January Derbyshire Telegraph Column

A new year is upon us and let me wish all Derby Telegraph readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019.

My family’s year will be very different because we lost our beloved Ben just before Christmas.

I would like to thank the many people who have sent us messages of support or who attended his funeral.

The death of our son has hit us hard but we have been overwhelmed by the kindness which has been shown.

We are also heartened when we think of his legacy – our two wonderful grandchildren and the many lives he touched.

‘Positivity’ is the word which so many have used in tributes to Ben. Therefore, I know he would want us to look forward.

A new year gives us a chance to do just that.

This promises to be one of great change for the United Kingdom and I believe there will also be huge opportunities.

But there are questions to be answered first.

This month we will have the key vote over whether to accept Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal which I, among many MPs, found so disappointing.

For obvious reasons, I have been out of the loop of much of the goings-on in parliament during the last three weeks but it seems that little has changed.

Since her no confidence vote, Mrs May seems to have been on a regular shuttle to Brussels to try to negotiate changes in the Irish border backstop.

I hope that the Prime Minister is successful and that the European Union suddenly offers some late Christmas presents.

Of course, I agree with her desire for the Conservative Party to move forward together because I think we are the best chance for post-Brexit Britain.

However, she needs to persuade us and others in parliament that her deal is in the country’s best interests ahead of the meaningful vote.

Last month it was so clear that she was going to face a huge defeat that she delayed it and unless the proverbial rabbit is pulled out of the bag, it is hard to see how her deal will be approved when parliament reconvenes.

Nevertheless, if and when it is rejected, I don’t believe that will be the end of the story.

We ought not to forget that 53% of imports into the UK are from Europe and remind ourselves of the huge contribution of UK tourists to countries such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece.

In other words, it is entirely in the interests of the EU to avoid a no-deal scenario.

Currently, I believe its key players are involved in a game of brinkmanship which they think they have already won.

The question is: What will they do if parliament doesn’t support Mrs May?

Will they really pull up the proverbial drawbridge and refuse to negotiate further?

I don’t believe so – therefore, Mrs May and her team need to play a harder and firmer game than they have so far.

I am sure that a more credible deal can be achieved but I am equally certain that tough bargaining is needed.

There is still no doubt in mind that Brexit will bring better results for Britain in the long term and that will be worth any bumps in the road in the short term.

Interestingly, regardless of the nature of media coverage, my constituents are resolute in wanting to leave the EU.

It is their determination as much as my belief in this country which gives me cause to feel great hope for 2019.

I also owe it to our son, Ben, to favour positivity over negativity whatever the circumstance.