Speaking in the debate ahead of the meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement, Peter Aldous outlines the reasons why most coastal areas of Britain voted to leave the EU and explains why he will support the deal.
Like most of coastal Britain, Waveney and Lowestoft voted to leave. There was a variety of reasons why individuals made that choice, but I sense that many were sending an overarching message down to us here in the Westminster bubble. Yes, economically, Britain as a whole has done well over the past 40 to 50 years, but during that time coastal Britain has struggled. In Lowestoft, the fishing industry is a pale shadow of its former self. The canning factory has closed, the coachworks have gone and the Sanyo TV factory—the last major TV manufacturer in the UK—was shut down in 2009.
The message that Brexit sent from towns such as Lowestoft is that they have not done well in this period and we need to do something different. As the negotiations and debates drag on, we must never forget that message. When it came to those negotiations, there was always going to be a need for hard bargaining, making difficult choices and, yes, making concessions. The negotiations on fishing have not been straightforward. I had hoped that the UK would resume its role as an independent coastal state from December 2019; instead, we hope to do so by the end of December 2020. That said, as matters stand, we shall control access to our waters, deciding who can access them on what terms. That is something that the EU—the French and Dutch, in particular—do not like, but the Prime Minister has steadfastly refused to compromise and it is important that she continues to do so to provide the opportunity to revive the East Anglian fishing industry.
Ultimately, I ask myself whether the deal delivers Brexit. From a pragmatic perspective, on balance, I believe that it does. I look at the alternatives. They are not particularly palatable. Leaving the EU with no deal in place has many risks. There is a push for a second referendum. To my mind, that would be very wrong. It would significantly undermine the very ethos of democracy and the very many people who voted for Brexit would lose all confidence in the democratic process.
Something missing from the Brexit debate since before the referendum is the vision for the UK in the future. This country has many immediate challenges to address such as welfare reform and housing, but there is an exciting future ahead and we must set out how we will deliver it for the benefit of all our citizens. To deliver such a vision, we need a Brexit deal in place. The one in front of us—it is the only one—is, I believe, on balance, acceptable, so I will be voting for it. That said, I sense that tomorrow it will be defeated. But it is the nearest we have to delivering Brexit, to delivering a deal, and to honouring our pledge to the British people. In the next few days, people need to be pragmatic and work together to get the deal over the line.
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