Ross Thomson MP: Bad Brexit will damage the UK's future as a democracy

Ross Thomson MP insists he's not in Boris Johnson's 'camp' and explains why he believes Theresa May's Brexit plan will leave the UK as a 'voiceless EU rule-taker'.
Boris Johnson jogs through a field in apparent mockery of Theresa May's confession that she once ran through a field of wheat (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)Boris Johnson jogs through a field in apparent mockery of Theresa May's confession that she once ran through a field of wheat (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson jogs through a field in apparent mockery of Theresa May's confession that she once ran through a field of wheat (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

With 17.4 million people voting to Leave the European Union in 2016, Brexit is bigger than any one individual.

Brexit is bigger than the internal machinations of the Conservative Party. Brexit crosses party political, regional and national boundaries. Delivering a Brexit deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom is the biggest priority facing the country.

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Bleating about who should or shouldn’t be the next Prime Minister is nothing but a distraction.

I am backing Brexit, not Boris. Disappointing for media pundits and cybernats alike, I’m sure, but escorting him through the media scrum at Conservative Party conference last week does not place me in his “camp”. I would do the same for any of our politicians to ensure their right to be heard.

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I have been consistent in my views on Brexit. I made my views known in advance of the 2016 Holyrood election in which I was elected as an MSP for North East Scotland.

As the only Leave MSP happy to stick his head above the parapet, I became the de facto face of the Scottish Leave Campaign. As a known Brexiteer, I was elected in 2017 to the House of Commons. My views on Brexit are no surprise to anyone.

I’m backing the Prime Minister to get the very best Brexit deal for the country as I genuinely and passionately want Brexit to be the great success story that I know it can be.

I am backing the vision for Brexit that the Prime Minister outlined at Lancaster House in January 2017. A vision for a bold and ambitious free trade deal, a vision that ended the jurisdiction of EU judges, a vision that freed us from EU rules and regulations, a vision that enabled us to set our own immigration policy, a vision that allowed us to spend our own money on our priorities and a vision which re-established Britain as a truly global player free to set our independent trade policy for the first time in 40 years.

Yet in June this year, we got Chequers. A half-in, half-out proposal. A proposal that abandons any pretence of free trade, a proposal that leaves us under the jurisdiction of EU judges in perpetuity, a proposal that makes us a voiceless EU rule-taker, a proposal that means preferential treatment for EU nationals, a proposal that means giving the EU £40 billion of your money and a proposal that prevents us from signing new trade deals with our closest friends and allies.

Therefore, Chequers breaks all the promises made at Lancaster House. The promises we made in our manifesto. It means not leaving the EU at all.

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This is a criticism of policy and not personality. I want to help the Prime Minister change course, not change the Prime Minister.

I will work constructively with my colleagues to achieve that. That means working with all my Eurosceptic colleagues – whether that is Jacob Rees Mogg, David Davis, Steve Baker or, yes, Boris Johnson.

Boris is arguably the highest profile Brexit advocate. The role he can play in helping change the mistake of Chequers is crucial.

Up until the afternoon of his speech, Conservative conference had been quite flat. The hype in the media on the eve of the conference was not reflected in the either the main hall or the fringes.

With people queuing up hours before he was due to arrive to secure a seat in the 1,500-seat hall, Boris is certainly able to draw a crowd.

Like him or loathe him, nobody can deny that he has charisma. In his characteristic style, Boris brought some optimism, energy and passion to a dry conference. He injected some much-needed enthusiasm.

This was the same across fringe events at conference. Party members with different views coming together to discuss and debate, sometimes vigorously, where the party and the country should be heading.

Improving the nation’s digital productivity, empowering people to own their own home, building upon the economic recovery of the last decade.

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On 29 March next year, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. The manner and form in which we leave, and the deal we will enter into, is to be decided in the coming months.

To deliver on the manifesto of what both the Conservative and Labour party went to the nation with in 2017, we need a deal that’s in keeping with the principle of what the majority voted for.

It is incumbent on the Prime Minister and those advising her to respect that which was mandated by the people.

It is the duty of my parliamentary colleagues and I to hold the Government to account in ensuring what they bring back to the British people is true to the promise of Brexit.

We have one opportunity to get this right, failure to do so will damage the country and our future as a democracy.

Ross Thomson is the Conservative MP for Aberdeen South