26 FEB 2018

A Customs Union or Arrangement is in all our interests

During and after the referendum campaign I asked many people about the priorities behind their vote. The fact is that there was no one single issue. For some it was a promise on the side of a bus, for others, 'taking back control' over issues ranging from agriculture and fisheries to immigration and sovereignty. I met almost no one, then or now, who felt that we should accept being poorer as a result. As the reality hits home that the EU will reject sector by sector deals, 'the cake and eat it' approach, even if that means economic pain on both sides of the Channel, a stark choice lies ahead: Do we really want to march out through the exit door with no deal at all and with less than a year to put in place complex customs and borders arrangements? Rather than presenting a rose-tinted view, the hard Brexiteers need to level with the public on the scale of the unintended consequences. The government should not keep the economic impact analysis locked in a secret reading room accessible only to Parliamentarians but publish these so that everyone can examine the evidence.

In supporting New Clause 5, an amendment to the Trade Bill that would keep us in a form of customs union or customs arrangement after Brexit, I am not 'blocking' Brexit or 'obstructing the will of the people'. Britain is leaving the EU. This is an argument about the type of Brexit and that was not on the referendum ballot paper. The duty for MPs in carrying out the will of the people is to examine the evidence and press for the best possible Brexit, not to make their constituents poorer.

My view is that we should also opt for membership of the EEA and EFTA at least for the transition period. This would allow us to leave the Common Fisheries Policy and, like Norway, regain control over our fisheries, an issue of great importance to Brixham. But frictionless trade is also hugely important for both fishers and the processing sector, and in particular for exports to our most important markets in the EU.

Without a form of customs union or arrangement, border checks are an inconvenient inevitability. Without a customs union the current fudge over the border between North and South on the island of Ireland will inevitably become untenable. No one wants a return to the conflict of the past. The price of abandoning any kind of customs union is too high and I won't support it.

There is also a simple truth that there is no Parliamentary majority for a walk-away, no-deal Brexit. The small band of hard Brexiteer MPs need to stop throwing down red lines like spaghetti and stop threatening to remove the PM unless she bends to their will. The PM has herself spoken clearly of wanting a customs agreement with the EU and NC5 is compatible with that as it does not call for 'the' Customs Union on existing terms. My role as an MP is to read the evidence and to clearly state the case for what I believe is in the best interests of my constituency and the country even if that is sometimes wilfully misrepresented by those who simply want us to walk away, whatever the unintended consequences.

53 comments

There is a point when you need to support your party leader, not to second guess theoretical scenarios. Subverting a democratic vote makes you unfit to stand for election as 'we would not know what we were voting for'.
- John. Dartington

One of the unintended consequences could be the defeat of the Prime Minister and the election of Jeremy Corbyn- a man who has never been a fan of the EU and could create an existential threat to Parliamentary democracy. If you vote against a 3 line whip and cause the Government to be defeated I am not sure I could vote for you again.
- Andy Totnes

I wish more MPs would take a thoughtful, well reasoned and independent approach like Sarah. Keep up the great work you do for all of us.
- John Scott

As a lifelong Tory voter who is beginning to waver, I feel rather frustrated by talk of Customs Union (including Labours turnaround) and see it as a way to really keep us in the EU - out by name only as nothing changes. If this ends up in a fudge of not really being out of the EU, not being able to control our borders and not being able to negotiate our own deals I despair! Why did we bother with a referendum? Maybe it is time for older voters like myself to give up - especially with the grief given by certain members of society. The way things are going, maybe a hark back to the 1970s will shake up a few people who didn't experience it and maybe some good will come of it?
- Patrick, Brixham

Richer or poorer? The short answer is that it's really not about the money, but about restoring our sovereign right to govern ourselves. Opinions differ about the extent to which we have been ruled by people in Brussels & Strasbourg, the most authoritative being that of the House of Commons Library some years ago: according to one's interpretation, between 15% and 50% of our laws emanate from abroad - not from our Parliament... The European Parliament
- Anthony Harrison

Little or no point in your permitting comments here if one is restricted to a single cursory paragraph: my previous comment was slashed by at least 80%. Message unwelcome, perhaps...
- Anthony Harrison

Remaining members of the customs union could be the best solution for the next 3 to 10 years. We can always review this sometime in the future [but don't let the EU hear that said]. We can then deal with all the other implications of leaving the EU and put off the trading alternatives for another day. We have to achieve this without the EU bullies adding caveats such as free movement of labour, unreasonable contributions, EU laws for unrelated issues etc. It is a shame that Labour formalised this policy before Tories. The Tories have to get their act together and demonstrate a united front. The impact of having a Labour Government would do even more damage to our economy than a bad deal Brexit.
- Mike Allen

