The Reality of Post-Brexit politics — Chris Grayling MP’s response to my letter
Let the people vote on the facts and the first tastes of a post-Brexit reality and see how they vote
I recently wrote a letter to Chris Grayling, the Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell, and my local MP. Mr Grayling was kind enough to write my a lengthy and high quality response, which you can see below. Mr Grayling also attached a length transcript to a speech he made in Brussels on the European Union Project.
Dear Mr Thomas
I am sorry that you are so concerned about the result. I guess nothing I can say immediately will make you change your mind, but I remain firmly of the view that this is the only option for our country. I have attached a speech that I gave during the campaign which will explain my approach for you. I believe that the EU is heading in a direction that is profoundly wrong for our country.
I am also very concerned that we are being held back by the EU in economic terms. It is becoming a smaller and smaller part of the world economy and world trade, and having represented the United Kingdom on the European Council for five years, I have reached the firm conclusion that the EU is not for Britain.
The issue is about the nature of the country that your family will be living in — do we want to be a sovereign, independent state, or accept that we will have to sit on the fringes of a project that shapes very many parts of our lives with us having an ever diminishing say in how it works.
With regard to my position, I have always, and continue to do what I believe is right, regardless of the consequences for my career. In the Epsom and Ewell constituency, it is impossible to be certain of the result. The Borough of Epsom and Ewell is in fact only two thirds of my constituency, which also includes areas of Mole Valley and Reigate and Banstead. The count you saw was only for the Borough. I know parts of the rest are fiercely Eurosceptic. But my vote counted for no more than yours. And it would be no more logical for me to resign now, nor to change what I think, than it would be for the hundreds of MPs who campaigned to remain, but whose constituencies voted to leave.
I am very firmly of the view that when we have got through the current difficulties, we will be a stronger and better nation for the future — and an internationally focused nation, not an inwardly focused one.
This response is a small mark of a true democracy in action, where I can write a critical and questioning letter to a Cabinet politician
First and foremost, thank you to Mr Grayling and thank you to the parliamentary democracy we live. This response is a small mark of a true democracy in action, where I can write a critical and questioning letter to a Cabinet politician many years my senior, undoubtedly wielding far greater political power than myself (I have none!), and receive a prompt and polite reply. Most of the world lives under governments where this is not the case. Publishing the above dialogue without fear of reprisal would be unlikely for billions around the world today.
Mr Grayling’s point about the referendum vote being non-representative of the parliamentary constituency of Epsom and Ewell is a valid one. The vote was carried out on the borough, not on the parliamentary constituency.
However, I would like to bring readers back to two key problems with Mr Grayling’s argument: the issues of economic prosperity and British ‘sovereignty’.
The truth is, Mr Grayling has almost no factual evidence or expert opinion to make his claim that Brexit will be economically positive for the people of this country
On the issue of economic prosperity, of improved finances for the individuals and families of our country, Mr Grayling is at odds with the reality of the post-referendum economy and the vast majority of expert opinion. The pound has slumped against the euro and the dollar since June 23rd. This means more expensive holidays for British families. It means higher prices for food and petrol. The residential and commercial property markets are undoubtedly deflated. A loss of confidence in the value of British homes could mean regular people loses thousands of pounds as the value of their most valuable asset plummets. The truth is, Mr Grayling has almost no factual evidence or expert opinion to make his claim that Brexit will be economically positive for the people of this country. Most likely Brexit will be negative, with a small chance it could be disastrous in the long-term.
On the issue of reclaiming British sovereignty, Mr Grayling is making claims that he knows the European Union will never agree to in an actual deal. A reality that Mr Grayling, myself and almost everyone should accept is this: if Britain wishes to remain part of European Union’s single market, it will have to accept a vast majority of European Union laws, which it will have to part in designing, as well as paying into the European Union budget and almost certainly accepting the free movement of labour.
Angela Merkel is the most powerful politician in Europe, and is absolutely determined for the European Union project to survive, to stand by its core principles, and in future to thrive. Brexit represents an existential threat to that pursuit. Either Britain leaves the single market and leaves its economy in total chaos, or Britain keeps the invaluable single market with its imposed laws and loss of sovereignty.
There is a third way, a way that I hope the British people get a chance to consider. Set out the true facts of our potential deal with the European Union, rather than the mistruths and downright lies peddled by both sides during the referendum. Put that deal, or choice of deals, to the British people in a second referendum. Let the people vote on the facts and the first tastes of a post-Brexit reality and see how they vote.
Chris Grayling’s — Brussels speech — Transcript
Messieur Dames, Bonsoir
Je suis tres content d’avoir l’occasion de faire partie de ce discours ce soir.
