Britain’s exit from the European Union has dominated Parliament and the news bulletins in recent days and weeks.

On Wednesday we voted through the remaining stages of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The Prime Minister has now been mandated by Parliament to trigger the Article 50 Notice which will start the two year process of withdrawal.

I have been contacted by dozens of constituents, with many and varied requests or indeed demands. Some want us out now, others do not want us to leave at all. In answer to those that say we should just leave immediately: we have an agreement with the EU – not unlike a hire purchase agreement or a mortgage. We may want to sell our car or move house but we can only do that within the terms of the agreement we signed up to. We will not renege on our agreements or obligations however frustrated we are.

For those that want us to stay in: unfortunately that is not an option. The country voted to leave and that is what we will do. In my Southampton Itchen constituency, 60% of voters joined me in voting to leave. I concede that many will have voted for different reasons to me. I voted to leave the Court, the Commission and the Parliament. Unlike some others, I have never recognised the EU as a country. I know many voted for other reasons, perhaps because they felt the UK had lost control of its borders, and in many ways that is true. The referendum is now behind us. The decision has now been taken by the British public, the Courts and by the United Kingdom Parliament. Article 50 will be triggered and we will leave.

The debates you have been witnessing in Parliament over the past days and weeks have been about the terms of departure. Unfortunately many people do not understand that process of leaving any better than they understood the implications of a national referendum. Leaving is not negotiable, it is our future relationship, with the remaining members of the EU that needs negotiating.

The Government has published a white paper and has agreed to put the results of the negotiation before Parliament. We will be negotiating a trade deal and access to EU markets. We will also look to cooperate with our partners on things such as security.
The arrangement we negotiate with the remaining members of the EU must be in the UK’s national interest. If not the PM had made it clear there will be no deal.

While understanding the importance of negotiating a favourable trade deal with the EU, the number one priority must be an arrangement that allows EU migrants that are in this country to stay, and protects the rights and privileges of UK citizens who have chosen to live in EU countries.

It is clear leaving the EU will take time and effort, but when we have left we will continue to trade with our closest friends and neighbours in Europe, while looking to the rest of the world to make Great Britain a truly global trading nation once again.