Many more twists and turns in delivering Brexit may well have happened before you read this, but let me set out last week’s developments in the House of Commons.
There were three key votes. The first was on the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. Having voted against this in January, and resigned when it was published in November, I had to vote against it again.
This deal does not deliver Brexit because the backstop protocol, without adequate legal assurances, threatens the integrity of our country. If it kicks in, it would keep us trapped indefinitely in a customs union and leave us as a rule taker from Brussels with no voice. This would breach both manifesto promises on which I stood in 2017 and what the referendum result committed to.
There were two further votes last week, and I voted that the UK should still leave the EU on March 29, rather than extend Article 50.
I believe that we need to leave the EU so we can focus on the next stage in the negotiations – our future relationship and trading agreements. The Prime Minister has asked the EU for an extension, granted until April 12, and will potentially be asking us to vote again on this.
My view remains that an extension to Article 50 only prolongs uncertainty for people and businesses and, at worst, could be the back door to remaining in the EU. Our civil service has prepared fully for us to be able to leave on March 29, with or without a Withdrawal Agreement. Remember, this is not the detail of our future relationship – we haven’t begun that yet.
As your MP, I am elected to take decisions and keep my promises. Sometimes these decisions are not easy. Last week I voted in line with the voice of the 17.4 million voters who asked us to deliver Brexit. As a result of a binding referendum, I will continue to vote to deliver the best Brexit for our country for the long term.
There are projects to work on beyond Brexit, and I recently visited Lynemouth to see the damage being caused by the erosion of an old landfill site, which is leading to plastic pollution in our protected waters. This has been caused by coastal erosion exposing the colliery and other spoil that was tipped from Lynemouth, Ellington and Ashington between 1934 and 1963.
The Environment Agency is liaising with Northumberland County Council, which is assessing what needs to be done to fix this. I am working with County Hall and ministers to source the funding to investigate and remediate.
As part of my work with my All Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces Covenant, I secured the Prime Minister’s support to create a Covenant Ombudsman, who would have powers to mandate all departments to meet their Covenant commitments.
This will ensure our nation’s commitment to our armed forces personnel, their families and veterans is real and consistent. I will be working with Ministry of Defence ministers to make this a reality.
We may not have local elections in Northumberland this year, but we do have the first election for a North of Tyne Mayor. Our candidate is entrepreneur and businessman Charlie Hoult, whose passion for the North East’s potential is unbounded.
When he’s not helping businesses to grow at Hoult’s Yard in Byker, he enjoys sailing with his four boys at Holy Island. He is imbued with a love for, and determination to see, Northumberland’s future success.
Please do make sure you are registered to vote or have your postal vote sorted out so you can Vote Hoult on May 2.
In the meantime, the daffodils are coming up and spring is trying to appear. However challenging the negotiations in Parliament, it is always reassuring to enjoy all that our wonderful county offers.