We failed to treat vote as opportunity to be embraced, says PRITI PATEL

Having delayed our leaving date, it instead marked another day of national humiliation for our country. Some 17.4 million people chose to leave the EU in the biggest act of democracy in our country's history. Yet since then the Prime Minister and government ministers have treated this instruction as a damage-limitation exercise rather than as an opportunity to be embraced.

That's why the deal the PM struck with Brussels is so one-sided.

It forces us to pay £39billion without securing any sort of trade deal in return, and it imperils the precious union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I could not support a deal which prioritises the needs and wishes of the EU at the expense of the constitutional integrity of this country.

MPs voted in January for the Prime Minister to secure significant and legally binding changes to the deal so that we could reassure our friends in Northern Ireland. No changes or "alternative arrangements" have been forthcoming.

And tomorrow in Parliament, Remain MPs plan to pounce again.

Faced with a weak Government that does not believe in Brexit, they plan to reverse centuries of parliamentary traditions to get their way by forcing a vote on keeping the UK inside the European customs union.

One of the reasons people voted to leave the EU is so that we could have the freedom to strike trade deals with countries outside the EU. Staying locked into the customs union prevents this.

And by being outside the EU but part of the customs union, we would be bound by the EU's rules and regulations without having a right to change or influence them.

The fifth largest economy in the world would have its tariffs and regulatory policies determined elsewhere and could have no say at all! My party promised the country we would leave the customs union and single market. A vote to remain inside the customs union would make a mockery of our pledges, destroy trust in Parliament, politics and in our democracy.

As MPs consume themselves with the frenzy of indicative votes and the puerile political leadership manoeuvring of many government ministers, out in the real world the UK economy enjoys strong fundamentals despite Brexit uncertainties.

We as a country need to build on these solid foundations as a free, sovereign nation, outside of the sclerotic, economically draining shackles of the EU.

It really is time for firm leadership and we need to have the confidence to recognise that Britain can make a success of its future. As a beacon of free global trade, a country that is open to world markets, no longer restrained by having to tiptoe around EU rules which currently prevent us from supporting British businesses and British jobs, MPs must show the leadership our country desperately needs.

That means standing up to the insular Westminster mafia trying to reverse and reinterpret the referendum result, now so profoundly out of touch with the voters.

We are witnessing an unprecedented moment in public life - the moment when democracy has become maligned by elected politicians who think they know better than the very people who were elected as their representatives.

By saying no to a customs union tomorrow, we elected representatives can do the right thing and honour the optimistic vision spelt out to us by the British people in the 2016 referendum.

Priti Patel is Tory MP for Witham

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