Dear Mr Gill
Over the past three years I have received correspondence from around 2,500 of my Constituents on the subject of Brexit. Your views differ and I have written back to many of you accordingly (as well as on other topics) but as we get to what I believe to be the final few weeks of the exit process, I thought it was worth sending some thoughts round to all the people who have taken the time to get in touch.
I won’t spend time going over the past few years and months. Suffice to say that I strongly believe that the Referendum result must be delivered which is why I voted to trigger Article 50 and voted three times for a workable exit deal when it was presented to Parliament. For various reasons, other Members of the House declined to do the same and while I have no truck with the ideology that prevented 10 per cent of my Conservative colleagues from supporting the deal, I find the political posturing of the Labour party to be utterly reprehensible. Sixty percent of Labour MPs represent Leave-voting seats and they claim to be Leave up North and Remain in London. Such tangled views provoke laughter when expressed by their front-bench in public but in my view, such politically-motivated duplicitous behaviour should be roundly condemned
However, we are where we are, with a new PM, a new Cabinet (in which I declined to serve) and a new impetus to the process, with only weeks to go until the proposed exit date. So, I have watched the events of the last few weeks with dismay. A successful attempt by back-benchers with the connivance of the Speaker to delay Brexit further – for what ends? A prorogation which is entirely lawful, albeit inconvenient for those who wish to attempt further spoiling tactics. And an attempt by the PM to call a General Election – surely the ultimate People’s Vote – blocked by the Opposition at the same time as their leaflets are landing on doorsteps calling for one! You couldn’t make it up, but sadly this grisly deadlock is real and the uncertainty is hitting the prosperity and security of millions of people plus traducing our national reputation.
That is why I have decided to strongly support all efforts of the PM to deliver Brexit on October 31st. I entirely agree with him that to leave without a deal would be a `’failure of statescraft” and as you probably know, I think a No Deal Brexit, with its attendant disruption and long-term impact on some of our most productive (and single-market dependent) industries is an ignominious result and not one that any of the Vote Leave leaders envisaged or campaigned for. These thoughts aside, I now assess the risk of continuing in this Brexit impasse, and the risk of an Election where the populist “one issue with a dollop of racist candidates” Brexit party, and hard-left Momentum-dominated Labour party destroy the economic credibility of this country, to be greater than a No Deal Brexit.
In all my meetings with the PM he has been insistent that he can deliver a workable deal and solve the problem of the Backstop – the theoretical plan for an EU-compliant border policy across the island of Ireland should trade talks fail to deliver an agreement. I think he is right in this judgment and I look forward to voting to support this deal when Parliament returns. It will of course, be based very much on the May Deal and it will be incumbent on those colleagues who called this deal “Brexit In Name Only” to decide it that still applies and if it is better than no Brexit at all.
Finally, as I referenced above, I declined an offer from the Prime Minister to serve in his Cabinet, not because I don’t support him but because he has also appointed me to be the President of the 2020 UN Climate Change negotiations (the so-called Conference of the Parties, or COP) which will be happening in the UK next November after intensive work by me and the former Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt to secure the bid. This is an immense role, both in terms of effort required but also in terms of relevance as 2020 is the year that the Paris Agreement, secured at these talks in 2015, is to be implemented, and cannot in my view be combined with another Ministerial role.
You may also know that the amount of work required to make the COP negotiations a successful was one of the reasons I have decided not to seek the Conservative nomination for the next election – whenever it might be! It has been such an immense privilege to serve as your MP for the past nine years and I am proud of what we have achieved together. Particular highlights are the new trains, and station facilities at Pewsey and Bedwyn, securing £9 million of funding for the new Urgent Care Centre in Devizes due to begin construction shortly, increased money for local schools serving our military areas and accelerated rollout of superfast broadband. However, it is the little victories that help just one person or family that count and of course I have been supported in all of this with my excellent local team.
Until the next Election, I will remain as your MP and continue to work with my team to support my Constituents. And, Bill and I, plus a rotating cast of children, will continue to maintain our home in the heart of the beautiful Pewsey Vale – how could we leave?
With my very best regards and very many thanks for all the correspondence, personal support and lively challenges of the past nine years.
I do hope to say “Au Revoir” in person.
The Rt Hon Claire Perry O’Neill
Member of Parliament for the Devizes Constituency
President of COP26
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Telephone: 0207 219 7050