But tonight as I am speaking to an audience of many nationalities, I will, if I may, address you all in English.
And I want to start by saying that I come here as a friend of Belgium and a friend of all the member nations of the European Union.
Indeed I am looking forward to our countries working together for hundreds of years to come. However, I believe that Britain can do that from outside the EU.
I may believe that Britain is better off leaving the EU, but that does not mean that I want to see any enmity or bad feeling between all of our countries.
Tonight I want to explain to you why I believe that if many of you were in my position, you would take the same view as me.
I want to explain to you tonight why I do believe that we are better taking our separate directions for the future — even though I believe that we should continue to work together when appropriate as friends and neighbours.
That’s a point that I particularly want to stress. We don’t have to be members of the European Union to be close friends and allies of its members. We don’t have to stop working together to meet international challenges if we are outside the European Union. We do not have to be members of the European Union to work together to protect all of our national security. We don’t have to stop working together on international science programmes if we are outside the European Union — after all we are all partners in CERN which is based in Switzerland. We should all aim to carry on as friends and allies regardless of the choice that I believe the British people will make this summer.
There is now a very clear vision among leading Europeans for the future of the EU. It was very well summed up in the Five Presidents Report last year, which set out the path towards Economic, Financial, Fiscal, and finally Political Union, sharing more sovereignty and a stronger capacity to act collectively. It talks about legal and institutional change.
That goal has been publicly shared by, among others, Wolfgang Schauble, who has called for a directly elected President of the Commission, and by the Italian Finance Minister who last summer argued for a common budget and a common unemployment insurance scheme, perhaps even an elected euro zone parliament alongside the existing European Parliament and a euro zone finance minister. Members of the European Parliament too have been arguing that this is the path the Eurozone must follow.
The Five Presidents Report makes clear that the work towards this much greater degree of integration must start straight away. They want the project to be complete within a decade. It is an ambitious programme for change, but one that seems to have support across the Eurozone.
I understand this renewed sense of urgency about the need to move towards closer union. It has never, in my view, been possible to build a successful economic and monetary union without a political dimension as well. The struggles of the Eurozone in the past few years have underlined the need for harmonisation and further integration if they are not to be repeated.
We also know that every EU country, with the exception of the United Kingdom and Denmark, is committed to joining the Eurozone — and so will also be obliged to move along this path towards political union.
So I think their vision of the EU is inevitable.
But as most of the European Union countries move towards political union, what of the United Kingdom. Where do we fit into things?
We will not be joining our partners on the road to political union. We will not be joining the euro. We will not be joining the Schengen area. That much was clear from the agreement that our Prime Minister reached here in Brussels a month ago. I know the and the leaders of the other member states put in a huge amount of effort to reach an agreement, and I also recognise the goodwill that exists for the United Kingdom across the EU.
It would be easy to say that this recognition of two different types of member state would be sufficient to address concerns in the United Kingdom — one group of members fully integrated into a Eurozone based core, and a small number opted out of key elements of the governance of that core.
But I simply do not believe that this new world is one for us. If the vision of the 5 Presidents is to be achieved, by 2025 the EU map will look very different. The political union of 26 nations will dominate the map. It will completely control all of the institutions of the EU. Indeed if the vision of a different set of institutions for the Eurozone comes to pass, I am not clear what the role of the current institutions will be.
That was a key matter of debate when the United Kingdom and Hungary declined to take part in a new EU agreement during the Eurozone crisis five years ago. Initially the Council Legal Service said it would not be legal for an agreement between some member states to provide for a role by the EU institutions in the Eurozone alone. It then changed its mind, and so we still have a single set of institutions.
But it is hard to see how the EU institutions that we have today could credibly be used as the heart of a political union, and still be seen as fair, impartial and dispassionate by non-participating states.
And if the current institutions are not to be replaced or sidelined, then inevitably their focus will be on the future and the development of the political union.
The national interest of one or two member states outside the political union will be of marginal importance. It will be like being a shareholder in a company where someone else holds 95% of the shares. We may have a seat at the table, but our voice will have little or no impact on the final decision making.
That will be a particularly acute problem when it comes to the Eurozone member states using Single Market provisions in the treaty to underpin a move towards greater integration. Decisions taken by as many as 26 of the 28 current member states about the introduction of new legislation will inevitably be focused on their own needs. That is human nature.
All that those member states have been willing to concede in negotiation is that the non-euro states have the right to ask the Council for a second opinion — to think again.
But to me there are crucial questions that underpin my view that we are better accepting a different path. If the Commission brings forward a legislative proposal, for example in the area of financial services, which is designed to help the move towards a full fiscal, economic, monetary and political union, and that proposal would damage employment or competitiveness in the UK, can we do anything about it. You know, and I know, that the answer to that question is No.
