I’m delighted by the news that the Government will invoke Article 50 this week seeking our departure from the European Union.
As we enter the period of negotiating our future, the Prime Minister has made her priorities very clear.
The most important and basic principle is that the fundamental powers of a sovereign independent country will be returned to the British people as represented in our democratically elected parliament. For too long under the EU, important decisions were made behind closed doors through the Council of Ministers and ratified by a European Parliament that lacks an effective opposition and the ability to initiate its own legislation.
We will regain control over our borders. It will be British ministers, part of an elected government responsible to and replaceable by the voters, who will have the final say on who is let into the country and who is denied access.
The United Kingdom will also have the freedom to pursue deeper trade links with friendly countries overseas. We are unique in Europe in sharing very close ties of language, law, friendship, and family with large, successful, and prosperous countries abroad such as Australia, Canada, and the United States. I support the Government’s plans to strengthen our connections to the many countries of the Commonwealth, whose combined share of the world economy is set to overtake that of the EU member states in the near future.
And we will continue to cooperate very closely with our European neighbours as common sense dictates. Great Britain is and always will be a European country. We will seek to prevent trade barriers from being erected but we will not submit to the common regulatory regime that saddles British businesses with red tape and bureaucracy while holding our economy back from participating more fully on the world stage.
The protections of workers’ and consumers’ rights that have been more fully enunciated through our contributing to European Union policies will be put on a firm and sound British legal basis, allowing us to more freely adapt them to our particular needs and desires without seeking the consent of 27 other governments with differing priorities.
Our cultural links will continue, and I am glad to hear that the number of British students studying across Europe has been increasing in recent years.
I hope programmes like the Erasmus exchange programmes will continue, and the Government has no plans to withdraw from other non-EU European initiatives like the European Space Agency (of which Canada is a member) and the CERN nuclear research organisation based in Switzerland, which is also not in the EU.
The Swiss are one of the most successful countries in Europe: peaceful, free, stable, and democratic. The month after our Brexit referendum their government informed Brussels that they were permanently withdrawing their application to join the European Union.
Within two years from now we here in Lincolnshire will be able to celebrate a freer, more democratically accountable, and more prosperous Great Britain.
Sir Edward Leigh MP