Today people from every continent will celebrate Commonwealth Day.
Fortuitously, Commonwealth Day this year falls on the same day that we in the House of Commons are voting on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill for, hopefully, the last time.
The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill has passed through the Lords without amendment and Theresa May now has the power to trigger Article 50. As a result Britain is poised to begin its departure from the European Union.
The House of Lords has an important role in scrutinising and improving draft legislation and thankfully the unelected Chamber didn’t seek to block the will of the elected Commons.
Future historians will look back on 2017 as a turning point in our nation’s history. And I believe that they will say that the UK’s departure from the sclerotic and inward-looking European Union allowed us to begin a new and brighter chapter in our national story.
Earlier this year, our Prime Minister gave a magnificent speech spelling out the UK’s future direction as a dynamic, sovereign, free-trading nation. However, this requires taking certain steps now, starting with triggering Article 50 and setting out plans to leave the jurisdiction of the European courts, the Single Market and the Customs Union.
This week, MPs were in the chamber debating on whether or not to give the Prime Minister the authority to trigger Article 50. The wording of the bill is brief and uncluttered. It is a binary question. I have always been clear that I will vote to trigger Article 50. The Referendum was approved by Act of Parliament and the Conservatives pledged to ‘respect the result’ of that referendum in the 2015 manifesto on which we were elected into Government.
But debate is healthy and I am glad that we have the opportunity to discuss the many facets of agreement and disagreement in the Chamber.
I fully expect that a huge majority of MPs will vote to give the Prime Minister the authority to trigger Article 50. Theresa May will then be able to go to the European Council with not only the legitimacy of the referendum result, but also of Parliament. Putting beyond any doubt the authority for the Government to take Britain out of the EU.
Our nation’s path over the next two years may include bumps in the road, both political and economic. However, I am certain that we have a Prime Minister, a Government and a set of British values with which to steady the course and make a great success of Brexit.
This week my vote to give the Prime Minister the authority to trigger Article 50 was one of the most significant I have cast since I was elected as an MP almost 12 years ago.
Brexit, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, is perhaps the biggest single political issue in a generation. Other than the alarm caused by the prospect of a third runway at Heathrow, there is no issue on which I have received more correspondence.