Category Archives: EU Referendum

Response to Brexit

Dear all,

Can I thank hundreds of you together for your comments about the referendum and related issues. Very few, if any of you, raised all the points covered below, but most of you raised more than one issue so I hope this is helpful.

1 Don’t leave the EU

I have had many emails from constituents who’ve signed a petition calling for a second referendum: some of whom have also asked me not to recognise the result of the referendum.

However much any of us regret the result, we are all (and MPs especially) servants of democracy: the country has voted and we must implement the collective view as best we can: exploring all aspects of ‘getting back control’ while retaining, where possible, key parts of the current relationship, like free trade.

We lost the debate and have to recognise that, and all do our best to learn the lessons and implement the decision as best possible. So we must find the opportunities and manage the risks: it will all take time, and will need patience.

2 David Cameron

Some of you have blamed the Prime Minister for the referendum, or asked that he shouldn’t resign. I understand the feelings involved. I also think that he was the best Prime Minister that we could have, and I knew instinctively that he would resign: David Cameron is a decent man who has done what he believes is the decent thing for 11 years as Party Leader. He will stay to see through a leadership election (I imagine) in September, before the Party Conference.

3 The Future of the United Kingdom

There are no facts about the future: only different ideas, and it’s down to individual judgement regarding whose view will prove right. There are discussions very soon on the Northern Ireland border with Stormont leaders and the Irish PM. My belief is that they will resist formal border crossings and passport checks, at least for now, and that this important relationship in the EU will be relatively unscathed.

I don’t believe Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold a referendum unless she is sure to win. My judgement is that isn’t the case at the moment, but she will have to decide: and the Westminster government would need to agree to any further referendum. In any event she and other administrations will have a role in the Brexit discussions and options.

4 What happens next

The Conservative leadership election to replace David Cameron as Leader and Prime Minister starts this week and will likely finish in September. The new government will then decide when to trigger Article 50. Once triggered, negotiators will be sent to the EU to discuss an exit deal. This must be agreed by a majority of the EU member states (not including the UK) and the process has a two year deadline. After which I believe there will be an approval process for the replacement of the 1972 European Communities Act in Parliament.

There is unlikely to be a General Election, in my view, given the fixed Term of Parliament Act that commits us to an election in 2020. I cannot see that being repealed in normal circumstances.

Whatever happens, there is plenty to be done in Gloucester including many projects here not reliant on the EU, from the new Health University Technical College that we are applying for, to physical regeneration, more culture and more housing. This will go on, and the government will continue to govern while we negotiate what happens next with the EU.

5 Thank you

Thank you for many emails in the past week, after the tragic death of Jo Cox MP. Nothing I do, or the way I do it, will change in any way.

6 Summary

I voted to remain, but Gloucester and the country voted to leave. I respect this decision and will work to get the best deal possible for us and our country.

Above all let us focus, as Jo Cox said, on what we have in common – which is far more than what divides us – and differ with politeness, and unite where we can. I hope that we can all pull together again as soon as possible.

Best regards


Today is the day..when we decide our relations with our neighbours

with the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Neil Carmichael MP and Alex Chalk MP

with the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Neil Carmichael MP and Alex Chalk MP

It’s gone on a long time: important, frustrating, emotional; and a source of endless argument. It is the Referendum – and many of my constituents are still unsure which way to vote. I break the issues into five: the Big Picture, Money, Security, Sovereignty and Immigration.

The Big Picture. I believe we need as many friends and allies as possible: in the UN Security Council, at the heart of the Commonwealth, the G7 & NATO, in a special relationship with the US, a strategic partnership with China, very close to Ireland – and a member of the EU. We are smaller by losing any of these.

And our history is one of tremors from quakes on the continent. We’ve often had to intervene and make war to keep the peace, and above all keep the balance of power – preventing dominance by any one country, which is always bad for us. Whether against Louis XIV, Napoleon, Hitler or Russian communism, we’ve teamed up with a coalition of the willing to stop them – like the Welsh archers, Eugene of Savoy, Blucher and the Polish and Commonwealth airmen. England has never fought alone in Europe.

Money. Almost everyone, including the leading Brexiters, recognise there’ll be a hit if we leave, as sterling drops, inflation rises and interest rates and mortgages go up. The markets have already shown what they can do. I worry about how quickly things would recover, how long it would take to replace the 53 Free Trade Agreements the EU already has, and the long term impact of trade duties on e.g. our aerospace exports to Airbus in Toulouse. Short term this would inevitably lead to less tax revenue for the NHS and other public services – and for how long we just don’t know.

Security. There is no single global policeman today. We need maximum co-operation against e.g. terrorists, especially with our nearest neighbours. Our security could not be increased by acting more alone, without the European Arrest Warrant, or by having the refugee camps at Calais moved to Dover. Home to GCHQ and the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC), in Gloucestershire we know the value of partnerships and sharing information carefully.

Of course immigration and sovereignty are also argued over. I hear comments like ‘I want my country back’, ‘our infrastructure can’t cope’ and ‘so many of our jobs are taken by foreigners’.  Nor can these just be dismissed. We must make our own decisions in our own Parliament: but we can also accept legislation e.g. to protect workers’ rights, improve our beaches and water that came from the EU: 14% of our total laws. And when it comes to sovereignty I see no advantage to business in not having a voice at the table on decisions that affect almost half of our exports.

