Commons Diary: Gillian Keegan
With the country bitterly split over Brexit, Gillian Keegan heads out on the campaign trail hoping to remind voters that, whatever our differences, we have far more in common than that which divides us
The word “unprecedented” has defined my time in Parliament. Unprecedented moments of drama with backbenchers seizing control of the order paper, prorogations that never were and a record number of colleagues switching parties or becoming independent part way through the Parliament.
We’ve even had the official opposition refusing to vote for a General Election through the fixed-term Parliament Act. Yet the very next day supporting a General Election Bill.
Now we have the unprecedented consequence… the first December election since 1923.
A few weeks ago, I was part of a group of One Nation Conservative MPs invited to Downing Street to discuss ideas for an anticipated manifesto. The Prime Minister and his team were actively listening, highly engaged and taking notes.
At the time I was struck by how refreshing it was to focus on discussing the domestic agenda, with bold plans to increase investment in the National Health Service, schools, police, roads, green technologies and more, much of which was reflected in the Queen’s Speech. It made a welcome change from discussing Brexit.
The PM, despite nay-sayers, has managed to secure a new deal with the EU, a feat many said was impossible. Yet here we are, stagnated once again by a divided Chamber, so, to the ballot box we must go…
The daily lives of every MP have in one way or another been impacted by Brexit. Whether through the thousands of emails we receive, hours of debates, endless conversations in the tea room and of course the deluge of social media abuse from hashtag Brexit warriors – on either extreme of the debate.
In my view the Conservative Party has taken the sensible decision to accept the result of the Referendum and negotiate an orderly way to leave the European Union. We will be a leave party at the next election, but there may be pressure from some quarters to double down: to adopt a policy to leave without any deal at all. Those advocating this are profoundly misguided. No deal can only be an absolute last resort, not a desirable outcome for any serious political party. It will be quickly apparent that no deal does not exist as a destination, it is only the beginning of an even more painful set of discussions.
It appears Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party will stand in this election on a “no-deal” platform, but he is completely unaccountable and does not have to run the country, support business investment or help build the next generation of skilled entrepreneurs and employees. The Conservative Party has a duty to the country beyond getting through an election.
Some are still calling for another say on Brexit, led by the People’s Vote campaign and ‘Our Future, Our Choice’ which is the youth wing of the campaign. Both Co-Presidents, Will and Lara are my constituents, and I have met with them several times to hear their concerns and views moving forward. Although I don’t agree with their ambition to re-run the vote, I do believe it is fundamental that their voices are heard and they should play a role in shaping our future relationship with the EU. Ensuring young people have opportunities to study, travel and work across Europe should form part of the next phase of the Brexit negotiations.
Brexit is a highly divisive subject as by nature, the Referendum created two opposing camps. However, the reality is most of us don’t occupy either end of the extremes and have far more in common. Once we have left the EU we need to work hard to unite our country and ensure we listen to the voices of all generations, across our four nations, to shape our future. Personally, I believe The Prime Minister’s deal enables us to achieve that goal, and is our ticket to leaving the EU in a way that respects the Referendum result, whilst keeping a close working relationship which is vital for businesses, our security and the wider economy.
My forward diary is now being re-written, with far more meetings on the doorstep and hustings but I am sure there will be no let-up in the Brexit debate. It will simply move from the green benches to the rolling green hills of the South Downs.
Gillian Keegan is Conservative MP for Chichester
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.