Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 7th December 2018
Ahead of the crucial Brexit votes next Tuesday (at the time of writing), I wanted to update you on my position and to clarify a few points.
Representing North Devon
The most important thing to stress is that I am listening very carefully to all the representations being made to me. Of the many hundreds of North Devon constituents who have contacted me, there is roughly an equal split between those who support the current deal, those who prefer leaving with ‘no deal’, and those who want a second referendum or not to leave at all.
Bluntly, there is no possible way to satisfy everybody. It is my duty to weigh up all the factors, consider them carefully, and reach a conclusion. That is what I have done.
You may not agree with my position, but that does not mean I am not listening; it means we have reached different conclusions. This is regrettable, but it is my job to make a decision and it is inevitable that not everybody will agree.
My overall position has not changed: I will be supporting this deal on Tuesday. It is not perfect. It is a compromise. But the principal point is that it delivers on the referendum result: the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019.
There will be an ‘implementation period’ until the end of 2020 to allow businesses to adjust and while we negotiate new trade deals. After this, and regardless of whether the so-called ‘backstop’ is activated, we will leave the single market. We will stop sending vast sums of money annually to the EU, whilst meeting our pre-existing obligations. We will withdraw from the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. Free movement of people will end. And we will no longer be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. In short, we take back control of our laws, money and borders.
This is Brexit. We now need to end the uncertainly and get on with it. If this deal fails we might be able to get something better, but the chances are very slim. The much greater risk is that we crash out with no deal at all. I am not prepared to take that gamble.
Regarding the ‘backstop’, I know many people believe that this ties us too closely to the EU for too long. I understand these concerns and I would welcome further assurances being added to the final deal. However, neither the government nor the EU ever wish to activate the backstop.
Like an insurance policy, it is there as a last resort, but nobody wants it to be used. It is a ‘safety net’ in case no future trading relationship can be agreed during the implementation period.
It’s needed to avoid the introduction of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which may damage the local economy and lead to renewed violence. And crucially for me, the backstop does not alter the fact that we are leaving the EU and its institutions.
So, whilst I have concerns, it’s a compromise.
Why Can’t We Remain?
The government made clear in 2016 that it would implement the outcome of the referendum, whatever it was. Then in 2017 I and the government were both re-elected on a commitment to do just that. We should not break that commitment.
Whilst delivering the result of the referendum, the withdrawal deal and the ambitious political declaration still preserve many of the beneficial aspects of EU membership. They protect the rights of the three million EU citizens living and working here, as well as the one million British Citizens living in the rest of the EU. They ensure that we do not crash out with a ‘no deal’ Brexit. And they allow for the implementation period until the end of 2020, during which we can negotiate our future trading relationship. They protect our jobs, our security and, crucially for me, the union of the United Kingdom.
Some people are calling for a second referendum or ‘people’s vote’. I do not agree.
In 2016, nearly 60% of voters in North Devon supported Leave. I don’t accept that they didn’t understand what they were voting for. They were voting for the UK to leave the EU. There is no conclusive evidence that huge numbers of Leave voters have changed their minds.
A second referendum with ‘remain’ as an option would be incredibly divisive and very damaging to our democracy. And the main thing is, it would not settle anything.
For these reasons, I will not be supporting a second referendum.
‘I’m Not Voting Conservative Again’
Some people have told me that, because of the government’s position, they will not vote Conservative again. I will just say this: your vote is a matter for you. But if North Devon does not elect a Conservative MP, we’ll help elect a far-left Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
The risks of rejecting this deal are considerable. The risks of a hard-line socialist government are even greater.
Let me conclude by repeating my assurance that I am listening carefully to all the representations being made to me. I am sorry if we have reached different conclusions. However please be assured that I have given this issue extensive consideration before reaching my conclusion, as well as listening to the many conflicting voices – and I will continue to do so.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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Mail: 1st Floor Office Suite, Church House, Church Lane
Barnstaple, North Devon, EX31 1DE
Telephone: 01271 327990