I wanted to share some post referendum thoughts.
In the past few weeks I have held street meetings in over 30 towns in six counties, spoken at over 40 public meetings and met dozens of local businesses and organisations. I took part in TV debates and local radio debates in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. In the last five weeks of the campaign I drove over 5,000 miles across East Anglia as well as rushing back to Brussels to chair the Single Market committee and over to Strasbourg for a key vote on combatting cross-border tax evasion.
People voting remain told me they were doing so for economic and political stability and security, and others because they believed the UK needs to keep working with others on issues which are too big for us to solve alone. Many young people and those involved in international study spoke about the mutual benefits of co-operation and travel.
People voting leave told me they were doing so because they felt the EU was out of touch and undemocratic, they spoke of "Five Presidents" that they had not elected and of high unemployment rates on the edges of the Eurozone which they feared would spread. Others spoke of the real pressure on local services in local communities and said more must be done to control migration.
Those of us who argued for remain need to respect the decision of the British people and turn our passion and energy towards minimising economic uncertainty and making the best possible future.
The UK now needs to negotiate a new relationship with the EU countries which form our largest trading partner and with whom we share many similar concerns on serious issues. This is complicated because any new agreement will need approval by all 27 other countries but I hope this can be done in a way that is mutually beneficial to both sides and keeps close cooperation where we both need it.
Let me give a current example. Last week in Strasbourg European Parliamentarians voted on new agreements on cyber security. This is a serious issue, two out of three large British businesses have reported a cyber-breach in last 12 months. Cyber crime knows no borders and international cooperation is needed. Under the new agreement countries will each set up their own expert teams and cooperate where they need to on critical infrastructure networks like banking databases, energy networks, and air traffic control systems. They can share early warnings of risks and incidents and learn from each other's experiences, but they will will not be forced to disclose sensitive information or compromise national security decisions. This has been an extremely complex and sensitive negotiation, which has taken 3 years to agree. I hope our new relationship will allow us to continue to co-operate in areas like this.
Across Whitehall a new piece of work has started to establish what UK priorities should be. I will be meeting those leading this work next week. It is good that parts of the East of England are already coming together to establish their own expert groups in order to feed into the negotiations. This morning I attended a meeting of leaders from the Cambridge science cluster, next Tuesday morning there will be a meeting of the farming and agricultural stakeholders in Newmarket. Thank you to everyone who is organising this type of event and for doing so much hard work.
Conservative MEPs met the Foreign Secretary on the Monday morning after the vote. He urged us not to give up any positions of British influence at this time and reminded us that until we leave the EU we are still affected by the decisions that are being made and paying contributions to its budget. Therefore, at this time I remain the Chairman of the Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee.
In order to achieve the best possible outcome for the UK, and for the rest of Europe, we need to also be aware of the concerns of the 27 other EU countries with whom we will be negotiating; many of whom have their own domestic political issues. Since the referendum vote I have been in Brussels and Strasbourg and met with many leading politicians from Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Austria, Portugal, Estonia, the Netherlands and many other countries. I have heard their thoughts on free movement and single market access, scientific collaboration and regulatory cooperation, financial contributions and financial services as well as priorities in defense and security. They, like us, are still considering the detailed implications on their own countries.
Building a new relationship will take time and mutual respect. We in the UK will need to do a great deal of hard listening in order to re-build trust. There is a huge amount of devil in the detail that will need to be agreed, this will take clear thinking and cool heads.
I know that across the Conservative Party there were different views on the referendum, and there will be different views on the leadership election. I know both the candidates. I helped Andrea Leadsom on her Fresh Start project. I have also worked with Theresa May’s team to introduce the cross-border criminal records checks which are now delivering real results in crime-prevention in the East of England. I have seen first hand how she goes the extra mile to help Conservative Candidates in our most challenging seats, campaigning with her in Castle Point in the last general election, in Norwich North in the 2009 parliamentary by-election and in Birmingham Northfield when I was the candidate during the 2005 MG Rover crisis.
Theresa May has the experience and the credibility to lead our country at this critical juncture. She has put together a deep and experienced team of Conservatives from all sides of the Party. She has a reputation across the Country and overseas for being a calm and wise leader at difficult times. She has my vote.
Many thanks for your support.
Vicky Dord MEP
Vicky Ford MEP
149-151 St Neots Road
01954 211 722