The result of the EU Referendum is clearly a major step for our country. The next steps will need to be handled carefully and in consultation with all the different groups who will be affected by the result.
Locally it is impossible to tell the exact result, as my constituency is spread across three boroughs and there is no separate count for it. However the result was clearly a pretty close one here, and I do think it is very important that the views of those who voted to remain both nationally and locally are not forgotten as the Government plans the next steps. The fact that more people voted to leave than in any other previous democratic exercise in the UK does not give the Government an unfettered mandate in deciding those next steps.
I have attached below an article I wrote for the Financial Times on the Monday after the result which sets out my view of those next steps:
In the aftermath of the referendum result and the prime minister’s resignation, there was bound to be shock and surprise. What matters now is that we get on with the task of delivering a proper response to the decision that the nation has taken.
We need to get beyond the initial rhetoric, here and elsewhere in the EU. This has been a momentous development. The result, which was not what people expected, is a blow to the European project. So strong words from Brussels and elsewhere were inevitable. As were triumphant shouts from the UK Independence party.
But let us be clear. Britain is still governed by the Conservative party and a team of Conservative ministers. Not by Ukip. There will be a calm, measured process. We will take whatever steps are necessary to look after the British national interest. None of those in the frame to succeed David Cameron would take us away from being a liberal, one-nation government, with an internationalist view and a determination to be a strong global player.
The referendum was not won by a Little Britain team seeking to return to the past. It was won by a team that wants to free Britain from a struggling European project where we faced increasing marginalisation while it determined more of the way we worked. EU directives have already damaged the City and UK business. Why should a fund manager established in London to invest in emerging markets be subject to regulation designed to support the Eurozone? Why should free trade relations between Britain and the US exclude our creative industries because of protectionist tendencies elsewhere in the EU?
The process now has to be careful and thoughtful. We would never have triggered Article 50, the formal exit clause from the EU, on day one. We need time to prepare, to set our own objectives and to put the right expertise in place to support our negotiations. Our European partners also need time. Calls from the EU institutions for immediate action are misplaced. They have as much to lose from getting this wrong. On Friday the biggest market falls were not in London, but elsewhere in Europe. This is a process of divorce where things are best approached calmly and methodically.
So Article 50 will not be triggered until a considerable amount of informal preparatory work has been done, here and in discussions with EU partners. The formal process will also have to wait for the new prime minister to be in place in the Autumn, and for him or her to get their new team and strategy in place.
It is a process that will not just involve politicians. We will ensure that the business and financial communities have a big say in shaping the best strategy. City UK, the lobby group, has already started work on this, and securing the future of the City must be a priority. The advantages of language, a respected legal system, time zones, depth of experience, access to large, well ordered pools of capital are all more important than EU membership. It is still inconceivable that we could leave the French agricultural sector with free and easy access to UK consumers, while allowing the City to be emasculated by Paris or Frankfurt.
Our new trade negotiations with the EU do not require a lengthy process like that between Canada and the bloc. Our businesses already meet the same standards. We have regulatory equivalence. So trade decisions will be political not technical —and already wiser heads in the EU are saying they want continuity, given the scale of their trade surpluses with the UK.
Meanwhile, we must start early discussions on free trade deals elsewhere. Commonwealth countries have already expressed an interest. On Capitol Hill senior trade figures dismiss President Obama’s “back of the queue” comment, telling me that with efforts to reach a transatlantic US-EU trade deal stalled they think America and Britain could reach a bi-lateral agreement quickly.
The British people have taken a historic decision. What they now expect is a government that will approach the next steps in a measured way and do what is best for the UK. Whoever becomes our next prime minister, that careful approach is a certainty.