The Trials and Tribulations of an ‘Unworkable’ Select Committee of 21

Now that Article 50 has been triggered, and both the Great Repeal Bill and EU White Paper published, we are now, at last, formally commencing the process for Britain exiting the European Union.

As we do, it is important that we move forward and look positively to an exciting future that works for everyone - not regurgitate past arguments and debates on whether we should Leave or Remain.

Unfortunately, however, it is clear that elements within the Labour Party, and virtually all Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists still do not want Brexit to happen. They would rather look to the past and do their utmost to wreck any positive actions, rather than look optimistically to the future. You only have to see how they behave on the issue.

Of course we all want and need for the Government to be scrutinised, such as by the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union on which I and 20 other Members of Parliament sit. Scrutiny is pivotal to all democracies. But the tone, anger and behaviour of those who oppose Brexit is as poor as you will ever see.

That is why I could not sign up to all of the Brexit Committee's latest Report entitled, Government's Negotiating Objectives: The White Paper. Not only is its tone about our Conservative Government relentlessly negative, it suggests, erroneously, that the Government have not set out clearly what its intention and approach is to secure a successful Brexit.

Whilst this Committee, like all Select Committees, has a role in scrutinising and guiding the Government and perhaps suggesting policies to follow, it has to take into account the wider picture, especially those issues outside our Government's control.

In particular, the latest Report does not sufficiently take into account the need for a co-operative attitude and a spirit of good neighbourliness from the European Commission. The British-EU negotiation is not a one-way street.

Further, the Brexit Committee's Report fails to take into account the needs of the 27 EU states in ensuring that Brexit also works for them given the fact that those countries need a free-trade deal with us as well and sell more to us than we sell to them. Nor will relying on World Trade Organisation rules be in the interests of the '27', which is why the Committee should have been clearer that this is the case rather than just placing all of the emphasis and pressure on our own Government.

The Report reads as if it expects the UK to be the only one that has to 'give' and our European neighbours to 'take'. That is not a view that I, nor my sound minded colleagues on the Committee, would be 'bounced into' - far from it in fact. Hence we made our disquiet and intentions clear in our private deliberations with the rest of the Select Committee. We were also clear in making this disquiet known, frankly, when we were first told of the imminent draft report two days before we all received it.

One would hope that the 'Remain' majority on the Committee will at last accept the result of last June's Referendum and take a more pragmatic and positive, less gloomy, approach in the future.  A bit like we did when confronted with their partisan Report.

As we face the opportunities ahead of us on this momentous journey, our shared values, interests in ensuring the wellbeing and best outcome for UK plc and our ambitions for trade and links across the whole world can - and must - bring us all together.