trent South made history by also returning Conservative MPs – areas otherwise united only by their determination to see the promise of Brexit delivered.

Throughout the election campaign, I found that determination on doorsteps right across my patch, from tough estates in parts of Middlesbrough like Hemlington to East Cleveland coastal communities like Skinningrove, home of British Steel. Two-thirds of people in my area voted to leave the EU last summer, and far more than that now want to see us get on with making a success of that decision.

In her speech in Guisborough, Theresa May spelled out the opportunities that Brexit will deliver in terms of taking back control of our borders, embracing global trade and deciding our own destiny. It was an optimistic speech that struck a chord in a part of the UK which is on the up and eager to engage with the world: the North East is the only net exporting region of the country, order books are healthy and unemployment here is now lower than London – although there is an enormous amount still to do.

Her speech was also important in terms of scotching the idea that areas like Teesside will lose out as EU funding ends. She spoke at length about the new Shared Prosperity Fund that will replace ineffective and restrictive EU structural funds with a new UK-based scheme whose sole purpose will be to reduce the inequalities that exist within, and between, the four nations of the UK. This would be real progressive politics in action.

As an MP representing an area whose success rests on trade and industry, I’ll back the Government every step of the way as our Brexit team negotiates a good deal for our country, and a good deal for our European partners. I do not for a moment believe progress will always be easy, and it will be crucial for us to hold our nerve at points during the talks when the going gets tough and the rhetoric gets fiery. But in the end, mutual self-interest dictates that Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy, is a key trading partner for the EU – a deal is there to be done.

In resolving the detail, it’s important to keep the Prime Minister’s vision in mind and remember why we voted for Brexit in the first place. The European Commission represents an overbearing government machine that fails to respond to people’s concerns and is characterised by waste and bureaucracy which makes domestic government look positively streamlined. At a macro level, the EU’s instincts are corporatist, sceptical of the free market and too often in favour of the high-tax, high-spend model that is ruining the finances of so many member states – and which threatens our own economy over here.

Post-Brexit, Britain will remain a vibrant and successful society, and as now, the immigration of talented and ambitious people will remain a driver of both those trends. The Government will however have far greater control – and democratic accountability – over this crucial issue.

I also have no doubt Britain – a military, diplomatic and economic power of the first rank, with enormous ‘soft’ influence to exert – will remain an active global citizen. Our history, our key role in so many different international bodies and (yes) our instincts mean the notion of Little England is as inaccurate as it is insulting. But we need to make that case to the world, and reassure our friends and partners across Europe and beyond that any idea of retreat is for the birds.

So as the negotiations begin in earnest, it’s incumbent on all of us to keep our eye on the prize and give the Government all the backing it needs to deliver. As the Prime Minister said in Guisborough just over a month ago: “Brexit is not a process, but an opportunity – this generation’s chance to shape a brighter future for our country.” Let’s now seize it.