Brexit was the right decision for Barrow and Furness – it now needs a Conservative majority to see it delivered

Brexit was the right decision for Barrow and Furness – it now needs a Conservative majority to see it delivered

During the 2015 election campaign in Barrow and Furness, I was asked my views on the EU at a hustings in Ulverston. I described myself then as ‘mildly-eurosceptic’ and expressed hope that the then Prime Minister would be able to reform the EU from within.

But David Cameron’s negotiation was a disappointment, especially after hopes for it had been set so high. There were no game changers, and nothing to suggest that the onward march of Europe would be abated.

To me the agreement offered the worst of both worlds instead – an EU that would continue to integrate, and increasing operate as one, with the UK moving within a decaying orbit, defined by the EU’s rules and laws but increasingly drifting away from the top table where decisions are made.

I knew that I would vote to Leave before the referendum campaign began in earnest. The claims of the Remain campaign were too shrill and too exaggerated to deter my hardening views.

Ultimately, it was a simple choice: the EU is moving to ever greater political, legal, monetary and regulatory alignment. I simply could not see a future for the UK within it long-term.

Looking at specific issues only made the decision clearer. An EU diplomatic corps? Why, when the EU’s members have very different views of the world? An EU army? Serving what purpose, other than to bolster the EU project? The Euro? One only needs to look to the Eurozone crisis to see the house of cards that it sits upon. And on a host of other issues – EU aid, regional development spending, the sovereignty of EU courts – increasingly I saw us as travelling in one direction, and the EU another.

Britain is a member of NATO, a permanent member of the UN, a nuclear power and has the fifth largest economy in the world. Access to the Single Market alone was not worth the increasing control that the EU was placing on us. Control that would only increase in the future.

But there was something pressing on my mind that ran deeper than those issues: democratic accountability. If I’m unhappy with my MP or councillor, I know what to do to get rid of them – vote them out. If I want their help on an issue, I can lobby them to change things. Where is the equivalent in the EU? At best you could argue that you have the ability to influence 1 of 700-odd MEPs. But that’s not where the direction of Europe is set, or where the real decisions are taken.

So, unhappy with the EU’s direction of travel and the lack of accountability, I cast my ballot and voted for us to Leave.

I was unsurprised when I woke up the next morning to find that 60% of Barrow and Furness had voted the same way. The County Council in Carlisle often feels like a world away from Furness. Politicians in Westminster even more so. But the EU is in another league.

In the American Revolution, ‘no taxation without representation’ became a battle cry. But here in Cumbria we had exactly that – an acre of unaccountable politicians making decisions about our lives, supposedly representing us to the world, funded by our taxes, and for what?

In a community that often says that it’s ignored by government and left behind, why wouldn’t you kick against that? Especially when the official Remain campaign spent much of its time speaking as if it knows better than you.

I still believe that leaving is the right decision both for Barrow and Furness, and for the country. Politicians and our Parliament haven’t exactly covered themselves with glory these last three years, but at least when people want to give them a kick they now know how to do it.

Once Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is passed, accountability will flow back to the UK. Our future will once again be in our hands – rising and falling on our own ingenuity and dynamism, rather than within the framework of one-size-fits-28 rules and regulations.

Brexit is a great opportunity for us to shape our own future. With control over our borders and laws, and a close relationship with our friends in Europe, the opportunities are endless.

If we can secure a Conservative majority – including a victory here in Barrow and Furness – then we can get the deal passed in Parliament and move forward. And then the opportunities of the future are all ours to seize.