Last week, the Prime Minister repeated the Government’s absolute focus: getting a good deal for Britain as we leave the EU.
As a member of the Cabinet I have spent much of the last two years working to deliver on the result of the referendum. We are leaving the EU but we must do so in a way that protects jobs and opportunities for our children, in Staffordshire Moorlands and across the country. And does so in a way that maintains our national security and keeps the UK together.
But, as anyone who has been following the news will have seen, the difficulty is getting Parliament to agree to support the PM’s deal and actually deliver Brexit.
We are now entering the final stage of the process, including finding a way to get legal assurances that guarantee the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland but also making sure the much talked about “backstop” arrangements – so there is no hard border with the Republic of Ireland – do not last for ever. As the Northern Ireland Secretary I’ve been in the thick of the discussions and it is - frankly speaking - blindingly obvious that the best way forward for the whole of the UK is to support the deal Theresa May has negotiated.
Parliament must vote on that deal by 12th March and if it does not accept it, it must then vote on whether it will instead accept leaving with no deal at all. And then, if that’s not acceptable, Parliament will vote on whether to extend the leaving process. The only alternative to that would be to vote to stay in the EU. We cannot surely do that when the British people clearly voted to leave.
Disappointingly, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party backed a second referendum last week. But we must not go back to square one and risk even more division and uncertainty. Now is the time to support the deal that respects the referendum result and takes back control of our laws and our borders. We can then then negotiate a relationship with our European neighbours that offers hope and prosperity for future generations and all of the UK.