You are right to interpret what Brexit means, it was by no means clear in the referendum question and the governments interpretation of what Brexit means is just that. Only a small fraction of the population voted to be poorer the rest of us want to continue our prosperity and hand it down to our children. A hard, brutal Brexit will damage us all both economically and socially.
- Peter Sturdgess

Re the comment from Peter Sturdgess, one has heard this before. But the referendum was wholly, unambiguously clear: it was a simple binary choice between leaving the EU or staying in. And 53% of English voters (who form 85% of the UK population) voted to leave.
- Anthony Harrison

Dr Wollaston, I think "Raedwald" (excellent blogger, construction industry professional, retired to Austria) has an excellent summary today, extract: "Brussels is said to be preparing tomorrow to destroy the progress we all imagined had been secured over Christmas. They will insist we impose a hard border in Northern Ireland, and we will refuse. Their driving the UK towards either a hard exit or a Labour government, a new referendum and a reversal of Brexit is deliberate and inescapable. This is not a negotiating process designed to ensure an amicable future, but unsheathed hostility and territorial aggrandisement, meddling by power-struck fools and amateurs in Brussels with an undistinguished record of failure, conflict, death and disaster in everything they've ventured. They're gambling, and playing with peace in Northern Ireland..."
- Anthony Harrison

'Trust me, I'm a doctor', may work in the practice of medicine but is inappropriate in representative politics. Sarah's about turns do not inspire confidence, especially when supported by smoke and mirror arguements. I think she may feel more at home with the LibDems !
- John

If you vote with Labour you will at best give succour to the EU that they can strong-arm the UK into accepting a very bad deal and at worse you will bring down the Government and potentially install Corbyn and his very left wing comrades in No10. All the hard work of the last 8 years will be wasted and within a very short-time the legacy of post Thatcher liberal economic policies will be laid waste as Corbyn and MacDonnell impose their version of a socialist state on the UK. You must know that we cannot stay in the single market and we cannot stay in a customs union because if we do Brexit is meaningless. Last year another 578000 migrants settled in the UK. If we stay in the Single market we will have to accept free movement if we stay in a customs union we will be worse than Turkey. If we cannot strike our own trade agreements we may as well stay in the EU and accept humble pie. Australia, NZ, both took this step and their fortunes and people are much the better for it. Please re-consider your position and remember that the Conservative party's future depends on delivering Brexit and keeping Corbyn our of power.
- David Taylor

I didn’t vote for you but have long admired your intelligent, independent and principled representation of your constituency.
- Ben

As a Conservative voting member of this consituency I have written to Sarah several times on the subject of Brexit and as recently as yesterday. Having read her reply and blog which talks in favour of a Customs Union I get the impression that she is about to join the ranks of Corbyn and Co and vote in direct opposition to her own Government! Theresa May and our negotiating team are working hard to deliver a departure from the EU on the best possible terms and I find it staggering that they are not being either trusted or supported by one of their own Conservative Party members. While we are almost certain to end up with customs arrangements that are acceptable to both sides this is a matter for the negotiations. Voting against the Government before the negotiations have even started will hardly help our cause and through these pages I would urge Sarah to think again on this matter. Liam Fox is absolutely right to say that if the UK was to enter into a Customs Union with the EU that prevented us from doing our own trade deals it would be disastrous for our future prospects. We will in effect have given up what little influence we had in the EU and yet remain dependent on this over-centralised, bureacracy for the foreseeable future. However, if our negotiating team are able to negotiate a customs arrangement which leaves us free to do our own trade deals that is something that could actually work in the short and long term. To get such a deal of course requires Conservative MPs to get behind and support the Prime Minister and our negotiating team, rather than joining the ranks of Labour and undermining them. A majority of the British People voted to leave the EU, full stop. We did not vote to half leave and all this talk of doom and gloom after we have left is just like 'Project Fear', a lot of hot air that has very little to do with reality. At a time like this all our MPs should be supporting the Government and working in the national interest, not working with Labour to bring down the Government and ignoring what people voted for in the referendum.
- David Hoy

Thank you for your clear, rational thoughts. There is much evidence that abandoning a customs union will damage the economy for many years. Hard Brexiteers offer little of substance and much fanciful rhetoric. It is time to face reality.
- Jennifer Smith

I find Dr Wollaston's reply somewhat condescending, as though we are unaware of how Parliament works, or able to think for ourselves. There is much discussion about 'hard' and 'soft' brexit; 'soft' appears to mean capitulation to the EU. Our negotiators have behaved in a traditional British way, by listening to the other side and being prepared to compromise, where clearly they do not. It should be recognized, and often repeated, that we are one of the world's strongest economies, and are capable of trading, and prospering as an independent nation, free from the dictats of EU interference. So to vote against the government (effectively with Corbyn and Co) only strengthens the hands of the EU, who see dissent as working for them. I suggest that if Dr Wollaston does not agree with a single point, surely it would be better to abstain, rather than vote against the government? A defeat of the government would be disastrous for this nation
- Barry Day