So if Eurozone member states need to take a step that is necessary for the process towards union to continue, do we honestly think that the impact on the UK will play a big role in decision making? I do not.
And this is the problem that we both share. The Eurozone member states need to progress rapidly towards political union. The needs of other member states will inevitably be of lesser importance. And I cannot argue to the citizens of my country that we should accept that lesser role rather than leaving and following our own path.
Look at it from the perspective of an elected politician in the United Kingdom. Would you, in our position, choose to join the EU for the first time? Would you accept that marginal role for your own country? Would you accept a position where a single, large block of countries that had formed a political union, could effectively dictate to you what happened in your own country? I do not think that you would.
There are obvious questions that arise if Britain does vote to leave — about trade, free movement, future co-operation in defence and security. And in the thick of the campaign, there are all kinds of rather over-the-top claims about the consequences of leaving. I think the truth is rather different.
Let’s start with trade. There are those who say that it would not be possible for the UK to trade freely in Europe if we were to leave the EU.
They say that the tariffs would be too high between the EU and Britain and we would not be agree new trade agreements. That seems to me to be extraordinarily improbable. Millions of jobs around the EU depend on selling goods and products to UK consumers. We buy far more from other EU member states than they do from us. Does anybody seriously believe that French farmers will stand idly by while they are separated from their markets in the UK? Or German car makers from their UK dealerships.
I can assure you today, “a Britain outside of the EU would not seek place those tariffs on your markets”, and I doubt you would want to do the reverse either.
The truth is that a rupture of trading relationships between the UK and the EU would bring economic consequences for other EU states — and what would possibly be the logic of that. We have a free trade area from Iceland to the Russian border in Europe, of countries that are both inside and outside the EU. I don’t believe anyone would want that to change, and it certainly makes no financial sense at all for that to happen.
On the issue of free movement, none of us want to see borders go up in a way that stops people taking up a job in another European country. But we face a particular challenge with the scale of migration in the UK. As a land mass, we are significantly smaller than countries like France and Germany, yet we have comparable populations, or are well on the way to that. Official forecasts show that we will see our population rise from about 63 million to between 75 and 80 million in the years ahead.
Yet we already have a housing crisis, a shortage of school and hospital places, and an infrastructure that needs to be expanded. I don’t believe that we can absorb migration on that scale — and I think we need to have some control over the number of people who come and live and work in the UK. There are a whole variety of ways to do this — for example, we could return to the pre-Maastricht situation where you needed a job offer to move from one member state to another — or to be able to support yourself financially. But you couldn’t simply get on a bus to the UK in the hope that you can find yourself a job.
But free movement rules, which trump all in EU law, do not permit us such controls. To the British people that is a key issue.
There is also much debate about our collective security and the role that the EU plays in it. Many argue that the EU is essential to that collective security. I do not agree. The sharing of information, and collective action to combat terrorism is not something that requires EU-style integration. In the United Kingdom, our most important counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing relationships are with the United States, and countries in the Middle East and Asia. Of course we work together with other European nations as well, but often it is to supply them with crucial intelligence and not the other way round. There is no reason to believe that this will change simply based on whether or not the UK is part of the European Union.
There are a whole range of other reasons that bring someone like me into the Leave camp. I think that the EU institutions have stretched their involvement far too far into the territory of national governments, and that the concept of subsidiarity has proved to be rhetoric rather than substance. I think the existing treaties give the Commission freedom to extend and extend its remit, even without further steps being taken towards integration and political union.
But fundamentally the issue is that of sovereignty and the ability of the United Kingdom to look after its national interest. Its ability to do so is already far too limited in the EU as it stands today. But as all the other member states move towards political union, that situation will become more and more pronounced.
That is why I believe Britain must leave. But I do not want that departure to be acrimonious. I suspect all of us who are elected politicians come across constituents regularly whose lives are badly damaged by an acrimonious divorce.
But divorce is not always acrimonious. Those who deal with it best, and who ensure that their lives continue without problem, are those who reach an amicable agreement and stay friends.
That is what I hope that we and our European partners can do when Britain votes to leave this summer.
Nick Thomas’ first letter to Chris Grayling, Member of Parliament
Dear Mr Grayling
My name is Nick Thomas, and I am long-time member of your constituency. My family has lived in the Epsom & Ewell area since I was born, I went to school in the local area. I feel a close bond with the Epsom & Ewell area which I believe will last my entire life. Both of my parents are NHS doctors serving the local population, one at Epsom Hospital itself, which I am exceptionally proud of. I hope to live here in the future, and perhaps even represent the constituency as you and your colleagues in the council do.
