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Newspaper Columns

Times of Tonbridge Column - Brexit - 27 March 2019

I try to use this column to let you know what I am doing for our community. Most often, these are the local matters which we all care about. Whether it’s housing, broadband, improved school funding or better bus services, we have a number of issues to tackle. But understandably, one issue has been topping my inbox in recent weeks.

Since the vote to leave the European Union was held in 2016 there has been a great deal of debate about how we make this happen. Both locally here in Tonbridge, and across the country, there was a narrow vote in favour of leaving. Though I supported remaining, I know why many wanted to leave. For decades the EU has been seen as a distant, unaccountable organisation, and for this reason I can understand why many wanted to leave.

The instruction from the referendum was clear. And since then I have not once voted to frustrate this process, delay the outcome or to remain in the European Union. The issues Westminster is debating this week are on how to deliver on the referendum result from 2016. They are not, and should not be, about reversing it.

But that doesn’t mean the questions before us are simple. The result of the referendum and the consequences can be interpreted in many ways. For me, we need to deliver on leaving the European Union but we also need to recognise the geographical proximity that makes it essential for our economy that we continue to have a good working relationship. That’s why agreeing a deal is the best outcome. The one negotiated by the Prime Minister takes us out of the political union, ends the payments, stops free movement and ends our membership of the EU, but it does so while keeping our trade flowing. That’s delivering the referendum result from 2016.

Of course, it’s only a transition deal, which means if accepted we would still need to negotiate our future relationship over the next couple of years. It’s not the end, and merely lays down the terms of our departure, but it fulfils our responsibility to deliver the referendum. That’s why I was happy to support it.

You have an advantage over me. I am writing this article at the beginning of a week that will have seen many votes and perhaps some changes to our position. So, as you read this please understand that I didn’t know what you know now and in these extraordinary times, I couldn’t have predicted whatever has happened!

Even so, there are a few things that I already know. The behaviour of many MPs over the past few weeks has been below the level that we would expect. Scores of meaningless votes ruling out options, but failing to agree on a way forward has seen trust in Parliament plummet. I share your despair.

When casting votes in Parliament this week, I’ll be doing what I always have, and considering the implications for our communities very seriously. I am your representative and it’s not my job to risk with your jobs and lifestyles. That’s why I’ve stood up against the Operation Brock plans in the event of a no deal which would turn the M26 into a lorry park, threatening the viability of villages along the A25. It reinforces my view that a deal is so important, and any delay or a no deal outcome could pose issues for both the country, and our immediate community. 

I appreciate events might have changed matters by the time you read this, but I’m conscious of the impact this decision will have on so many people.


Georgie Welford