Leave and Remain voters alike now want the Government to get on with delivering Brexit

Leave and Remain voters alike now want the Government to get on with delivering Brexit

Last year’s referendum – our second on EU membership – created the biggest mandate in Britain’s political history. Turnout was higher than at any General Election since 1992. Many Leave voters visited their polling station for the first time, ignoring dire warnings from ardent campaigners like George Osborne and Nick Clegg that taking back control of our laws, borders, money and trade would bring about economic catastrophe.

Six months later, these warnings seem risible: our economy grew faster in 2016 than any other in the G7, while the six months since the referendum result have brought good news on employment. World-beating companies like Jaguar Landrover, Google and Facebook have already demonstrated their commitment to Brexit Britain. At the end of 2016 former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King concluded that we should be self-confident about leaving the European Union because Brexit offered “real opportunities” for the British economy.

Of course our exit from the EU after over forty years of membership will be complex, creating challenges for both the British government and our friends in Brussels and across Europe. Some issues need urgent attention, starting with the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and those of British citizens living in the EU27. During the referendum campaign, Vote Leave was clear that EU citizens who were in the UK legally should have the right to stay, and #WelcomeToStay was the first campaign we ran at Change Britain.

Since Peter Cruddas and I launched Change Britain in September, with the support of Boris Johnson, the team has taken time to listen carefully to the concerns of the working class communities, many of them in Labour’s traditional heartlands, who played a key part in Vote Leave’s success on 23rd June. Reconnecting these millions of voters with Westminster politics must be one of Brexit’s legacies – the values and beliefs which underpin Britain’s tolerant, free-thinking and respectful political culture have not changed but what we do now have is an extraordinary opportunity to refresh our political system, particularly in the context of voter engagement.

So far we’ve held focus groups of Leave and Remain voters in East and West Midlands, the North East, North West, Yorkshire and London, and we’ve shared our findings with Labour and Conservative MPs, as well as Theresa May’s Government. We’ve also launched a Policy Commission to help identify the practical benefits that leaving the EU will produce for people like my constituents in Edgbaston.

As we look ahead to 2017, I want to share three key findings with BrexitCentral readers. The first is that not one of the Leave voters we have interviewed has any buyer’s remorse: months after the result they feel good about their decision and upbeat about Britain’s future.

The second is that when people understand that staying in the Single Market and Customs Union means continued free movement, the acceptance of EU laws and no ability to negotiate trade deals with countries like the US, Australia and China, a strong majority of both Leave and Remain voters reject the idea.

And thirdly, Leave and Remain voters share the view that the referendum result was decisive and the government should now get on with the job. Voters expect 2017 to be the year we actually begin the process of exiting the EU. Should this not happen, there is a risk that the cynicism that so many people already feel for our political process will harden to something more dangerous – or, as Andrew Marr warned in the New Statesman, “…the glossy fabric of British democracy would be ripped to shreds.”

That’s why Change Britain has been supporting the Government’s plan to trigger Article 50 by the end of March. Most MPs, whichever side they campaigned for during the referendum, now respect the result. Sadly a few MPs continue to call for a second referendum. Others in the Lords and outside Parliament are suggesting that Brexit can be overturned.

Change Britain poster

We must not play games with our democracy. In the last two weeks of December, an incredible 40,000 Change Britain supporters emailed their local MP asking them to respect the referendum result and vote to trigger Article 50 without condition. That’s an average of over 60 emails per MP. We also fielded Change Britain activists on high streets across the country to send their MP a pro-Brexit Christmas message.

We will be asking our supporters to do even more in the next few months. And we will continue to collaborate with other pro-Brexit groups like Economists for Brexit, Leave Means Leave and the European Research Group to do whatever it takes to get Article 50 triggered. Meanwhile, Change Britain’s Policy Commission, led by Michael Gove and Maurice Glasman, will be looking beyond the exit process to articulate the opportunity for national renewal which Brexit creates.

I hope this will be the year that everyone comes together to ensure that we get the best possible deal for Britain, and the rest of Europe. For me, a good negotiation will begin to rebuild resilience and prosperity into our poorest communities. If we get this right, we will look back on 2017 as the year we started building a stronger, more prosperous and fairer society.