Dear Ochil and South Perthshire
While Brexit continues to dominate the headlines, it's very easy for my actions as your MP to get lost amongst the noise. So today I wanted to set out my position and, given the circumstances, why I have voted the way I have in the past few months.
It's no secret that I voted and campaigned for Remain in 2016. However, despite our best efforts, the referendum was hotly contested and Remain lost the argument. Just as I accepted the 2014 referendum result, I had to accept that Leave won, and it was time to move forward as a country and leave the EU. What is more clear to me now than ever before is that in a functioning democracy, win or lose, a UK-wide vote must be treated and enacted as such. In addition, the manifesto on which I was elected in 2017 explicitly promised that we would leave the EU.
However, the debate has become so intensely political that core principles have been forgotten; my logic has always been: I wanted the UK to stay in the EU, my side of the argument lost, so we must leave the EU. However, Leave promised time and time again that there would be an economic relationship with the EU in a form of a grand deal or combination of deals and that is why I voted three times to leave the EU with a deal, while voting against No Deal, because I am yet to see any analysis that would not mean economic disruption for our constituency. I also voted for amendments to compromise and try and reach a cross-party solution on this extremely difficult situation.
Furthermore, in the past week I voted for an amendment to guarantee a vote on a deal on October 21st - whether that be a new deal or the previous Withdrawal Agreement. I voted against the latest Labour motion because it included conditions that could see further extensions that could run on into 2020+.
I believe we have to sort Brexit; the uncertainty is hurting our businesses and communities. Much like the 2014 referendum before it, is coming to dominate our national discussion, stopping us focusing on the real priorities of driving down the cost of living, improving education, cracking down on crime, planning for our ageing population and tackling climate change.
As a new MP, I’ve often found it difficult to express the level of frustration I feel about the impasse we find ourselves in. Indeed, it is by far the most difficult political challenge we have had to face in modern history. However, my job is not to resign, run away or be bullied off the pitch by those who want to play party politics and decide which votes to respect and which not to. My job is to stand and fight for our area, even in times of extreme difficulty. To find solutions, not peddle grievance.
Some of my critics have tried to accuse me of putting career before constituency, but this is not the case. When offered a formal role in Government by the Prime Minister in the summer, I refused. I refused because I felt that giving my full and undivided attention to Ochil and South Perthshire is essential. Being on Government payroll at this time would not give me the freedom to argue and vote on Brexit in the best interest of our area.
I do feel caught between the democratic rock of the referendum result and the economic hard place of a WTO Brexit. So, this is the result I am trying to secure for our constituency: leave the EU, with a deal or package of deals. Much can be achieved outside the EU, but very few can argue that having a partnership with the EU based on economic cooperation, education and security isn’t the desirable option. This is the solution I am fighting and voting for, which means we honour the referendum, while providing economic certainty.
The next few weeks are going to be incredibly difficult. National media will be in a frenzy, opponents will relentlessly attack, but I will keep pushing forward and communicating every move and vote I make so you can see the course I am trying to take. I will be engaged in the detail, reading every motion, debating every clause, sitting through the night and at weekends if we need additional time. It’s unlikely I will be able to please everyone, but at the very least you will know why I am voting the way I am.
Brexit is a major issue, but it is just one in a long list of priorities for our country. Once we have broken through this impasse, I want to harness the energy and determination of local organisations and other MPs to drive radical reform at home to improve our institutions, encourage more investment, deliver on renewable energy and focus on providing opportunities for all, rather than obsessing about one issue.
As ever, my door is always open to you if you do want to discuss this issue in more detail, so please don’t hesitate to contact me on the details enclosed or come along to one of the regular surgeries I hold across our constituency.