A Brexit manifesto to unite Leavers and Remainers

A Brexit manifesto to unite Leavers and Remainers

Nadhim Zahawi was one of the cross-party group of MPs and campaigners who signed the letter to The Times supporting this week’s launch of the Brexit Together manifesto

The decision of whether or not to leave the European Union was one of the biggest that the people of our country have ever been asked to make. It is a decision that will be discussed for generations, and will stand apart as a key moment of our lives in the textbooks of the future.

The size of this choice was such that the Government, rightly, believed that it could only be made directly by the people through a referendum. Now that this decision has been made, it has to be respected by both the Government and Parliament, and enacted. To disregard the outcome, or deafen ourselves to what we were told would be to disrespect the British people.

However, if we are to make a success, not just of the next two years of Brexit negotiations, but also of the decades to come, we must all come together. If we are to make our grandchildren’s history lesson on Brexit a story of seized opportunities, a story of triumph, then we must find a version of Brexit that unites us.

That is what the Brexit Together manifesto is about. Making Brexit work, together. Whether you voted to leave the European Union as I did, or whether you voted to remain as 48% of our fellow citizens did. We are no longer Remainers or Leavers, but the British people. That is who we need a Brexit for; not one faction, but a United Kingdom.

The manifesto contains 4 key points. The first is trade. Britain must not become a free-trade-phobic nation sheltering on the edge of Europe, but a world leading bastion of trade, open to and embracing every corner of the planet. We must ensure those that are left behind by globalisation are protected, but trade is our best route to greater prosperity as a nation. It was fantastic to hear the Prime Minister talking this week about delivering the free trade deal with Europe that is in the interests of everyone – while releasing ourselves from the custom union constraints that currently preclude engaging with the growth regions of the world.

Theresa May was again in tune with our thoughts, on the second key issue – immigration. Having been welcomed into this country myself, I will always be supportive of the benefits immigration can provide, however the British people desire control. It is as simple as that: a situation where we cannot control which people come into our country is no longer acceptable. It may well be in our mutual interests to maintain visa free travel, and EU citizens in the UK should be guaranteed a right to stay, but choosing single market membership as a priority over ending free movement is an absolute no-go.

Britain still has much to offer Europe, and many opportunities to provide friendship and cooperation. Everyone benefits from Europe stabilising and no one would gain from a chaotic disintegration on the continent, so we should provide nothing but support. In addition, our security and military ties, particularly through our NATO allies are absolutely vital. These have to be prioritised and maintained.

Lastly, the Brexit together manifesto tackled sovereignty – widely cited by voters as their primary reason for voting to leave. There is no point leaving the European Union if we are going to try and imitate our current relationship from the outside.

However, this does not mean that we will not cooperate in the future. Instead our sovereign Parliament, and Governments elected on manifestos approved by the British people will continue to cooperate in the best interests of our country. At the centre of Brexit must be a transformation of our current passive relationship with Europe to active, sovereign decisions based on mutual benefits.

We need to leave the European Union, and if we construct some kind of false, half-hearted Brexit it would be a snub to the people that politicians like me are elected to represent. But we must maintain our values, values that are shared by our European allies and friends; we must maintain as much trade as possible with Europe, while opening ourselves up to new trade options with the rest of the world; and we must maintain beneficial relationships where it does not diminish our sovereignty.

There was a majority for Brexit and we will deliver it. But now that issue is settled, we must also find a version of Brexit that can gain its own majority support. I believe the Brexit Together manifesto can achieve this, and I was heartened to hear the Prime Minister this week advocate so many of these ideas too. Now we can look forward to the Government delivering a Brexit that the entire country can unite behind – so that we can achieve a beneficial Brexit, together.