I voted remain as I firmly believe that our future prosperity lies in close co-operation with europe. A hard brexit that takes us out of the customs union will only do us harm. Business will suffer and imports and exports will be complicated. I remember in the referendum campaign that much was made of the 'Norwegian model' in fact in 2013 Boris Johnson said he was in favour of remaining in the single market and yet we are told the the only way forward is a hard brexit. Whilst it is very touching to see so many people trusting politicians over brexit I wonder whether this is wise. Beware the loss of the regulations which keep us safe, do you really want chlorine washed chicken or beef full of antibiotics and steroids?
- Bob Bowling

The EU (of which we, the UK, are an influential part) has negotiated over 50 trade deals with other countries, entered into over 700 international treaties, set pan-continental standards from animal husbandry standards (which we are trying to improve) and aircraft safety rules to conditions of work (of which we have the lowest as a result of an opt out) and regulated the transport of nuclear material. They have also made rules that 28 sovereign nations have to operate within to achieve the most integrated free trade area in the world that collectively makes up the world's second larges economy. All this has been approved by a democratically elected parliament and approved by the 28 nation states. What's not to like?
- Simon JD

Behave yourself and fall in line behind your leader. Vote with the whip and remember why you're there - to keep our party in Government. Also, you're qualified to give medical opinions, not economic ones. As your comments show, you have not the slightest grasp of trade or economics. Best keep your nose out.
- Mark

I note your Tweets about the Prime Minister’s excellent speech earlier today and would like as one of your constituents living in Totnes to express my concern about your stated lack of confidence in the government’s and Theresa May’s approach to Brexit. I have to say too I have been most surprised over the last few years to see how your far your position has changed since appearing initially to support leaving the EU. Leaving was always going to be a hugely important change of direction and is something that every Conservative MP contemplating supporting it ought to have been thinking through thoroughly in the years preceding the referendum. Equally of course a decision to remain would have had huge ramifications for our future. No-one can fail to be aware that the EU is unstable and that changes, which would most probably have been unpalatable to the UK outside the Eurozone, would be the inevitable way forward for Brussels. So voting to remain would have been a huge leap in the dark too. Given the importance of the arguments for and against our continuing membership and the momentous opportunity that the referendum presented in terms of reassessing our relationship with Europe, I believe each of our representatives in Parliament ought to have long had a fairly settled view on the matter. (I do recall your sudden realisation that leaving the EU might hinder NHS recruitment from continental Europe. But obviously the weighing of pros and cons has to go far beyond that.) I have been strongly for leaving the EU for many years now, having become less and less happy with the diminution of democracy and the increasingly authoritarian way Brussels goes about its business. Since I took part in the original vote to join a trading block – the old EC - the whole nature of our relationship with Europe has changed, with no participation by the UK electorate in whether or not this change is acceptable. For centuries we in this country had an incredibly stable and equally a robustly responsive, democratic system. But from Maastricht onwards our politicians became more and more willing to abandon our hard won rights to citizenry participation and to parliamentary government. I read yesterday that former Prime Minister John Major recommends MPs listen to their constituents. What irony. From a man who gave so much of this away! Beware Dr Wollaston, he would prefer you hear only from those clamouring for a second referendum. From a man who in his time refused us a referendum on the grounds that decisions on vitally important matters of state should only be made by elected members of Parliament! For me, Brexiteer that I am, I can see nothing wrong with MP’s having a vote on the final Brexit deal. This is what bringing back democracy is about. I recognise and respect the view of continental Europeans that their new found stability, within the framework of the EU, is a very reassuring and positive development for them, contrasting as it does with the horrors endured so recently and so widely under both communist and fascist rule. Like many though, I fear this new found stability is extremely fragile and will prove illusory, with a European Parliament unable to exert any effective control over the Commissioners. (We had a taste of this in Greece and maybe Italy will be next?) Whatever the future holds for the EU, it has become progressively apparent it will entail a far higher degree of centralisation and bureaucratic authoritarianism than we in the UK have found acceptable over recent centuries. This cannot be the way forward for us. And this is why I voted to leave – I’m afraid all the much ridiculed clichés apply, summed up by ‘bringing back control’ - a return to democracy. (One gets the impression our friends in Europe are somewhat despairing of the messy and rather chaotic way the UK appears to be going about the leave negotiations. To my mind the last eighteen months has seen a rather wonderful reassertion of democracy and debate. Something rather alien to M. Barnier?) One of the things that I think has been extremely unhelpful from those arguing for second thoughts is the perhaps intentional impression, that there is such a thing as a ‘soft Brexit.’ Nomenclature is important. There are two sorts of Brexit - not soft or hard, but fake and real. As Mrs May has correctly put it ‘Brexit means Brexit.’ We are now getting into discussions on trade, very much the subject of Mrs May’s very good speech earlier today. Compared with ‘bringing back control’ everything else - summed up in this one word ‘trade’ - is of course detail, very important detail, complex detail, but nevertheless mere detail compared with ‘bringing back control’. I cannot agree with you Dr Wollaston in your assertion that there should be a Plan B. I would have thought seeking the right customs arrangements and all the many sectoral resolutions, in a unique deal fair to both sides, as Mrs May outlined, is the only way forward. I am sure nothing Mrs May said today will have come as a surprise to M. Barnier and his negotiators. Her objective today in publicly disclosing the UK positions was surely and simply to emphasise one thing. That our only objective is to obtain an outcome - with compromises as happens in all ‘trade’ negotiations - that is satisfactory to both parties. To think there might be a Plan B is a misunderstanding of how negotiation works. I was impressed by what was implied in the speech – that if negotiations fail there will be chaos. She was saying there must be agreement: we will have a real Brexit or as she put it originally Brexit must mean Brexit. Anything less than a real Brexit is not a soft Brexit, which is perhaps your Plan B? As I would put it, anything less than a real Brexit is a fake Brexit. Mrs May was talking tough with the EU today: we are prepared to be reasonable as you must be, there must be a good fair agreement or there will be chaos. There can be no Plan B. An unfairness inherent in this kind of conversation with you my MP and with anonymous tweeting and so on, is that you do not know me. I expect you to represent me without your knowing me. And I must feel reasonably confident you have the interests of South Devon at heart and that you know in general how we your constituents tick. Orders of magnitude worse of course, I would argue impossible, is the situation we have when those who represent us in Brussels are in Strasbourg and in any case can only advise. How much more robust when you my representative can bring down a government. I truly hope though that will not be the unintended consequence of what I can only assume is some misunderstanding on your part of the art of negotiation. Finally I really feel I cannot close without explaining something of what I am and where I am coming from. I am a retiree of some ten or so years. I started out long ago with a first degree in physical science, went into the food and drink industry, added in some environmental health and management qualifications along the way, and ended up in charge of technical development reporting to a main board director at a FTSE 100 company. In that latter capacity I spent many years negotiating with both French and US equivalents. (I always found the French obtuse in the extreme and the Americans straight, tough and very good at execution!) My take on things is that if you think you can clearly see where negotiations are currently at, then Mrs May and her team are making a poor fist of it. Be pleased that things are unclear and let that give you the confidence to support Mrs May in every possible way. Maybe accept that your expertise rests elsewhere: there is no dishonour in deference. Good luck as you wrestle with it all!
- Stephen

