There are rules of thumb for Members of Parliament writing columns for constituency papers and websites – the received wisdom is that local is always best, because there is plenty of national analysis and news in national media. And it’s usually best not to be too partisan, because most politics is not about parties; the local NHS or the roads or broadband are not issues driven by Labour versus Conservative or anyone else. And above all else it is considered unwise to risk alienating constituents by explicitly disagreeing with people.
We live, however, in extraordinary times. Nobody could pretend that the all-consuming issue is not Brexit. The privilege of representing Boston and Skegness in Parliament brings with it, I believe, a unique obligation: in the constituency that voted more than any other to leave the EU, my duty must be to do all I can to secure a path out of the EU that comes closest to delivering the promises that were made in the referendum campaign.
The UK will leave the EU on March 29. We will enter an implementation period that will take us clearly to the point where we end huge payments to the EU, where free movement ends and where we have control of our laws. We will leave the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. These are prizes that are vital if the UK is to respect the result of the referendum.
This, unequivocally, is what Theresa May’s current, imperfect deal delivers. I do not pretend that I like the deal, which is an uncomfortable compromise. But it is nonetheless a deal that delivers on the basics, provides a platform for the future and may yet be improved. If it had been on the table two years ago, Brexiteers would have been enthusiastic for it.
Some of my constituents have said to me that it would be better to hold out for an even better, purer Brexit. To do so risks the whole project. To be absolutely clear, I believe Parliament will find a way of blocking a ‘no deal’ Brexit and if this deal is rejected it will seek to delay the process and propose a second referendum.
I don’t believe that that is in the interests of democracy itself. But I also don’t believe that people who voted for Brexit were naïve enough to think it would not involve a degree of compromise or thought that it would all be entirely straightforward. If it is pragmatism that is required to take us out of the EU, pragmatism it should be. It is no good wishing for rainbows; we must and can make a deal work in the real world.
Finally, some have suggested I should support a change in Prime Minister. At this unique moment in our national history, I believe we should focus on the key task at hand: it would be an irresponsible act of self-indulgence for the Conservative Party to put our leadership above the national interest. My relentless focus will be on making a good deal work for the UK, outside the EU.