Rachel has issued the following statement following the publishing of the Government’s EU negotiating White Paper:
“Dominic Raab, the new Brexit Secretary, gave a statement to the House of Commons today on the Government’s EU negotiating White Paper. While I hear the concerns of many people over this White Paper, and I have some myself, I am clear it sticks to the commitments made in the referendum which is to take back control of our laws, borders and money.
“There is much detail in the White Paper which has sometimes got lost in the heat and light of the debate. People have strongly held views on this issue, but we must come together at this time to deliver the result of the referendum.
“This White Paper is a starting point, not an end point, and there is a considerable amount of negotiation we need to carry out now.
“Redditch voted by 62% to leave, and I have always been clear about my personal position. The referendum was held before I was an MP, and I voted to remain. If there was another vote today, I would vote to leave.
“It is of the utmost importance that we leave the EU, completely, to respect the result of the referendum, not only in Redditch, but in the entire country. Democracy itself is at stake here, and that is something that I carry on my shoulders. It is a heavy responsibility. I am all too aware of the perils of trying to overturn or frustrate democracy, as some very strong voices are attempting to do. I will not be swayed by those voices. I live in Redditch, and spend a considerable amount of my time outside the “Westminster bubble”, interacting with voters and my constituents. I am aware of the kind of insults that have been heaped on people who exercised their democratic right to leave the EU, including the slander that they didn’t know what they voted for, that they were misled by what they saw on the side of a bus, that they are racist, and more. Let me be entirely clear. I utterly reject those statements. People absolutely knew what they voted for, they have not changed their minds, and they are expecting us as their elected representatives to carry out their wishes.
“I have stood up for my constituents on every possible occasion in the House when Brexit has been debated and I have consistently voted for Brexit. I have spoken in the House and taken on the arguments of ‘Project Fear’, as I am equipped to do as a business woman myself before I was elected. I have made it clear that Brexit must respect the wishes of the electorate, to take back control of our laws, borders and our money. These are the red lines and these are the commitments in the Conservative manifesto.
“We are currently at the start of a negotiation process, and now we expect the EU to come to the table. I have made my concerns about this process and our stance abundantly clear to Ministers and the Prime Minister herself. Essentially, they are that we must be prepared to walk away, and not to accept a deal that is bad for our country. When the deal comes before the House, I will not be voting for any deal that is bad for the country and is not a proper Brexit.
“I have told the Cabinet that we absolutely must ramp up preparations for no deal urgently.
“Of course, this is a fluid situation and things may change at any time. In the meanwhile, I provide below more detail of the Chequers proposal. I would urge you to read this response carefully. I have found that when I have engaged with the detail of the white paper and talked the issues through in depth, there are some areas of confusion and clarity that have been misreported in the heat and light of the media.
“While strongly expressed views have been heard on the Chequers white paper, I do not believe that there currently exists a workable alternative, as a starting point, that respects the referendum, delivers the Government’s commitments on Northern Ireland and preserves the constitutional integrity of the UK. Given the electoral arithmetic, the Prime Minister’s proposals represent a realistic and practical vision that delivers the referendum decision in full, if they are agreed to by the EU. It is worth reminding ourselves that there is no parliamentary majority for a no deal scenario. It is therefore important that the Prime Minister seeks a good deal.
“Should the EU reject this entirely reasonable proposal, they would be acting in an extremely unreasonable manner. At that time, Parliament would have a stronger case to reject this deal and leave on a no deal basis. This is why myself and other Conservative MPs are urging preparations for no deal. Let us not forget that no deal is not the disaster often presented, it means trading on WTO rules that other nations have successfully done for years.
“It is now law, that the UK will leave the EU, including the Single Market and the Customs Union on 29 March 2019. As we leave the EU, free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will no longer apply and the days of sending vast sums of money to Brussels every year are over for good. We will also leave the Common Agriculture Policy and the Commons Fisheries Policy and we will once again be able to strike our own trade deals.