The UK Does Not Want A Clumsy Brexit We write as Remain voters and labour voters who have studied the Brexit options and have been persuaded to change our minds by the following positive factual arguments for Brexit and the policies of the sensible Conservative government, not least the resolute leadership that Mrs May has shown in the face of a maelstrom of abuse from the EU, MPs and chunks of the press: A - An easy decision was never to vote for, or support in any way, a hard left labour government with a Candidate PM (Corbyn) and shadow team that are so unsuitable for the job. B - The Brexit options needed more thought and analysis. The following points summarise the arguments that swayed us to a position that agrees with the policy the PM decided from the start (Lancaster House) plus the need for an implementation period: 1. Careful analysis of the financial predictions shows GDP is more affected by less immigration than any reduction in trade up to 2030! https://briefingsforbrexit.com/recent-estimates-of-the-economic-impact-of-brexit/ . The impact on jobs of indigenous workers would be small in the worst case of a WTO based deal. 2. In a restrictive customs union versus a free trade deal, the less well off in the U.K. will be disadvantaged as prices will remain higher and choice reduced; this is an established economic fact http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/the-EU-customs-union/ since Britain adopted free trade in the 1840s 3. If the EU wishes to establish a hard border across Ireland then they can force The Republic to do so but not Northern Ireland. A low friction solution has been shown capable of working and when smart borders are developed and applied to all U.K. borders it will probably even give the U.K. a comparative advantage as a modern free trading nation. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/02/24/smart-borders-brexit-will-give-britain-extra-advantage-EU-commissioned/ . A partial restrictive CU does not solve the Irish problem and a smart border will still be needed around the rest of the UK so let’s gain an advantage by developing and implementing it. 4. EU trade accounts for only 12 percent of UK GDP. Please put your focus on the other 88 percent. 5. Business is much more adaptable than you might imagine. Aerospace items are not subject to tariffs by international agreement. The car industry will rapidly source parts from the UK or with friendly trading nations. Food will be cheaper outside a customs union – it was before we joined it. Note the recent large investments made in the UK as evidence of our potential. 6. EU standards are mostly establish by international bodies and followed by the EU. In fact many EU standards in my industry (manufacturing) were modelled on existing UK standards. 7. Human/workers rights will be better protected outside the EU by our Supreme Court and the ECHR and ECtHR rather that the ECJ. 8. Voting for the Soubry amendment of the 8th Feb would commit the Government to staying in a customs union ‘with the EU in the same terms as existed before exit day’. That implies ‘the customs union’ not even ‘a customs union’. The amendment is poorly worded and against what the people voted for in the referendum and would actually hurt the UK - it is just an obvious political trap. If this became a confidence vote it could lead rapidly to a general election and possibly a Labour administration. The EU supported by the powerful remainers will then try and grind Labour down to a staying in the customs union and even the single market - this must be what the ardent remainers want, a backdoor solution to staying in. 9. If we remain in any type of customs union we will have to pay 80% of the tariffs we collect to the EU and probably part of our Vat receipts as well; this is taxation without representation and not acceptable. 10. With the recent announcements of an EU army, the Macron/Junkers ‘more EU’, including pan EU financial governance, indicate that the EU is going the wrong way. Given the lack of democracy in EU governance, imagine how the EU might struggle to survive one or two more crises with a disgruntled EU population only able to vote for every increasingly anti-EU parties. With several anti EU countries acting together it is possible to imagine a right wing takeover of the non-elected EU power base and what then? The Italian elections point to a seismic shift away from support of the EU by a founder country populated, in the main, by decent friendly people. Why would we wish to chance being involved in the unstable EU future for little or no gain? 11. Sending a message that the UK supports free trade to the world by following the current government policy would benefit both the UK and other trading partners. 12. Business directors that I know are putting more effort into a plan for limiting the damage from a Corbyn government than Brexit. Recall Mervyn King predicts Brexit to be a bump in the road not a major disaster. The points above are issues that the EU are very concerned about and wish to try and dampen any advantage the U.K. will gain from Brexit and to try and damage us where they can. The EU is obviously looking ahead to other countries exiting and trying to close down a successful exit by Britain. Imagine how Brexit looks to all the other EU peoples and businesses. We are at a critical time in the negotiation and one would expect the EU to sound hard but if we can hold our nerve (I have considerable experience of international business negotiation) we can agree a win-win deal with the EU based on free trade - we have a strong hand to play. Even in the event of a WTO based deal (‘no deal’ is not going to happen) trade will not stop. UK industry will gain from any EU imposed restrictions as more material will be made here or come from trading partners outside the EU. A clumsy Brexit based on a selective customs union will be too complex, very expensive and would likely damage the UK with no say in new EU rules and regulations. Please reconsider your view on a customs union as we believe your apparent support for the/a customs union is not in the country’s long term interest or for the Conservative party. As I now believe that only the Conservatives are capable of implementing Brexit in a positive fashion, we are considering joining and contributing to this important struggle and need convincing that our MP will support the government and the country at this important time. Will you support the government?
- Sally and James Thomas

