I would like to, firstly, express my disappointment at the local election results in our area and I am saddened that we have lost so many hard-working councillors.
Nevertheless, this backlash was not completely unexpected given events on the national stage, and as I said prior to the vote, I do not despair at anyone who decides to vote for another party, including the Brexit party. Because I hope that the Government’s negotiators, and those from the EU, will finally understand the strength of feeling on this matter, and the level of resentment that is being engendered by their actions.
What is more, I would say the same now in advance of the European elections later this month, especially given that Members of the Government are no longer listening to the requests of its backbenchers, or, seemingly, the people they were elected to represent. And while the Prime Minister cannot, currently, be challenged again until December 2019, I will not support her current Brexit policy, as I know that any backroom deal with the Labour party that keeps us in the customs union is in direct contravention of the Conservative Party's 2017 General Election manifesto, which sent me to Parliament with more votes than any of my predecessors in this seat. So, I want all constituents to be assured that I, at least, remember the commitments upon which I was elected.
But, through that manifesto, I am also committed to seek a positive deal with European Union, before reverting to no deal if good terms couldn’t be secured. That is why I previously voted for the Government's imperfect deal as I felt that a no deal Brexit was out of reach at that time and this was the only way to secure some form of Brexit before the 29th March 2019 deadline. However, I will not support this outcome again if it includes membership of the customs union and/or the single market, as it currently being suggested.
Consequently, I will continue to support no deal, as I have done at every opportunity in the House, as this is now the only way to deliver the Brexit that the majority of my constituents want. I recognise that this will not please everyone, but Clacton residents have told me repeatedly that they want this all to be resolved as soon as possible and this is now the only way to do that.
Finally, according to recent media reports, the Government are also considering holding a second referendum if talks with Labour break down. As I have said many times before, some 70% of my constituents voted for Brexit, and 61% voted for me when I promised to implement that result. And let us not forget the 33% who voted for other parties that promised the same. I have no doubt, from the conversations I have had, that there remains a strong local mandate for Brexit, and I know from my discussions in Parliament that any further vote will be designed to prevent and frustrate the outcome of the first vote. Therefore, I will never vote for a second referendum.
I was sent here to deliver a Brexit that meets the commitments of the manifesto upon which I was elected, and my determination to do so will never waver.