The Brexit White Paper needs to honour the promises Theresa May has made

The Brexit White Paper needs to honour the promises Theresa May has made

Amid the noise of the last few days, we must not lose sight of the bold decision taken by the British people two years ago. They voted with self-confidence to take back control of their country’s destiny, despite the global establishment being lined up to warn them of catastrophe if they dared to vote Leave. 

23rd June 2016 was a truly historic day, but it was just the start of a process. There was, and is, much more to do. Immediately after the referendum there was an opportunity for this country to come together. Unfortunately that didn’t take place. The road to Brexit has been bumpy and there are many more bumps to come. But nothing worth doing is easy.
 
Last week’s Chequers meeting was an important step in this process. However, I – along with many Brexit supporters – am concerned with what we know of the proposal put forward. It is important to reserve final judgement until we have all the detail in the forthcoming White Paper but the details behind phrases like ‘common rule-book’ and ‘mobility framework’ need to demonstrate that Theresa May is intent on honouring the promises she has already made to the electorate and delivering the Brexit we voted for.
 
But this is just the Government’s opening position, and the EU has already signalled it will demand further concessions in an effort to keep the UK tied to Brussels indefinitely. The Prime Minister cannot and must not concede further ground – the compromises reached are already at the absolute limit. Anything further, and the Prime Minister will overstep her own red lines. Leave voters would quite rightly ask why the Brexit proposal put forward is so far removed from what they had campaigned and voted for.
 
We always knew the road ahead to Brexit would be tough. We knew that vested interests would lobby hard to soften Brexit or even to reverse it. That is what we are seeing now. Every day we see calls for a divisive second referendum from the so-called People’s Vote. We see big business attempting to alter government policy, urging the democratically-elected Prime Minister to ignore the red lines that the British people voted for twice. I have a very simple question for those who issue these calls: do we respect democracy and the institutions that underpin it? At a time when we see democratic institutions in crisis across the world, do we really want to ignore the instructions of the electorate? 
 
Such actions would be damaging to our democracy, not least because  – if the Prime Minister can deliver the Brexit people voted for – then the opportunity for the UK outside the EU is substantial and exciting. The reasons for the British people voting to Leave remain true today. By leaving the EU and taking back control, we will be able to build a country prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. We will have better regulations. Every day we see that industries are being disrupted and technological advances are changing our lives at a faster pace than the archaic machinery of Brussels can cope with. By taking back control of our laws we can build a regulatory framework equipped to deal with the pace of change.
 
The majority of the world’s growth is happening far away from the European Union. The growth markets of today – let alone tomorrow – are not bound to the Single Market or Customs Union. By taking back control of our trade policy we can build and develop trading relationships with countries across the globe, relationships that reflect the comparative advantages of our economy.
 
We should be thinking more about how we can use Brexit as a moment of national renewal. To take one example, because of freedom of movement no one has given serious thought as to how to train our workforce to suit the needs of a modern economy. We should seize this moment to ensure our country does better. 
 
I don’t know what my former Vote Leave colleague Boris Johnson will do next. I am sad that a true Brexit believer has left the Government. It was a privilege to campaign so hard alongside him and I know that he would have only chosen to leave a job he loved for the right reasons. These latest developments just show that we need to keep fighting for the referendum result to be respected. Until the vote to take back control and be in charge of our destiny has been fully respected, then the campaign will continue. But an exciting future awaits us however long it takes, and I trust and hope that all those who campaigned hard for Brexit will continue to do so.