Penny Mordaunt is a Defence Minister and is MP for Portsmouth North.
Throughout the EU referendum campaign, Andrea Leadsom made a powerful and persuasive case for why the United Kingdom should leave the European Union. We had been given a choice, hard-fought for by many, to establish a new relationship with the EU and to wrest back control of our future.
The Leave vote on the 23rd June gave a clear mandate for the rest of this Parliament, and for the future direction of our country. Whilst we must recognise that there are those who voted a different way, the question has now been settled. This was the largest vote on any issue in the history of the UK. It is the clear duty of our next Prime Minister to implement the will of the British people and to secure the best deal possible.
I believe that this is the perfect chance for the UK to make a fresh start on a number of vital issues. We have been given a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it is so important that we have someone at the helm who understands the EU, campaigned wholeheartedly for us to leave, and sees the massive advantages that control over our lawmaking and trade will bring.
Determining the right course for leaving the EU requires a unique skill-set: a staunch commitment to a future outside the EU, a passionate belief that our best days lie ahead, and robust and proven negotiating skills. This isn’t a time for politics as usual and, as David Cameron said in his statement outside Downing Street, the country now needs fresh leadership.
I’ve decided to support Andrea because I know she is the best candidate to deliver this. I would challenge you to find anyone in Parliament who understands more about the European Union and its failings than she has learned in the past few years. That isn’t an arrogant statement – but one that has a grounding in the Fresh Start Project that she founded in 2011. Andrea, along with a number of parliamentary colleagues including myself, set up the FSP as a unique research project to consider the fundamental reforms needed in the EU to make it work. To cut a long story short (you can read more about Fresh Start here: http://www.eufreshstart.co.uk), we concluded that the EU simply couldn’t – or wouldn’t – be reformed in a way that would work for the UK, or indeed for the other 27 Member States. The only option was to Leave.
This is why Andrea and I campaigned so passionately for Leave in the EU referendum. It is also why she is now standing for the leadership of the Conservative Party: we absolutely have the leave the EU, and we have to get on with the job and do it now. The country will brook no delay.
She’s been in government, first as City Minister and now as Energy Minister, and she’s sat round negotiating tables all around the world. Only two months ago, she was in Japan with the G7 Energy Ministers working towards a secure and clean energy future, and just prior to that she was in Brazil looking at opportunities for British businesses to work on low carbon technologies and energy storage.
Not only that, Andrea has a social justice heart that she wears on her sleeve. She founded PIP UK in 2013 after recognising the national need for strong Parent-Infant Partnerships and the importance of a secure bond between mother and child. The reality is that 20 per cent of the UK’s maternal population suffers from antenatal and postnatal depression. In this knowledge, she went about establishing seven PIPs around the country to form a growing network of psychotherapeutic services to ensure that every baby has the best possible start in life.
Added to this, I am confident that from her 25 year career in business, project finance and managing large and small companies that she is prepared for whatever the negotiations may throw up.
As anyone who followed the referendum campaign and listened to what she had to say will know, Andrea is absolutely convinced that leaving the EU gives the UK the best possible chance to better utilise our enormous natural strengths and attributes. The Prime Minister had it spot on when, in his resignation speech, he said “Britain is a special country – we have so many great advantages – a parliamentary democracy where we resolve great issues about our future through peaceful debate, a great trading nation with our science and arts, our engineering and our creativity, respected the world over.”
There is a huge role in the world awaiting us as we broaden our horizons. I can’t wait for Andrea to lead the team and to begin work on seizing these opportunities, we already have countries beating a path to our door demanding free trade and deeper cooperation with us. The markets, having betted heavily the wrong way, have already begun to recover from their initial shock. In the grander scheme of things, these are minor readjustments and, as Andrea said all the way through the referendum campaign, not comparable to the systemic shocks that we saw after crashing out of the ERM or the financial crisis in 2008. What is needed now is someone giving confidence in our economy, not talking it down.
We need a fresh start in our relations with the rest of the world, unshackling the UK from the sclerotic bureaucracy of Brussels with their trade barriers and punitive tariffs. Securing free trade deals with countries around the world is therefore Andrea’s top priority, and I am confident – as is Andrea – in the presumption of continuity where the EU already has tariff-free trade. This is so important to businesses large and small because Europe’s economy is still struggling, with real growth focused on the emerging economies in the rest of the world. Businesses need confidence in our role in the world – Andrea is the only one who can give them that.
Andrea passionately believes in this country. That is not something to be ashamed of, nor something to hide. What we need moving forward is a Prime Minister who fought for us to leave the EU, who understands our current relationship inside and out, and who can build relationships around the world.
If you believe, as I do, that we can once more be an outward looking country and trade globally, then I hope you will join me in backing Andrea and securing our bright future.