On March 29th 2019, the UK will leave the E.U. but we will hopefully not be turning our back on Europe. For the benefit of both parties it will be very important that we continue a strong trading relationship. This has always been the UK’s strength; therefore, I am very supportive of any arrangement whereby we can continue to trade freely with our European partners. I realise this may mean some compromises on both sides but we surely want to maintain trade in as frictionless way as possible. Therefore, I personally support those (including Sarah Wollaston) who wish to encourage such a frictionless trading arrangement without jeopardising our sovereignty.
- Brian Watkin

Leave the EU. Trade is fine. No backsliding like Labour. Britain voted to trade Worldwide. No to remaining in any part of club Europe. People wishing to remain in Europe may,by Moving there. No to being ruled from Brussels.
- Derek

I would never have voted for you if I thought you would jeopardise our vote for leaving the EU. This is the second time after you initially pledged to vote with the public to leave. I didn't initially have a problem with you changing sides as this was an important decision, even though I felt it was based on you thinking this was in YOUR best interest. I am sad to see that you are doing your best to change the electorates votes and feel that a Mr Blair is paying you well.
- Jane

In your view which would be more damaging, a 'hard' Brexit, or a PM by the name of Jeremy Corbyn? Because if, down the line, you vote against a Govt. 3 line whip, the result will be Corbyn Govt.
- Tom

Sadly, after hearing Sarah on Radio 4 today, an unforseen consequence should be that she no longer represents the people of the Totnes constituency. This muddled thinking is an impediment.
- John. Dartington

It seems that your arguments are surmise. You should support Ms May so that we can negotiate from a strong and united position.
- Douglas Gunn

I voted to Leave and it was clear what that meant and I am still a Brexiteer and just hope and pray that Mrs May's "Brexit means Brexit" means just that and that she doesn't do a Dr.Wollaston type about-turn and stab the Leave voters in the back as that shows weakness not strength...I have lost faith in you Dr.Wollaston and the only way you might restore my future voting for you is for you to back your PM in pressing for us leaving the customs union and all other EU restrictions that just hold us back as a country. We are a strong country still in spite of weak politicians and politics and long may that continue but I am not sure that you should as our MP....
- Kay Tee

