I did campaign to remain in the EU during the referendum campaign, and like nearly everyone on our side of the campaign, we made it clear that our membership of the single market and our freedom of movement around the EU were at risk. I am still very disappointed that we lost the referendum, because our automatic rights as EU members will be lost. I have not changed my view, but I voted for the Referendum Act in 2015 so that the people could have their say, and I am obliged to accept the result.
The government’s negotiating aims are to secure as many benefits as it can for the UK and its citizens. It aims to secure a deal which preserves access to the single market, and maintains movement of people, goods and services with our EU partners. I support those aims fully, and if we achieve them then the changes will be minimised. I want us to retain our influence in Europe. Leaving the EU changes our relationship, but it does not end it by any means. We will remain partners with common interests and outlook. We lead Europe in our work in the developing world, and in defence and security through NATO.
I have made it absolutely clear in Parliament that we must guarantee the rights and position of EU nationals living in the UK. There are many in Portsmouth who have made lives with families here, who work here, or who are involved with our excellent university. I am pleased the Prime Minister has been pursuing this as a matter of urgency with other EU leaders, and I am disappointed that some did not immediately respond.
On the issue of voting on the Article 50 Bill, that it is a measure which is needed to allow the government to carry out the instruction from the electorate to leave the EU. The Bill we are voting on is a simple, short Bill with one clear purpose. I do not agree with tagging amendments to the Bill which relate to our negotiating stance on the deal we are seeking. That is a separate issue which the forthcoming White Paper will address.
Voters in Portsmouth South voted narrowly to leave the EU. I have only just seen the full figures from the City Council which confirm this. The results declared on the night of the referendum covered the city as a whole, but in fact the count was carried out at ward level and across the seven wards in the constituency there was a majority to leave. The referendum nationally confirmed a vote to leave the EU, and it would not be right of Parliament to overturn that vote. Accordingly, I am voting for the Article 50 Bill as it was introduced.
The issue of the terms we negotiate as we leave the EU is a different matter, and I will join with my colleagues in scrutinising this process very closely. Parliament has debated the process almost every week since the referendum decision, in the Chamber and in Select Committees. The process will be subjected to probably the closest oversight of anything Parliament has ever done and I will play my full part in that.
I am always ready to help constituents who have particular concerns about what happens as we leave the EU. I have already taken up with the government concerns about the future of the university, of the rights of EU nationals, and of businesses. The Brexit process is an important part of what we have to do in Parliament, but it is certainly not all of it, and I will continue to fight for the best for Portsmouth at Westminster and beyond in all areas.
I have thought very carefully over a long period of time about this, and there are no decisions I take as an MP which I take lightly.