Westminster Column - Brexit proceeds

17th March 2017

This week, the Government’s Brexit Bill – a single clause Bill giving the Prime Minister authority to trigger Article 50 – completed its passage through Parliament with a clear majority. This is not the end of Parliament’s involvement as we leave the EU however, as Parliament will vote on the final deal.

The negotiation to leave the EU will be no easy task. But the PM set out in January a confident vision for a post-Brexit Britain – outside of the single market, but trading openly and freely with the world, and retaining a strong and mature trading relationship with our friends and allies in Europe.

Theresa May has rightly stated her strong desire to deal with the issue of reciprocal rights for EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in EU countries, as quickly as possible. This is clearly an issue of concern for many in South Shropshire, as representations at my advice surgeries and through my email inbox have made clear. Some EU member states have wanted to wait until negotiations begin formally, otherwise we may have reached an agreement on this issue already. I am hopeful reciprocal agreements will be reached swiftly once negotiations begin.

Politicians from all parties have made clear the vital contribution of EU citizens to life in Britain, which I recognise. As a Health Minister, I am acutely aware of the importance of the 60,000 EU citizens currently working in the NHS, and the 90,000 working in the care sector. I am also aware of the importance of seasonal workers to agriculture in Shropshire – a point made by DEFRA Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom when she spoke at Shropshire Chamber of Agriculture earlier this month.

My hope is that we will see the greatest possible access to European markets for our goods and services. I am encouraged that with Theresa May as PM, there is no one better placed to provide the strong leadership required to achieve this in our negotiation.

The Prime Minister has been clear that there will be no attempt to remain inside the EU, no attempt to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum, despite the opportunism shown by the Scottish First Minister to seek a second independence referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union, and the Government is determined to make sure this happens.

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