Although the EU Referendum divided the country in two last June, and while York voted clearly to remain in the EU, my conversations with constituents since the summer has shown that the city is more united than divided.
When I spoke to some grandparents they explained they voted to leave the EU, because they believed this was in the best interest of their grandchildren. The grandchildren they were with voted to remain for exactly the same reason. It emphasised strongly what really matters to people. On probing deeper they all wanted the same; good jobs, a house they could afford and services available when they needed them.
As I passed through the lobbies of Westminster to ensure that the local will of York Central residents was reflected in Parliament, my mind was on what happens next, as this is even more important.
Of course, I have serious concerns, every responsible politician should, but as the Prime Minister, moves forward it is vital that her focus switches to fulfilling her duty. The first responsibility of any Government is to protect our national security, closely followed by the need to determine economic security.
At the end of the process, I believe that there are eight clear tests that the Government must pass:
- Defence and Foreign Affairs – Is the security of the UK enhanced by the UK leaving the EU?
- Employment – Does leaving the EU result in high quality jobs available?
- Economy – Has the cost of living increased in contrast with wages?
- Health, social services, police, education, welfare, housing, local government – Are public services functioning in response to the needs people have?
- Environment – Is our environment enhanced and are we responding to the threat of climate change?
- Community – Are communities more integrated and strengthened?
- Research – Are our universities advancing research at the same pace as it did previously?
- Farming – Has leaving the EU improved our food security and the viability of farmers?
You will be able to add your own criteria, but the main question must be, does this process provide a better future or not? The coming months will answer this question.
There is one further factor that I will be monitoring very closely; the incidence of hate crime. There is no place for anyone to judge themselves to be superior to another, and everyone must learn to value others as they would want to be valued themselves.
Winston Churchill believed in the strength of the union to ‘eliminate nationalism and warmongering’, as he put it, as a community in which we can “dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom”. Wise words, since whatever our relationship with the EU in the future, our British values must not be supressed.
I will continue to be your voice throughout these negotiations, and hope that you will continue to be vocal about the things that matter to you. As I have said, from the beginning of this process, if the deal is not good enough, then we should not accept second best.