Ultimately, I don’t see leaving the EU will solve immigration – are we going to ask weekending French to apply for a visa, or a German engineer visiting his business here to apply for a work permit? No. Or if yes, then increase the cost of leaving as we axe cheap flights to Europe, many jobs at airports and across the travel industry.

In a nutshell if we want free trade then we pay the club sub and accept free movement to work – we just lose any role in decisions. If we don’t want free trade then watch out for the hit to jobs and the 75% of tax from business.

If we want the surest prospects of future jobs for our children then let’s make the European partnership work, recognising some compromise in all partnerships. And if we’re concerned about immigration and pressures on schools etc then yes, push at us MPs to do more – taking out from the stats students who pay for our universities would make sense – but leaving the EU is not a solution to that. Ultimately the complete lack of detail about what the Leave campaign would do is a huge risk, and although safety is not as sexy as risk, this is a risk I wouldn’t recommend at all.

Best regards


The Realities of Brexit

I hosted the Rt Hon Theresa May MP in Gloucester to talk about the ‘Realities of Brexit’. She said that a ‘vote to remain is a vote for our future’ and I agree. Afterwards I spoke to the BBC and the Gloucester Citizen, answering their questions about the EU Referendum. Here are some of my answers.

Intervention on EU Free Trade Agreements

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right on two points that in my view no one should be in any doubt about. First, trade is absolutely critical. All the countries with which I and all the other trade envoys deal are in no doubt that we will do much better with them by being within the European Union rather than outside it. I am also in no doubt that the 53 agreements that the European Union has entered into would take a very long time to replicate—if, indeed, that could be done at all. Lastly, on inward investment, I am also in no doubt that a wave of foreign direct investment that could come here is being held up at the moment as a result of uncertainty.

The Government’s Role in the EU Referendum


I want to write of a common misconception about the government’s role in the EU Referendum. It’s one which several angry constituents who want to Leave the EU have written to me about, and their argument goes like this:

• It is simply not fair, and indeed is quite wrong, that the government is spending money and promoting its views to Remain in the EU

• The government should be neutral, run a Referendum without a view and apart from the technical details of running an election should keep quiet

So let me deal with these points.

First the starting point. My party promised in our manifesto in the General Election of 2015 that, if elected, we would legislate for a Referendum, and that the Cabinet would then take a view on the position of the government.

We won the election and we have stuck with our word: the Referendum was legislated for and the Cabinet voted about 25-7 that the position of the government was to Remain. The Cabinet also agreed we would first re-negotiate for a better settlement and then hold the Referendum. And the PM said that those in the Cabinet who wanted to campaign to Leave could do so without resigning from the Cabinet.

So that is exactly what has happened, entirely correctly and honourably. It is simply wrong to imagine that the government is a disinterested, entirely neutral observer in which its only role is to oversee a Referendum process.

The result will have an enormous impact on Britain’s place in the world, and the argument is which direction is better for our country and our future. On something so important it would be absurd for the government of the day not to have a clear view on about what is best for Britain. The government strongly believes that we should stay IN the EU: and is campaigning to get that result.

No-one should complain about this, and there is nothing ‘unfair’, or illegal and there is also a clear precedent, which is what Prime Minister Wilson and his government did in the Referendum in 1975 (and no-one complained about that).

When the Referendum is over NO-ONE should complain about the result: whether the process, the role of the government, the unfair influence of the BBC, the unwanted interference of our allies, multilateral partners, or anything else.

At that stage the UK will need to make a success of our role in Europe, whether or not a member of the EU – so that our trade is a undamaged as possible, our political relationships as productive as possible and so that we are ready, together, to deal with whatever comes our way – Putin, terrorists, refugees, energy shortages, natural disasters and yet unknown other threats to our security.

I will be campaigning to stay in, and will be writing more about why, but I will avoid arguments with constituents who take the opposite view. Let’s keep any differences of opinion respectful.

Let the best view win!

Best regards

Question on EU Trade Agreements

Richard Graham: The EU has preferential trade agreements with 53 countries, including high-growth Asian nations such as Vietnam and Korea, where I believe the benefits have boosted British trade by some £2 billion a year, and talks with Indonesia and the Philippines start soon. Will my right hon. Friend explain whether we would easily be able to replicate those 53 agreements in the case of Brexit and how long that would take?

Minister of State for Europe (David Lidington): May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work he does as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to the ASEAN — Association of Southeast Asian Nations — region? I agree with him that the record shows that alternative trade agreements would take years to negotiate and there would be no guarantee whatsoever that we could obtain terms that were anything like as good as those that we enjoy through the European Union today.

Trade and the EU

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): Some argue that we will be able to forge better deals across the world by leaving the European Union, but in the three years that I have been a trade envoy I have not yet met a single representative of any of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that believes our trade and investment prospects would be better if we left the EU. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that the referendum is not about whether we should do business with Europe or with the rest of the world, but about the fact that we should and must do business with both, as we are, and that those with whom we most want a free trade agreement will always prioritise the EU?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend puts it in absolutely the right way. It is not an either/or. We are expanding our trade in south-east Asia—we have doubled our trade with China since I became Prime Minister—but I am struck, as he is, by the fact that countries are not saying, “Get out of the EU and sign a trade deal with us”. They are saying, “Stick in the EU and make sure it signs a trade deal, because it will be bigger and it will be better.”

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