Understandably, the inconclusive result of the snap General Election has led to calls from many quarters for a re-evaluation of the government’s tone and direction in the opening of formal Brexit negotiations and in the months ahead. Following the election, I was probably the first Conservative MP to publically call for a much more compromising approach to our exit from the EU.
On the BBC News Channel in the morning after the night before, in an interview with Andrew Neil, I called for the minority administration to reach out to politicians from other parties, especially Labour, and business folk to craft an approach to Brexit that will enjoy widespread public approval. For it is clear to me that our nation remains deeply divided over the terms and implementation of our exit from the EU. I believe it is essential that the new government tries to heal these divisions. Indeed stable, credible government can only be achieved by doing so.
In particular I sincerely hope we can develop a broad cross-party consensus to strike an interim, or transition, deal on the single market and customs union that will benefit UK business and our EU partners in key sectors where fragmentation would be detrimental to overall European interests. This should not seek to frustrate Article 50, but rather to build a broad support for an arrangement that will avoid the potentially calamitous economic effect of ‘Hard Brexit’.
I shall continue to make this case to government in the most active way compatible with my Ministerial role – I have in the post-election reshuffle been appointed to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office as a Minister of State. My determination in this role is to build upon my experience as Party Vice-Chairman for International Affairs to develop in this new era the closest diplomatic, security, cultural and economic links with our European neighbours and beyond. As I stated in my Election Address, my political style locally has always been to work closely with my opponents – if the aftermath of Brexit is to command public support this strikes me as essential.
I very much hope that in the aftermath of the inconclusive election there will be a genuine window of opportunity for the UK to strike a more consensual relationship with our European neighbours in the decade ahead.