I also voted for you at the 2015 General Election. This decision was made majorly due to my confidence in the economic and political performance and future intentions of yourself and your Conservative colleagues. Persisting with austerity was never an easy decision to make, but I believe it was the right one, considering the damage that uncontrolled national debts have caused many of our partner nations within the European Union. Persisting with welfare reform was always going to make the Conservative Party an easy target for opposition parties and certain groups of voters, but it was probably necessary and should be beneficial in the long term
As you may have guessed, I am getting in contact with you because of the dramatic events of the past days surrounding the EU referendum. I’ve always been a politically active member of society, but the shocking divisions laid bare by the EU referendum campaign, it’s results and the public reaction have been a call to action for me. As a young person with limited experience of life, my contributions might be limited and my knowledge of certain life issues (parenting, education of my children, care for the elderly) may be lacking. But I feel it is my duty as a British citizen to start actively fighting for my future, and the future of those around me.
Which leads me to the purpose of this e-mail. How you will act in the coming months in relation to the EU referendum and its related legislation, based upon your publicly-stated priorities, and on your implicit responsibility as a Member of the British Parliament to uphold the democratically-stated wishes of your constituents. I’ll allow the below subscript from your website to act as an additional guide:
“My Priorities for Epsom & Ewell
- Working hard for local people & the local community:
- to continue to work to ensure the future of services at Epsom Hospital.
- to work with residents to preserve the character of Epsom, Ewell, Ashtead, Nork & Tattenhams.
- to be an effective voice for local residents on the national stage, working to secure a referendum on our EU membership and to get a better deal for hardworking taxpayers.”
I don’t want to enter into any debate about this or that promise that was made by yourself or by any of your Vote Leave colleagues during the course of the campaign. Even the ones emblazoned on the side of a coach. However I would like to refer to the following factual information provided by Epsom and Ewell Council:
As you can see, your local constituency voted in favour of Remaining in the EU by a margin of 23,596 to 21,707 with a turnout of 80.40%. I’d like to congratulate you on this turnout figure, higher than the national average by approximately 8%. It is an obvious demonstration of a vibrant and successful local democracy, headed up by yourself.
So my central question is this: will you be representing the democratically-stated will of your constituents by continuing to fight for the United Kingdom to remain part of the European Union until it is no longer legislatively possible?
For example, were another general election to be called in the coming months, as seems highly likely, would you retain your personal stance of wishing to Leave the EU, or would you represent the wishes of the constituents of Epsom & Ewell and campaign to Remain in the EU despite your personal views. It seems to me that the issue I’ve posed here represents a stark test of your integrity as a Member of Parliament versus your personal interests.
On this point, it is helpful to refer to another one of your publicly stated positions here: http://chrisgrayling.net/eu-referendum-statement-from-chris-grayling/. You refer to the concept of sovereignty, which I can clearly see you are an expert on. Indeed, as a former Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, I would imagine you are better informed about sovereignty than almost any non-legally trained person in the entire United Kingdom. This is how I understand the situation of a Member of Parliament on a local level: the constituents of Epsom & Ewell collectively entrust their inherent natural rights as UK citizens in you, their Member of Parliament, to act on their behalf.
So as I understand it, if you were to choose to act in any way that was in opposition to the democratically-stated will of your constituents you would be in violation of this fundamental pact at the foundation of our democracy. For example, if you were to campaign in any future general election, referendum or vote, on a ‘Leave the EU ticket’ when it was possible to do otherwise, you would have violated this pact, as well as directly lying to your constituents.
I’ll try not to drag this out any further, as I’ve no doubt you are fully aware of this situation, and fully aware of all the issues I have stated above. The only result I would appreciate, is a statement of your opinion on this matter. To be as clear as possible, I will summarise the above below. Thank you for your past, ongoing and future work as our Member of Parliament for Epsom & Ewell.
TL;DR — Summary
- I am a constituent of Epsom & Ewell
- You (Chris Grayling) are the Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell
- Your personal view on this issue is that you would like the UK to Leave the EU
- The constituents of Epsom & Ewell recently voted that they wished to Remain in the EU.
- It is highly likely that there will be ongoing political debates and perhaps a general election on this issue which you may be able to influence as an MP. This includes the upcoming election of the new Conservative Party leader.
- I understand it is your responsibility as the democratically-elected Member of Parliament for Epsom & Ewell to represent the will of your constituents.
(I believe it would be possible to directly answer these either yes or no)
- Will you be retaining your personal stance on the issue of Leaving the EU?
- Will you be restating your publicly-available intentions on the issue of Leaving the EU?
- Will you support any and all political efforts to ensure the UK remains part of the EU, if such efforts were to exist and were legal?