The Government’s outward-looking Brexit agenda is winning over Remain voters in my Witney constituency

The Government’s outward-looking Brexit agenda is winning over Remain voters in my Witney constituency

A recent poll from London School of Economics and Oxford University found that over 70% of voters – including a majority of Remain voters – back key features of the Government’s stance on Brexit. That may come as a surprise to some, given the controversy of last year’s referendum, but when I travel around my Witney constituency, that is precisely what I have, for months, been finding.

This West Oxfordshire constituency voted 54% to Remain, but it does not follow that because someone voted, on balance, to Remain back in June 2016, they remain irreconcilable to Brexit now; wishing the result to be overturned, ignored, or so watered down as to be meaningless.

When I ask people whether they wish to see the project frustrated, or a second referendum, the response is usually the same: “no – a decision was made and now we must go forward. That is the way we do things in our democracy. What I want is for it to be a success.” And there, Brexiteers and Remainers should be united. But people’s views go further than a mere acceptance of the result: they are increasingly endorsing the positive vision that is the Government’s policy.

It is not at all surprising that people in a Remain area take an increasingly positive view of Brexit. There are three good reasons for it.

First, the constant stream of good economic news. Many people have told me how they would have voted to Leave, but were worried by the torrent of economic warnings and took what they felt to be a “head over heart” decision. However, the economic picture remains very encouraging: inbound tourism is up, record employment, major new investment into this country, an increase in UK exports.

Nor is this surprising. We are the fifth largest economy in the world, with enormous assets: the rule of law, an industrious workforce, the English language, enormous financial and technological expertise.

Of course, there are some who will argue that the bad news is just around the corner. I accept that there may be some bumps in the road, but our enormous inherent strength as a country makes it nonsense to argue that the UK is too weak, too isolated or too backward to survive without the protective embrace of a democratically unaccountable supranational bureaucracy.

The second factor is the Government’s open and outward-looking Brexit agenda. When people say they are worried about Brexit, I often find the vision of Brexit they are fearful of is a caricature. For example, perhaps they want Britain to be an open, outward-looking country. Well, so does the Government, whose emphasis is upon striking new trade deals throughout the rest of the world, and welcoming the brightest and best to this country – wherever they come from.

Some like to portray Brexiteers as provincial ignoramuses, incoherently raving about nothing but immigration, but this too is simply a caricature. Those who opted for Brexit voted, yes, to regain control of their country’s laws, its borders, and its democratic integrity, but that is not the same as wanting the country to be closed to the outside world.

Where the concerns are substantive, I make the point that careful planning avoids pitfalls, and ask what the Government needs to know. This might be supply-chain requirements in the aviation world, or concerns for seasonal labour in the agricultural sector. It might be the need for continuing research co-operation. The role of a good constituency MP is to listen to those practical issues, to pass them back, and to work to find a solution – not to worry away at them in the hope that the practical difficulties swamp the Brexit project so that the UK falls, exhausted, back into EU membership – simply to be faced with a whole new set of problems, but this time, insoluble.

Thirdly, West Oxfordshire is positive about Brexit because of the nature of the people they are: clever, industrious, driven. Touring the constituency in the summer recess visiting businesses illustrated the electric ability people have to come up with brilliant ideas and to implement them.

The people of West Oxfordshire, like the people of Britain, are dynamic and positive. They look to the future and plan to seize its opportunities. That is why West Oxfordshire is such a thriving economic area. And that is why, ultimately, Witney’s increasingly positive view of Brexit is not at all surprising: looking to the future, having faith in the enormous economic and moral strength of this country and seizing the opportunities is, after all, what Brexit is all about.