Seeking consensus on Brexit is hard to do

Decisions made in Parliament next week will change the course of history, and I am well aware of the strength of feeling on all sides and the weight of that responsibility.

I have always said that I want to act in the best interests of High Peak, and to bear in mind the views of constituents, especially when it comes to Brexit.

That’s not easy when there are very differing views. I’d like to thank all constituents who contacted me: over 5,000 emails and 1,600 detailed survey responses; while hundreds attended my public meetings.

When I conducted a Brexit survey in the spring, there was very little shift in opinion.

Now we can see what the ‘best deal we can get from Europe’ looks like, there is definitely a change.  Of the three options before us: leaving the EU on Theresa May’s deal, leaving with no deal, or seeking reform within the EU, the government’s deal is the least popular, with only 5% support.

That’s not surprising. Leave supporters feel it ties us too closely to a customs union to preserve a fluid border in Ireland.  Remain voters feel it gives no guarantees about our future relationship with the EU.

Local companies at my Business Summit were concerned that it is simply a stop-gap, with all the important long-term decisions left for future negotiations, meaning years of uncertainty.

I will therefore be voting against Theresa May’s deal, but if it is voted down, Parliament needs to find a way forward.

Earlier this year there was little appetite for a second referendum – not surprising given the divisiveness of the 2016 campaign, and most preferred Parliament to agree the deal.  But now, 59% of respondents would like a further referendum before the UK agrees any deal with the EU.

There has also been a change in how people would vote.  Earlier this year, only 1% of people who voted to Leave the EU in 2016 wanted to remain in the EU, whereas now 17% would prefer to.  In comparison, just 4% of Remain voters have changed their mind.

I have said that if ‘the best deal we can get’ is not acceptable to Parliament, then the people should be consulted on the way forward.

Whatever happens, we will all have to accept some compromise.  But there seems to be a clear direction of views in High Peak and that is incredibly useful when I am just one person, seeking to represent over 80,000 constituents.

Whether you agree with me or not, please continue to let me know your views. I am trying my best to help find a route through this incredibly difficult situation that will make such a difference to us all.