Antoinette Sandbach MP (Eddisbury) Remoaner e-mail to Brexiteer Constituent

Dear Constituent,

I am writing because you have in the past contacted me about the UK’s departure from the European Union.

I have been clear from the outset that the vote to leave the EU must be respected. I also have been clear that the vote to leave was a vote to leave the political institutions of the EU, not a vote to cut economic ties with our European neighbours. That is why I have sought to ensure that we retain access to European markets and that trade remains free and frictionless, as those who argued so passionately for leave asserted during the campaign.

This free and frictionless trade requires ongoing regulatory alignment with EU countries, as well as a customs arrangement that allows our goods to cross the channel without tariffs being levied. While this may concern some, I would point out that for us to trade with any country we would be required to ensure that products entering their markets were in alignment with their laws and regulations, this means that all our businesses are required to comply with EU regulations if they are exporting to or operating in the EU. Suggestions that we will not become rule takers are a nonsense – even in the event of the hardest of hard Brexits we will still be a rule-taker when accessing overseas markets.

Ongoing regulatory alignment and a customs arrangement would serve to protect not just our prosperity but also the Good Friday Agreement. The UK Government has already “committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements.” The Northern Ireland Select Committee has established that there is no technological solution to the Irish border, and that the Swedish/Norwegian border is not an acceptable model. A ‘hard Brexit’ is not compatible with the commitments we have made to the people of Northern Ireland.

During the referendum campaign itself there were over 7 hours of debates and the Customs Union barely featured as an issue. To suggest that it would betray the will of the people to engage in some kind of arrangement on the model of a customs union is a stretch, given how little it was discussed at the time and how we were promised by David Davis, even after the referendum, that “there will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside.”

I recognise that there is a concern among some leave voters that Parliament is trying to undermine Brexit. This fear has been whipped up by a cynical media operation. It is not the intention of my colleagues to undermine Brexit, but to ensure that we get the best possible Brexit. This is my intention as well.

Over the last 18 months I have spent a lot of time hearing evidence as part of the Business Select Committee on the impact of Brexit on key industries that are important to Cheshire. This has brought home to me the risk involved in pursuing a hard Brexit.

Like a lot of the country, my constituency was finely balanced between Leave and Remain. I have always sought to ensure a Brexit which both sides can unite around. While a few people may well want to pull up the drawbridge and sever all ties with Europe, I do not believe that is what a majority of the country voted for. Likewise while some may want to simply ignore the referendum result, we must respect the democratic choice made. As a Member of Parliament, I represent both remain and leave voters and I will continue to do so in the future. This inevitably means that both leavers and remainers will sometimes take exception to my views.

We must also recognise that democracy has continued beyond referendum day. It is entirely right that Parliament, both Commons and Lords, scrutinises and holds the Government to account. If Parliament feels that legislation needs changing then they must do so. To not do so would be a dereliction of our duty.

I hope that Theresa May can achieve a deal that meets all the varying needs of people across the UK. I support the Prime Minister in that aim and will help her deliver it. However, I also want to secure a legislative backstop, to enable Parliament to hold the Government’s negotiators to account and ensure that we get the best possible Brexit. This would enable Parliament to reject the notion of crashing out without a deal – something that would knock more than 10% off the North West’s economy.

There has been a lot of discussion about the Conservative Manifesto and commitments made to leave both the Single Market and the Customs Union. Following my vote in 2016 in respect of a meaningful vote on the final deal, all of my constituents should have been aware of my views on Europe, as they were widely reported at the time in the national press. What is more the manifesto also commits to “a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement”. My votes in the House of Commons will uphold this principle.

Throughout my time as an MP I have fought for what is right and what is best for my constituency and country. That is what I am trying to do on Brexit. I am determined to help the Government to secure a deal that is right for my constituents and my country. As I said at the outset, this deal should remove us from the political institutions of the EU while maintaining our vital trading links with Europe.

It would be very easy for me to hold my nose, put my career first and simply vote to remove these amendments, some of which are sensible and proportionate. However, I believe my constituents and country deserve better, given the huge impact decisions we take will have on generations to come. I have every confidence that other MPs will vote with their principles as well, and people on all sides must remember to see the actions of those they disagree with in good faith.

I know many of my constituents hold strong views both for and against the EU. The vast majority of constituents say to me they are against ‘ever closer union’ whilst they support the idea of a common market. This is the vision I want to deliver.

I hope that this has laid some fears to rest, and explained my position. If I can be of any further help on this or any other issue, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Yours sincerely,

Antoinette Sandbach