Royston Smith is the MP for Southampton Itchen
In 2016 we asked the British public to decide if we should remain a member of the European Union or leave. We didn’t ask them to choose how we should leave, we asked them if we should stay or go.
What has happened in the last three years since the majority of voters chose to leave has been driven not by the voters but by politicians, former Prime Ministers, the media, and commentators. While I was campaigning to leave, people discussed many things with me. Most of it was about uncontrolled immigration, our sovereignty and international trade. No one talked about a deal or no deal.
We all know there has to be some sort of agreement with the European Union, even if there is no deal. It is the same as when anyone exits an agreement that involves another stakeholder – we will need to honour our obligations and commitments in law. The challenge for the next Prime Minister will be to explain how we can honour the referendum result and leave in a way that carries the support of most people in the country. The success of the Brexit Party in the European Elections has made that challenge even more difficult.
I know from talking to many of the candidates standing to be the next Leader of the Conservative Party that they all agree on one thing: we must leave the EU. But Brexit is not the only test our next Prime Minister will face.
Our Party, like the country is divided and the next Prime Minister will have to show considerable skill in uniting Conservative MPs not just on Brexit but on the many other important issues that have not received the amount of attention they deserve in the past three years.
Brexit has sucked all the energy out of Government and Parliament. It is encouraging to see so many people engage in political debate, but the discussions that our society has needs to be more than how, when, or if we leave the EU.
There are many challenges that our country faces, from how we deliver our public services, to how we educate our young people so that the UK can continue to compete with the world’s emerging economies and how we prepare our workforce for the advance of Artificial Intelligence and the technological revolution. It’s not just domestic issues but international ones too, such as how we and our allies should respond to threats from autocratic regimes, rogue states and terrorism.
The next Prime Minister will need to set out a vision for the country which is compelling and achievable. We need more affordable homes, jobs with career prospects and security, people need to feel safe on the streets and in their homes and our young people need to believe that their lives will be at least as good as those enjoyed by the generations before them. Our healthcare must be as good and responsive as the best in the world, and our military must have the support to project power around the world and deter aggressors.
These things are possible and with the right leader deliverable. We need a range of policies, an understanding of the challenges and a solutions-based approach that will unite the Conservative Party and most importantly, our country. I have listened to all the arguments and in my opinion, there is one candidate that stands out above the others. That is why I will be supporting Kit Malthouse to become the Leader of the Conservative Party and the next Prime Minister of our country.