During and after the referendum campaign I asked many people about the priorities behind their vote. The fact is that there was no one single issue. For some it was a promise on the side of a bus, for others, 'taking back control' over issues ranging from agriculture and fisheries to immigration and sovereignty. I met almost no one, then or now, who felt that we should accept being poorer as a result. As the reality hits home that the EU will reject sector by sector deals, 'the cake and eat it' approach, even if that means economic pain on both sides of the Channel, a stark choice lies ahead: Do we really want to march out through the exit door with no deal at all and with less than a year to put in place complex customs and borders arrangements? Rather than presenting a rose-tinted view, the hard Brexiteers need to level with the public on the scale of the unintended consequences. The government should not keep the economic impact analysis locked in a secret reading room accessible only to Parliamentarians but publish these so that everyone can examine the evidence.
In supporting New Clause 5, an amendment to the Trade Bill that would keep us in a form of customs union or customs arrangement after Brexit, I am not 'blocking' Brexit or 'obstructing the will of the people'. Britain is leaving the EU. This is an argument about the type of Brexit and that was not on the referendum ballot paper. The duty for MPs in carrying out the will of the people is to examine the evidence and press for the best possible Brexit, not to make their constituents poorer.
My view is that we should also opt for membership of the EEA and EFTA at least for the transition period. This would allow us to leave the Common Fisheries Policy and, like Norway, regain control over our fisheries, an issue of great importance to Brixham. But frictionless trade is also hugely important for both fishers and the processing sector, and in particular for exports to our most important markets in the EU.
Without a form of customs union or arrangement, border checks are an inconvenient inevitability. Without a customs union the current fudge over the border between North and South on the island of Ireland will inevitably become untenable. No one wants a return to the conflict of the past. The price of abandoning any kind of customs union is too high and I won't support it.
There is also a simple truth that there is no Parliamentary majority for a walk-away, no-deal Brexit. The small band of hard Brexiteer MPs need to stop throwing down red lines like spaghetti and stop threatening to remove the PM unless she bends to their will. The PM has herself spoken clearly of wanting a customs agreement with the EU and NC5 is compatible with that as it does not call for 'the' Customs Union on existing terms. My role as an MP is to read the evidence and to clearly state the case for what I believe is in the best interests of my constituency and the country even if that is sometimes wilfully misrepresented by those who simply want us to walk away, whatever the unintended consequences.