“The Chequers agreement provides a commitment for the UK to maintain a common rule book on industrial goods and agricultural products so that we have a free trade area with the EU, but it will be Parliament that has a final say on any new rules or regulations. These rules have been relatively stable since the 1980s and the Government has always been clear that UK standards should be as high, if not higher, than those of the EU and so I believe that having a common rule book as a minimum is a reasonable proposal. As a previous entrepreneur, who built a technology services business that trades around the world, and employs people in the Midlands including Redditch, I can categorically state that this proposal would be welcome for fast growing innovative businesses like ours based in the Midlands. Firstly, there are no EU rules that have ever prevented us from trading around the world and successfully growing our business, and secondly, the Chequers proposal enables us to seek free trade agreements on services in future, that would be welcome to our business.
“Having common rules on goods, as well as a new business friendly customs model, will also ensure that there is no hard border in Northern Ireland or any border down the Irish Sea and that the integrity of our precious United Kingdom is safeguarded.
“The EU, in contrast, had effectively proposed to keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and parts of the Single Market. The Prime Minister had always been clear that such a move, damaging the integrity of the UK, was completely unacceptable. The EU’s other option would have been for all of the UK to stay in the European Economic Area and the Customs Union, keeping free movement and accepting all EU laws. This was also unacceptable.
“It is important to remember that nearly 80 per cent of the UK economy is based on services such as finance, accounting and law. So, the common rule book will not apply to this part of the economy. The Government wants to be free to ensure the UK can maintain its world leading position on services in the future. There will also be a parliamentary lock on new regulations, restoring the sovereignty of Parliament.
“Contrary to many claims made in the media, this parliamentary lock would operate on an entirely different basis to the current situation. At the moment, we have no choice but to accept EU rules and laws. They are simply part of our statute book, automatically. Under the white paper proposals, we take back our sovereignty and choose whether or not to follow these rules. Many of the rules we follow anyway, such as animal welfare, because the British people do not want our farm animals kept in despicable conditions, for example, nor trade with third countries that do so. We would also not want to trade in faulty electrical goods that caused fires and accidents, or prevent our automotive industry, that creates many jobs in our town, from being able to operate in a seamless manner.
“It has been claimed in the media and by critics that this proposal would not allow us to sign free trade deals with partners. Let me be clear, this is incorrect. Donald Trump himself welcomed future trade with the UK after Brexit. I would never vote for anything that prevents us from trading around the world. After all, we are a trading nation with a bright future ahead of us. Free trade always makes nations richer, and makes products and services cheaper and better. I believe in and understand this principle, which is why I am a Conservative, and would never compromise on this point.
“I have concerns over this common rule book and have expressed them to Ministers. While this does unequivocally free us from the current situation where the EU are making our laws, it would also mean that there would be consequences if we diverge.
I would want to see much more detail of this and be satisfied what compromise was proposed before I voted for such a proposal, should it form part of the final deal.
“My other area of concern is around the immigration proposals. We must see unlimited free movement of people come to an end. It is important that there are provisions for businesses to move skilled personnel around the world, this would happen in any trade deal. I also welcome the ability of our NHS to bring in more nurses and doctors for example, though we must at the same time train more of our own. But we must be unequivocal that we control our own immigration and decide for ourselves who to allow in and under what terms. It is the Conservative party that reversed the free access to welfare benefits that Labour instigated while they were in government, but there must be clarity about immigrants’ access to our welfare system after we leave the EU. This must be fair to the taxpayer.
“It’s important to remember that this plan is one that the Cabinet has united behind, including many Ministers such as Michael Gove who are committed and principled Brexiteers. New Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is a lifelong Brexiteer, and a man of great integrity. I am prepared to back them to stick to their promises to deliver what the British people and the people of Redditch voted for
“I will not vote for any deal that does not deliver Brexit, meaning a proper Brexit, with control over our laws, borders and money, no further ceding of sovereignty to the unelected EU, and end to unlimited freedom of movement.”