Theresa Villiers is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and MP for Chipping Barnet.

I am backing Andrea Leadsom in the leadership election because she has the drive, enthusiasm and vision to make a great Prime Minister. Her campaign has made phenomenal progress from a standing start only one week ago. The more people see of her, the more they want to vote for her. I strongly believe that the right choice for MPs today is to ensure Andrea is on the ballot paper for the party membership vote.

With 25 years of business experience, she has a rigorous grasp of economics and finance, frequently demonstrated in her distinguished years on the Treasury Select Committee. She brings a refreshing commitment to social justice and strongly believes that UK will make its way in the world by investing in the skills of her people, not by expecting them to accept poorer working conditions. Crucially, she is also the best candidate to ensure we grasp the positive opportunities provided by Brexit and make a real success of the momentous decision our country made on 23rd June.

The referendum campaign revealed some significant divisions in our society, with many saying they felt that their concerns about uncontrolled immigration and its negative impact on wages were not being addressed. In her outstanding contribution to the campaign, Andrea made it clear that it was not acceptable for these concerns to remain unanswered. The failure of an out-of-touch political elite in Brussels to grasp the seriousness of these problems led millions of ordinary, hard-working people to vote leave.

What we need now is a fresh start and a fresh candidate – someone who will work to bridge the divisions in our society. Andrea knows how important it is to work with all parts of our United Kingdom – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Indeed, she has already said that she will do everything in her power to keep the United Kingdom united. She has a positive, outward looking vision for our country and for our party.

There can be no doubt that one of the most crucial tasks facing the next Prime Minister will be negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU. The referendum result must be respected. Leave means leave.

It will be a complex and challenging process. As someone who has been through difficult and lengthy negotiations in both Brussels and Northern Ireland, I have first-hand experience of the relentless grind that such processes involve and the relentless determination it takes to emerge from them with a good result. The forthcoming negotiation could take a heavy toll on someone who is not an enthusiast for Brexit.

If Andrea becomes our Prime Minister, there will be no slide back into freedom of movement. We will ensure that it is the UK parliament which decides the number of people allowed to come to the UK from Europe. Laws and regulations that govern us will be made in the UK; at elections people will be able to appoint or sack their politicians, secure in the knowledge that EU bureaucracy cannot undermine their wishes. Andrea will also prioritise new trade deals with the fastest growing parts of the world.

Throughout the referendum campaign, Andrea’s message was characterised by aspiration, optimism and hope and that would be a big part of her premiership.

She is a conviction politician. A true One Nation Tory, Andrea has been focused on social justice for the most vulnerable in our society for years. She has pledged that intervention in the early years and secure attachment between parent and child will be at the forefront of family policy. By intervening and investing early we can save ourselves from having to pick up the pieces of broken lives later on. As a founder and chair of new charities supporting the earliest years of life, Andrea knows how vital this is.

She has a proven record when it comes to finance and the economy. Her 25-year career before entering Parliament involved taking tough decisions and keeping cool in a crisis. Over the weekend that Barings went bust, Andrea was working with the late Eddie George, then Governor of the Bank of England. Part of her role was to ring financial institutions around the world in a difficult negotiation to calm everyone down and prevent a run on the banks.

This is the kind of leadership that confidence in our economy requires, and Andrea has already been true to form as a minister. In 2014, as Treasury Minister, she held detailed talks with the Icelandic government to recover £1.3 billion of the money used to bail out the Landsbanki estate during the 2008 financial crisis. As an Energy Minister, Andrea has participated in international negotiations at a global level to protect energy security, for example during bilateral discussions over electricity interconnectors.

I know from personal experience that Andrea is straight talking and always focussed on getting results, just what we need at this uncertain time. With a tough negotiation with the European Union ahead, I am convinced that this experience means Andrea has the tools to deliver.

Andrea Leadsom is the best candidate in this race, not only for leader of the Conservative Party but also for Prime Minister. The Brexit vote highlighted the divisions in the country, it didn’t cause them. The people have now spoken, they have given us their direction. We as MPs voting to select the final two, have a heavy responsibility now to deliver upon that referendum vote. Andrea passionately fought for the Brexit cause and the country knows that she will ensure that the Government does everything in its collective power to make it work for the UK.

75 comments for: Theresa Villiers: Leadsom is a true Brexiteer and a hardened negotiator – she would make a great Prime Minister

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