Welwyn Hatfield's aspiring MPs answer key Brexit questions
PUBLISHED: 15:00 21 May 2017 | UPDATED: 16:43 31 May 2017
With Brexit playing a key role in the general election debate, the WHT has asked the borough's candidates to clarify their positions ahead of the vote on June 8.
Many commentators feel leaving the single market – which enables tariff-free trading with EU members – will be disastrous for Britain’s economy. However, access is linked to freedom of movement, which was a key reason many voters chose to leave. Negotiators now face the task of gaining the best deal, but what do Welwyn Hatfield’s candidates think?
-What are the most important factors in the Brexit negotiations for Welwyn Hatfield?
Grant Shapps (Conservative): “Having a strong negotiating position requires the Prime Minister to have the backing of the country. Without this support EU negotiators like Jean-Claude will imagine that the British position is weak, whereas every vote for me will add weight to Theresa May’s negotiating position. So the most important factor is for Welwyn Hatfield residents to lend their support to Conservatives this time, regardless of who they might ordinarily support.”
Anawar Miah (Labour): “We must agree a trade deal on preferential terms with the UK’s largest market for goods and services in order to safeguard jobs and a strong economy. We must have regard to our international influence among allies, for example in relation to strategic partnerships as well as intelligence and knowledge sharing.” He added workers’ rights must also be maintained to avoid an outflow of people in skilled professions – such as doctors.
Nigel Quinton (Liberal Democrat): “The most important thing for Britain, and for Welwyn Hatfield, is that we continue to be members of the single market and part of the customs union. If this is lost, then the increased costs of doing business with Europe, our biggest market, and biggest supplier, will be enormous.”
Christianne Sayers (The Green Party): “Local jobs – we have many businesses locally who will be affected if they lose access to the single market. Industries locally that will be affected and especially if their EU workers are not allowed to remain in Britain, some will leave.” She added that visas enabling freedom of movement in Europe are also important, as well as ensuring Britain keeps “useful legislation on climate change and energy efficiency”. Keeping financial institutions in London is also important to keep residents’ jobs, she added.
Dean Milliken (UKIP): “Leaving the EU to me is about democracy and self-governance, it creates a wonderful opportunity for the UK to negotiate trade deals across the world, rather than rely on the EU to do this for us which will not always be in our interest.” He added immigration is the key issue both locally and nationally, as controlling Britain’s borders will alleviate stress on public services.
-Is there any Brexit deal you would not support – for example a “hard Brexit” with no trade deal?
Mr Shapps: “It’s important we get the best possible deal out of these negotiations. However, we should not sign a deal at any price. There is no reason why both sides should not be able to benefit from a suitable deal, but common sense dictates that if the terms are not right then we should not sign the deal.”
Mr Miah: “It would be difficult to support a deal that did not protect our national security and tackled cross-border crime, did not protect workers’ rights and employment protections and did not allow for the widest possible access to the single market.”
Mr Quinton: “I would not support any Brexit deal that excludes us from the single market, the customs union, and pan-European institutions such as EURATOM [European Atomic Energy Community].”
Mrs Sayers: “Any deal that attempts to make the UK a tax haven or reduces social or environmental standards. Any deal that will produce a free market without protective regulation.”
Mr Milliken: “I do believe that the next two years will be spent trying to water down what Brexit means, this is why I don’t accept the terms hard or soft Brexit. I would not support a Brexit that leaves us half in the EU.” He added that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
-When the final terms are agreed, do you think MPs should have a final vote on whether Britain accepts the deal?
Mr Shapps: “Parliament will get to vote on the final deal, because Parliament is sovereign.”
Mr Miah: “The voices of constituents must be heard and the people of Welwyn Hatfield must be given a meaningful say on the terms of the deal. On behalf of constituents MPs must ensure that priorities are clearly set out.”
He also claimed the current Parliamentary vote offered by the Tories is on a “take it or leave it basis”, rather than an option to renegotiate if unapproved.
Mr Quinton: “Not only the UK Parliament, but the people of the UK should have a say. Last year we voted to leave Europe, but we did not vote for the destination, and the British people deserve a say on the final outcome.”
Mrs Sayers: “Yes. More than that, the people should have the final say, we should call another referendum with the terms of any deal as clear choices, and an option to remain so people are in a position to compare two real and possible futures.”
Mr Milliken: He confirmed he does not think MPs should have another vote. “The people have spoken and want to leave the EU,” he added. “The will of the people has to be respected and any watering down of what was voted for will be challenged by UKIP.”
*Independent candidate Melvyn Jones had not responded when the WHT went to press.