Like many others in the Portsmouth South constituency, I am very disappointed about the result of the referendum, but the people have voted to leave and I respect that. Anecdotally, from the straw poll that people did at the count, many wards in Portsmouth South indicated that they would prefer to stay in. However, the vote has been counted as a single total across the two Portsmouth constituencies and it shows a clear decision for leaving the EU.
It has never been about Project Fear for me. I supported remaining in the EU for the influence and stability that the UK can provide to Europe alongside the benefits of the single market. Working together with our close neighbours has benefits for our security and the environment. We led in the EU in many areas and our pragmatism was well recognised and admired by other countries. I know that we could have continued to shape Europe as it continually reforms, and there is no appetite for further political integration throughout other European countries. One of the reasons that so many other non-EU countries including the Commonwealth wanted us to stay was that we were their gateway into Europe for business and investment.
We now have to find a way forward and I will be working hard with other colleagues in Parliament to find that way. I hope it will be a cross-party consensus as it affects us all. We can only stay in the Single Market if we accept their rules and will have to pay for it as Norway does. That may be unacceptable to those who voted to come out for sovereignty reasons as we will no longer have any say in what rules the EU sets on the Single Market. All the Norwegians that I spoke to were very clear about this. I hope we may be able to agree some favourable terms in other areas.
As the Chancellor said this morning, we are strong economically and should be able to withstand a decrease in economic growth. We are still open for business and I hope that trade negotiations will begin immediately to prevent any further uncertainty.
I expect that we will still be able to work closely with other EU police forces and intelligence services, including the European Arrest Warrant, and on the environment too. I know that other EU leaders are are concerned that this result destabilises Europe and threatens the kind of cooperation which I fully support.
History shows that working closely together over many areas of policy prevents conflict, and the last 70 years have been the most peaceful for 1000 years in Europe. The EU has adapted and changed over that time and I always felt it had the capacity to continue to do so as members grow economically and democratically. I feel very sorry for the smaller countries that are beginning to grow, so I hope that it is not the end of the EU and it will continue to move forward.
Please be assured that EU nationals who are here already will have their rights fully protected and I deplore the racist incidents over the weekend.
I will keep people updated on what my take is on the negotiations and other areas as usual.