As I write, I am encouraged to see lambs in the fields and trees starting to turn green. Things always look up once spring arrives.
I had hoped not to talk Brexit in this column, having been scheduled to leave on March 29. Sadly, this was not the case so we have a little further to go before that manifesto pledge is completed.
The Prime Minister put her deal to a third vote in the House of Commons on March 29 and because of the wider changing political risks, I gave her my support on the understanding that the actual Bill would be brought forward.
This was a difficult decision since I still believe her Withdrawal Agreement holds the serious risk of the Irish backstop annexing Northern Ireland’s trade.
However, given the real risk of the Remain majority Parliament and Speaker becoming more aggressive about the idea of revocation, I decided better to get the Bill to the next stage, allowing MPs to debate and amend it to make it more robust and reduce the backstop risks.
Sadly the motion was rejected, if only by 58 votes this time.
Further indicative votes were held on April 5, with the Speaker only allowing ‘soft Brexit’ options, including seeking a customs union, staying in the single market, a second referendum or revoking Article 50 to cancel Brexit. I voted against all of these as none reflects the Brexit the electorate voted for.
The Prime Minister continues to try to find a way forward, now with discussions with Jeremy Corbyn.
I don’t expect any real progress since Corbyn wants a permanent customs union and the Prime Minister has always said that would be ‘Brexit in name only’. We would be unable to control trade policy and be at the mercy of EU decisions, which would be anti-competitive and stifle UK innovation.
The Prime Minister has been granted a further extension to Article 50 until October 31, although we can leave earlier if a deal is agreed. But this almost certainly forces EU elections on us, and Farage and the Brexit Party are hard on the campaign trail.
I will continue to speak up for the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the European Union, and get Brexit delivered.
We held an important debate on our ultimate nuclear deterrent, a huge subject, focused around the commemoration of 50 years of continuous at sea deterrent and the silent service of thousands of submariners and their families.
The thorny global question of multi ‘v’ unilateral disarmament needs to be highlighted. The genuine risks to our population’s safety and stability are being challenged once again. You can watch my speech on my Facebook page.
When we get back after Easter, I will be leading a debate with Norman Lamb MP on reducing the use of restrictive interventions against children and young people. This is an issue close to my heart from early work with an amazing family in the constituency, and my work on autism.
The Government has talked about issuing guidance on the subject since 2014, but this is yet to be published. This is hugely important, and guidance and training for staff in how to deal with autistic children is a requirement. Better yet, the Government should publish the guidance as soon as possible. That’s what we will be lobbying for.
The tragedy of the great fire of Notre Dame de Paris was felt strongly in my family since my Mum is French and Paris visits have formed a regular part of my life.
The discussions about ancient buildings, their value and the history they hold continue around my kitchen table. I hope they do with you too since it is perhaps more important now than for many years that we remember why we choose to follow and uphold democracy and freedom.