Andrew Bridgen (pictured), Tory MP for North West Leicestershire
The hour of freedom approaches. The moment of destiny is almost here. In just two days, Britain will once again take its place on the global stage as an independent nation.
That inspirational reality was fulfilled last week by the impressive Brexit trade deal negotiated by the British Government and the EU, heralding a new era of free co-operation in place of the former dominance by Brussels.
It was the cause of Euroscepticism that first led to my involvement in politics 20 years ago, when I joined the group Business For Sterling to campaign against Britain’s membership of the single currency, then an enthusiasm of Tony Blair’s. And as a member of the European Research Group (ERG) in Parliament – which consists of Eurosceptic MPs – I wouldn’t back anything undermining our independence.
But I’m satisfied the deal reached by the Prime Minister and his chief negotiator Lord Frost fully achieves the goal of Brexit. Since the welcome news of the breakthrough on Christmas Eve, I’ve seen nothing in the small print of real concern, though I would have preferred Parliament to have more time to scrutinise it.
Even so, it does not appear there are any nasty traps in the document. Indeed, I’m tremendously reassured by the verdict yesterday of the ERG Star Chamber – made up of the incisive minds of the ex-Cabinet minister David Jones, the lawyer Martin Howe and the veteran expert Sir Bill Cash – which stated that the deal is ‘consistent with UK sovereignty’.
In practice, Britain has everything it wants. From January, our country will decide its own laws, fix its own immigration rules, conclude its own international trade agreements, set its own taxes and make its own social policies. We are truly about to ‘take back control’, to quote the slogan of the Leave campaign.
Free movement will end, as will the jurisdiction of the European courts and the vast contributions to Brussels’ coffers. If you had offered me such a deal even before the Brexit campaign began, I would have bitten off not just your hands, but your arms and legs as well.
Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire said: ‘I’m satisfied the deal reached by the Prime Minister and his chief negotiator Lord Frost fully achieves the goal of Brexit’
One of the beauties of the deal is a four-year break clause allowing a full review of its operation. Either side can walk away if they’re unhappy.
But the EU will be only too grateful for any future trading relationship with Britain as the bloc’s share of the global economy diminishes. In contrast, freed from the shackles of the EU’s bureaucratic regulation, Britain will flourish, exploiting our advantages of a flexible labour market, a world lead in innovation (in artificial intelligence and digital technology), the gift of the English language and our cultural power.
We could, for instance, create a free trade area with Canada, Australia and New Zealand based on our shared heritage and head of state.
In the final negotiations, the biggest obstacle was fishing rights, since control of our waters is a symbol of nationhood. But here, too, I am satisfied – although the gradual cut in EU quotas is smaller than we had hoped.
The terms give us nine months’ notice to depart the fisheries accord, while the transition period of five and a half years will provide time to rebuild coastal communities.
‘We were sustained by certain factors. First, the role of the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage, who was ready to seize on any retreat,’ said Andrew Bridgen
Overall, Lord Frost and his team did a superb job, but they couldn’t have managed it without the firm leadership of Boris Johnson, who set out his red lines and refused to cross them. That was in dramatic contrast to his predecessor Theresa May, whose disastrous Chequers proposal in July 2018 would have reduced Britain to a vassal state, more restrictive than EU membership.
Her submissive approach – a Brexit in name only – not only dealt Boris Johnson and Lord Frost a difficult hand when they took over, but also justified the opposition of the ERG.
We were determined not to surrender to siren calls for compromise. There were moments when, to quote the Duke of Wellington about Waterloo, ‘it was a damned close-run thing’, particularly during the third meaningful vote when it looked as if our band of 28 might be overwhelmed.
But we were sustained by certain factors. First, the role of the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage, who was ready to seize on any retreat.
The second was the arrogance of Remain MPs. They had the numbers for a soft, meaningless Brexit, but overplayed their hand in of their eagerness to overturn the result.
The comprehensive nature of their defeat is illustrated by the fact that today, it is the Eurosceptics who will be voting for a sensible EU trade deal, while the hardline Europhiles – including Labour rebels, the SNP and Liberal Democrats – will be going through intellectual contortions to rationalise their opposition. They’re like Japanese soldiers in the jungle, still engaged in a futile fight after the war has been lost.
However, the greatest source of strength for the Brexit cause was the British people, who never wavered in their belief that the 2016 vote must be properly enacted. In the face of Remain hysteria they stood firm. Now, with the arrival of independence, they have their reward.