I wonder, will Sarah support her Government or support the Lord's amendments on Brexit. I suggest her political career depends on it !
- John

Sarah - we are now at one of the most critical times in our negotiations with the EU. In the votes that are to come in Parliament this week PLEASE get behind and support Theresa May and our negotiating team. Voting with the likes of Ken Clarke, who appears to have made it his mission to sabotage our democratically arrived at decision to leave the EU, will do our country serious damage and it could bring down the Government. As you know from my previous correspondence I feel very strongly that the referendum result must be respected by Parliament and our elected MPs. You have made your views known and I respect you for that. However, now is the time to put the needs of the country first, which means supporting the Government and our negotiating team. I am not sure I could forgive the alternative and only Corbyn and extremist parties would benefit from that . . .
- David Hoy

At the next election I hope Totnes has a candidate who does not suffer from a fluctuating conscience and will honour the commitments given to aid their election !
- John

You are doing a sterling job Sarah. I see the increasing negative impacts of a potential hard BREXIT every day in my work, with the movement of legal entities and jobs to continental Europe in anticipation of such a scenario. The people did not vote to trash our trade agreement with the EU.
- Paul

Following on from my previous comments in March I should like to express my very great concern over your lack of support for the government. The intense pressure from you and like-minded MP’s, the House of Lords and associated extremely well-funded external Remain groups, is in my view likely to lead to a very bad Brexit outcome. I think it is time you explained your role in all of this to us constituents. To use your recent words are we being “treated like fools.” --------- A lot of this pressure on the government is now verging on the unconstitutional and I agree with Frank Field that the House of Lords ought now be completely reformed – Sunday Telegraph, 17th July. I supported the recent petition that this should be debated. --------- So I am sorry I have to say it again, but I cannot understand your complete change of stance over Brexit. You have said your position has been arrived at after a very careful consideration of what you consider the most pertinent evidence. The following may seem like a cheap remarks, which is not my intention. But I am afraid it is how your stance comes across. Thus you seem to have gone from originally supporting Brexit, based at that time on presumably your best evidence based assessment, to now being in agreement with a set of evidence which leads you to risking a very unsatisfactory almost non-Brexit. This seems to demonstrate a complete lack of judgemental ability in weighing matters properly? Given you are in the eyes of most outside observers in this position, surely you should accede to the far greater weight of expertise available to the government and support their position? ---------- More generally my concern is that it is surely not for MPs to take over / pre-dictate / restrict Brexit negotiations and seemingly manipulate parliamentary procedure to that end over a ‘meaningful vote.’ This is all clearly a ruse to thwart Brexit and bind the Government’s hand. It is for the Government to negotiate what will be an international agreement, free of such restrictions. The role of Parliament is surely to accept or reject after debate, what the government has managed to obtain.
- Stephen

I have to agree with Stephen`s comments. Leaving the EU is a constitutional change and requires consent of the people, a referendum. This was done and a pledge to enact was in both Conservative and Labour manifestoes, Sarah obtained our support on this basis. If her conscience does not allow her to honour her contract with us, she should abstain from voting against her Government and resign her seat; anything less would amount to deceit and fraud.
- John

Sarah, yet again I feel compelled to write to you in connection with the elected Government's unfolding plans for Brexit. The draft EU Withdrawal Bill has been carefully formulated to translate fully into UK law EU Directives so that when we finally leave this organisation we can continue to trade on a fair and equitable basis. This should make it easier for our negotiating team to establish a new and long lasting relationship with the EU that includes for example trade, security and defence. It has nothing to do with the role of Parliament after Brexit and it is clearly the case that a substantial number of remain voting ex-MPs in the House of Lords have grossly exceeded their mandate by trying to attach a mandate to the draft EU Withdrawal Bill that would seriously undermine the Government and our negotiating team, if it was accepted by the House of Commons. This amendment CANNOT be allowed to stand as it would be immensely damaging to our country's prospects and in my view it would be a violation of our constitution. Theresa May and our negotiating team will get a new and effective deal covering our future relationship with the EU, but only if she is supported by her own party members, including and especially you. For God's sake give her and our negotiating team some much needed trust in the Commons vote that is coming later today!
- David Hoy

I believe Sarah voted against the Government today. I believe Totnes deserves a candidate they can trust, at the next General Election.
- John

Very disappointed with your inability to support the Government today, as I am sure many others will be. Sadly the logical outcome is that I can no find it in myself to continue my support for you.
- Stephen

You are a traitor. We have known that since your last-minute 'change of heart' on the referendum. So whatever good you do, we will never completely trust you. Theresa is braver, stronger, a more democratic woman, so follow her lead. Help her get us out from under the yoke of the unelected parasites in Brussels. Please.
- Jean, Totnes

