I often write about local issues, but recently a couple of national issues have come to the fore and they have been a constant presence in the media of late and some of the main topics of conversation when I am out and about.
These two issues are namely Article 50/Brexit and the US President Donald Trump. My postbag and inbox have been overflowing with letters and emails from my West Suffolk constituents asking for my thoughts on Brexit and Article 50 and the recent US Presidential election of Donald Trump. I thought it would be a good idea to take the opportunity here to let you know where I stand.
I know that during the referendum people on both sides held very strong views. Now that the vote has happened and a democratic decision has been made, we must all respect the result and come together and work to make a success of Brexit. I campaigned to remain during the referendum. I stood on a manifesto to hold that referendum, and promised to abide by the result. People voted by a clear majority to leave the EU. I believe that the British people should make decisions of this magnitude, that we must respect the result of the referendum, and I think anyone who calls themselves a democrat must do the same. More important, even than the question of our membership of the EU, is our respect for democracy.
Now that the people have had their say on our membership of the European Union, it is Parliament’s turn to take this momentous issue forward. Parliament will have a very significant input. Between votes on triggering article 50, a final say on the deal that comes back from the negotiations with the EU, and the Great Repeal Bill, Parliament will have the opportunity to debate and scrutinise the issues involved. Having stayed up until past midnight while the Bill was debated, there has certainly been plenty of time to debate. And the view of the Commons is clear: the Bill to trigger Article 50 was passed with a majority of 373 votes.
As well as the strong support for the Bill, I think we need to be clear what Britain will be like and stand for once we leave the EU. My own view is clear: Britain is at her best when we are open, outward looking, and engaged with the world. After Brexit we can control our own laws, control our immigration system, and make trade deals around the world. That is how we make a success of Brexit: by ensuring we look up and out to the whole world, in control of our own destiny.
In November the United States had their election and the result took some people by surprise and there were many who are very disappointed with the result. Whatever people think about the result, Donald Trump is the democratically elected leader and the United States is our closest ally and we must continue to strengthen our relationship with President Trump and his government. The UK’s alliance with the United States is vitally important. On defence, intelligence and security, we work more closely together than any other two countries in the world. West Suffolk is the home to many Americans who are posted here with the US Air Force in both Lakenheath and Mildenhall. Along with their families, US service personnel are intertwined into the local communities. Their presence is both important and hugely appreciated. Our links with the United States are historic, political, economic and cultural - and must be maintained, whether or not we completely agree with each and every development on the other side of the Atlantic.
Ultimately, both the Brexit and Trump issues share the common theme of democracy. The people have had their say in a free and fair vote, and democrats will always respect that. In my mind, democracy is the backbone of our society and is worth fighting to preserve.
If you would like to contact me about this issue or any other matter, or you feel that there is a problem I could help you with, please do get in touch. I am always keen to hear from constituents and will do my best to help. I can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call me on on 01638 576692.
-- Matthew Hancock is MP for West Suffolk