Thank you for writing to me about the current situation regarding the UK's negotiations with the EU. As you might imagine, I have received many emails with a large number of differing views. This is clearly a fast-moving situation. I would like to let you know my current thoughts. I am writing the same letter to all constituents so as to be transparent to all.
I have always said that the UK/EU negotiations are the most complex negotiations for a generation.
Some constituents are asking me to support the campaign for a second referendum. I do not currently believe that this is the best way forward. In the 2016 referendum, people were told that the result would be respected. I believe it is important that we uphold that commitment. There are huge divisions in our country. I am concerned that a second referendum would be even more divisive and not decisive.
Some constituents have suggested we should walk away and leave the EU, without any Withdrawal Agreement or any commitment on UK/EU trade negotiations. However, the EU is our largest trading partner and many people's jobs and livelihoods depend on the UK and EU countries continuing to have an amicable and strong relationship. Leaving with "no deal" brings huge uncertainties.
Some constituents suggest that we should try to mirror the relationship that the EU has with Norway or Canada. Neither option addresses our country's unique position. The Norway option leaves us as a rule taker on services as well as goods. In my experience, the UK and EU often have differing priorities for services regulation due to the UK's high level of service-related exports. The Norway model does not fit the UK well. A Canada version is not acceptable since it will result in hard borders, either with the Irish Republic or between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It also does not provide the frictionless trade that is necessary to protect our successful manufacturing businesses.
This is why I have always said that the best approach is to seek out a bespoke deal.
Regarding the negotiated package, some constituents are concerned that the "Future Framework" declaration regarding the long-term relationship is not yet a full Trade Agreement. However, it was always the case that a final long-term Trade Agreement would not be agreed until after we leave the EU. The Future Framework declaration does set out the main parameters of what is clearly the deepest Trade Agreement that the EU has ever offered.
Regarding the Withdrawal Agreement, this covers the immediate future. It allows for citizens' rights to be protected and for businesses trading with the EU to have a transition period with no 'cliff edges'. These elements of the Withdrawal Agreement are extremely important to those Chelmsford constituents who have family members living in the EU or family members from the EU living on the UK, as well as to those in jobs which involve trade with EU countries.
Some constituents have raised concerns about the Northern Ireland "backstop" and whether it may become permanent. Both the UK and the EU have committed that the backstop should not become permanent. Furthermore, the changes agreed last night mean the following.
1. The political commitments given by the EU that the Irish backstop is not intended to be permanent are now set in law,
2. Legal force, equivalent to the Withdrawal Agreement, will now underpin the right of the UK to suspend its obligations under the backstop if the EU breaches its obligations to negotiate a free-trade deal in good faith, and
3. The Political declaration that sets the framework for the future trade negotiations is to be amended to require the EU to work to establish an alternative to the backstop by the end of the transition period.
It seems to me we have three options: a "no deal Brexit", a second referendum or supporting the negotiated package. I believe the first two options carry considerable risks to jobs and livelihoods. I will therefore be supporting the negotiated package when it comes to the House of Commons for a vote.
Member of Parliament for Chelmsford
Tuesday 12th March 2019