Sarah, I am in my 70s and do not use twitter - a shallow medium full of ill-considered remarks. Tweets do get picked up by oldies though. Which perhaps means I am allowed some cheapskate replies? One of yours yesterday included this: “The fact is that #Brexit was sold on a false prospectus”. I assume you refer to the £350m a week message on the Boris vote leave bus. Firstly I think there is the usual patronising assumption here that anyone voting leave would take literally what was meant to be a neat and snappy slogan. But since you have got me onto it, what about those infamous parts of the other false prospectus. That on a vote to leave unemployment would rocket; George Osborne’s prediction of a £30bn black hole in public finances; the immediate emergency budget and Alistair Darling’s forecast of one emergency budget after another. This pair unlike Boris you would no doubt say are people of substance? Cheap remarks on twitter and my replies on here are demeaning. Could I suggest we play the ball and not the people.--------- Secondly you say in your recent tweet “As Parliament is not now going to have a meaningful final vote, people should be able to give their own verdict on the deal.” I was at Way with Words last night listening to David Owen who I think was already picking up on your support for a second referendum or something like it. I wish you had heard him – I really do suggest you seek out his wise counsel. Here are his words in a far from adequate nutshell.---------- There have been sharp divisions over Europe amongst senior Labour and Conservatives figures going way back. Nowadays politicians from both parties with metropolitan aspirations, many of whom commute from London in and out of their provincial constituencies, have little real empathy for the problem of local decline. Parliament prior to the EU vote largely supported EU membership, in spite of its adverse effects outside of the greater London area. Its present acceptance of EU withdrawal is therefore grudging. London’s financial dominance has further fuelled in recent decades a side-lining of the declining UK regions. Added to this is the adverse effect of European centrism. All of this has resulted in a divided populace – metropolitan London versus the rest – and an elite with no understanding of the resulting resentment of the centre and a very remote European autocracy. Over many, many years and not just amongst conservatives, the parliamentary process has failed to lance this boil. In the reluctant view of Lord Owen the only way to resolve such an impasse was to hold a referendum. He would not normally advocate such a response but believes there was no alternative as our representative political processes have failed to grasp the depth of alienation from the centre as it has developed over many years. His view is that the decision of the electorate should now be entirely respected, that the matter should now be regarded as settled. His great fear on the other hand is that it is not being respected. More than that attempts to undermine and reverse it will have terrible consequences for democracy in this country.----------- My words no doubt fail to properly summarise what he said but his concern was clear. The current gathering contempt amongst the elite for the democratic outcome of the EU referendum will fatally undermine UK democracy. Sarah, if you have not already done so, you really ought to seek out the advice of Lord Owen. His experience in European and International affairs is unrivalled. He himself has on occasions been a divisive figure but I have always respected him - conservative that I am - as deeply thoughtful, a rigorous thinker. He is an impressive person, please listen to him. Stephen
- Stephen

Sarah 14th July 2018. You know that the EU is broke. You know that they are printing billions of Euro's each and every week to keep Italy, Spain and Greece afloat without mentioning the precarious financial state of other countries. You know that the UK spends 80 Billion per annum more in Europe than they send with us. I am in full agreement with Richard Littlejohn when he writes: Independent sovereign nations do not collect taxes on behalf of foreign governments. Independent sovereign nations do not accept the jurisdiction of unelected foreign judges. Independent sovereign nations do not swallow wholesale rules made by unaccountable foreign bureaucrats. Independent sovereign nations are at liberty to conclude free trade deals with any country in the world. But if May gets her way, none of that will apply. Britain will still be subject to European directives and the rulings of European judges. That’s not Brexit by any stretch of the imagination. Kind Regards, Tim South.
- Tim South

I see that Sarah does not even bother to write this blog any more, and prefers to spout her vitriol on Twitter. Sarah does not have a Conservative bone in her body. I am assuming that steps are underway in the party to deselect her. If not, I and many other will be voting to remove her and the constituency will be lost.
- George, Paignton

David Cameron won a democratic election with a majority, a promise was made for a referendum on staying or leaving EU , a democratic vote was held , the majority of people voted leave. It is your duty and all Conservative MP’s to ensure that happens, otherwise democracy is denied and the use of our vote is pointless. I really wish we could all change our mind who we had voted for in the last General Election, you would not have had my household vote! You, Anna Soubry and the others in your nest of Vipers have weakened our Government at neogotiations throughout, you have changed your views as regular as Jeremy Corbyn, you have done this great country a very great disservice. Please either leave the Party, join Labour or join Anna Soubry in LaLa land
- Peter Mulloy

