This week the House of Commons will be asked to approve the Brexit deal negotiated by Boris Johnson at the European Council meeting in Brussels. It will certainly have my full support and the Prime Minister deserves credit for getting the other European leaders to review and change the withdrawal agreement, something many commentators believed would be impossible.
Since the first withdrawal agreement was published by Theresa May a year ago, I have called for the removal of the ‘backstop’ provisions which would have kept us locked indefinitely under the European Union’s trade and single market regulations. The backstop has now been taken out of the agreement. In England, Wales and Scotland, when we leave the EU there will be a transition phase until the end of 2020 during which time a free trade agreement can be negotiated. After that we will be fully outside of the EU institutions and our future relationship will be based on new agreements reached with us as an independent non-member state. The situation in Northern Ireland will be different where a common trading area will exist on the island of Ireland for certain goods; particularly food and agricultural products. Northern Ireland will remain in the same customs area though as the rest of the UK and will benefit from any new trade deals that we negotiate. This new arrangement for Northern Ireland will remain in place as long as their citizens want it to. The Northern Ireland Assembly will have the power to determine whether or not to end this special situation. I believe that our task now is clear. It is over three years since the referendum, and the House of Commons has spent 500 hours debating Brexit. We need to get on and deliver it so that the country can move on. Some people are saying they want more details on the impact assessments of carrying through this agreement. However, they should also consider the consequences that further delay will have on the economy. The uncertainty about the current situation has had a far greater impact on holding back investment.
Last Friday I was invited to join the students at Harcourt Primary school in Cheriton for their morning assembly. As well as discussing my role as a Member of Parliament and what they had all been learning about democracy, I was able to answer a wide range of questions from the pupils. I was also delighted to be asked to announce the results of the election for the Head Boy and Head Girl for this school year. I wish them and all of the members of the new School Council the best of luck as they undertake their duties. Later in the day I visited the team at the Cancer Research UK shop in Sandgate Road in Folkestone. I was given an induction on how to serve customers on the till and also found out more about what happens behind the scenes. They all do a great job not only raising money for an important cause, but also providing advice and support to their customers when they need it.