In June 2016, after 40 years—a generation—my constituents, along with the rest of the country, were given a voice on the European question. My constituency overwhelmingly voted to leave the European Union. Tonight I will honour their views and their voice, and—to paraphrase my right hon. Friend Nicky Morgan—represent them despite the fact that I voted to remain.
Setting aside the details of the legally binding withdrawal agreement, I want to address conversations I have had with my constituents rather than with distinguished colleagues and friends in the House. My constituents’ vote to leave did not suggest any fear of foreigners or concerns about wage deflation and immigration. It reflected an understanding of the universal and overarching principles of freedom, sovereignty and independence, as was so ably put by my right hon. Friend Dominic Raab.
My constituents’ support for Brexit is not inconsistent with a fond affection for Europe, shared European values, and a belief in the rule of law, high environmental and employment standards, freedom of speech and, dare I say it, democracy. Their decision is also not inconsistent with a recognition of EU citizens’ huge contribution to the NHS, UK farming—particularly in Shropshire—and car, food and defence manufacturing. In all those sectors, EU citizens make, and will, I hope, continue to make, a highly valued contribution to our economy and society.
Brexit was not a vote against Europe, but it was a vote for Britain—a free and independent Britain. I will not be supporting the withdrawal agreement because it puts the United Kingdom in a weaker position than under our current status as a full member of the European Union. It makes us rule takers, not rule makers. It does not set Britain free to implement bilateral trade deals with countries around the world.
Much has been said in this place over many weeks about those who voted to leave the European Union. We have heard some low commentary from both sides of the House, but it was a higher principle that led my constituents to vote to leave the European Union: the freedom, independence and sovereignty of this country.