You, Anna Soubry and the rest of the nest of vipers have seriously damaged the governments hand in EU negotiations, if you do not wish to follow the people’s democratic decision or your Party, stand as an Independant, and then we then know exactly what type of person we voted for, I for one didn’t give you my vote and expect treachery , and irreparable damage to Party and Country
- Peter mulloy

"There is also a simple truth that there is no Parliamentary majority for a walk-away, no-deal Brexit." It is a "simple truth" that a majority of Tory constituencies voted Leave in the referendum, besides which 53% of those in England voted to Leave. Totnes is an odd constituency, what with the post-hippe and Green Party element with the bizarre ideas one might expect; but it is nevertheless Tory, and having lived here for over half my life it seems to me your espousal of surrendering our sovereignty to Brussels, or so tying us to EU regulation that Brexit would be meaningless, must offend a great many conservative-minded people. It will be interesting to see how your position affects the outcome of the next General Election.
- Anthony Harrison

Very proud of Sarah Wollaston for courageously making the argument for PEACE ; most people commenting negatively seem to forget that it was for PEACE ACROSS EUROPE after two World Wars that so many of our allied troops and other nationals were injured or died - over 600 US soldiers alone buried on our beaches.
- Marianne

Very proud of our courageous MP who is looking towards the future and wants to ensure a prosperous country - but above all ensure PEACE across Europe which is what our fathers and grandfathers died for in two world wars. Peace across Europe can never be taken for granted.
- Marianne

Marianne, I can assure you that our fathers and grandfathers, who died in 2 World Wars, would be appalled by the way that Sarah Wollaston has behaved of late. They valued loyalty and would have given little truck to one who had renaged on a belief after obtaining their vote on an issue. A fluctuating conscience would have been viewed with contempt, honour was everything !
- John

Marianne, our fathers and grandfathers would be appalled at Sarah Wollaston`s recent approach to the democratic referendum. Gaining a vote on an understanding, then reversing a position and voting against her Government would have been considered unacceptable. A fluctuating conscience would be given short shrift, honour was everything, resignation would be the only course !
- John

One thing that is very clear in the ongoing debate about Brexit is that there are a substantial number of MP's, including our own, that will stop at nothing to prevent what the people have voted for becoming a reality. Their consistent failure to support the Government and our own team in earlier negotiations with the EU have contributed substantially to the current impasse. I was a staunch supporter of Theresa May but I have to say that when it comes to the negotiations I tend to agree with David Davis and Boris Johnson that in an effort to show goodwill she has given away far too much up front at every stage and this is being exploited by both the EU and her many political opponents in the 'House of Cards' (Parliament). If she is able to secure a fair trade deal in these negotiations at all it will be in spite of some of her colleagues in Parliament and not because of them. The Conservative Party is now in the 'Last Chance Saloon' as far as many voters are concerned. Like me they are watching every unfolding development closely and our views will be expressed at the ballot box unless the referendum result is properly respected.
- David H, Brixham

One thing that is very clear in the ongoing debate about Brexit is that there are a substantial number of MP's, including our own, that will stop at nothing to prevent what the people have voted for becoming a reality. Their consistent failure to support the Government and our own team in earlier negotiations with the EU have contributed substantially to the current impasse. I was a staunch supporter of Theresa May but I have to say that when it comes to the negotiations I tend to agree with David Davis and Boris Johnson that in an effort to show goodwill she has given away far too much up front at every stage and this is being exploited by both the EU and her many political opponents in the 'House of Cards' (Parliament). If she is able to secure a fair trade deal in these negotiations at all it will be in spite of some of her colleagues in Parliament and not because of them. The Conservative Party is now in the 'Last Chance Saloon' as far as many voters are concerned. Like me they are watching every unfolding development closely and our views will be expressed at the ballot box unless the referendum result is properly respected.
- David H, Brixham

Marianne, our fathers and grandfathers would be appalled at Sarah Wollaston`s recent approach to the democratic referendum. Gaining a vote on an understanding, then reversing a position and voting against her Government would have been considered unacceptable. A fluctuating conscience would be given short shrift, honour was everything, resignation would be the only course !
- John

Who cares whether there is a Parliamentary majority? We knew Parliament had a majority of Remainers before the referendum. Parliament gave the Brexit decision to the people, and they chose to leave, not join a half-membership EEA where we'd still be under EU rules and law. You're trying to overturn the result of the referendum, not "respect" it as you claim. You might at least be honest about it
- Ron

To quote Ed Balls: "It is dangerous to start with the assumption that voters are wrong". The people that voted to leave in the referendum did so for many reasons but don't assume that they are not prepared to put up with some hardship or turmoil to achieve the objective of leaving. As our MP, it is your duty to do everything possible to achieve what the majority voted for in the referendum, not to second guess what they "might have meant" or "didn't really mean". Please support everything you can to get us out of the EU, hopefully with a deal if possible but without, if necessary.
- Tim Mattocks

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