On 7th February 2017, I woke up in an isolation room at Kings College Hospital where I was receiving chemotherapy. My blood counts were rock bottom and the chances of an infection high.
Weak as a kitten, I got dressed. My friend and parliamentary neighbour the Brexit Secretary, who was then a government whip, met me at the entrance to the ward with a hospital porter and a wheel chair. He took me out to the chief whip’s car and we were driven to Parliament so that I could vote for the Article 50 bill.
Since that moment I have done everything in my power to deliver a Brexit deal that protects jobs and livelihoods, that preserves our national unity and international standing. I voted for the former Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement on three separate occasions – while the current Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House were all breaking the Conservative whip and voting with the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Chancellor to stop Brexit happening.
I worked with colleagues across the House to promote an alternative Brexit deal – Common Market 2.0 – and secured the support of Labour, the SNP and Plaid Cymru for a plan that would have taken us out of the European Union’s political arrangements but kept us in the Single Market.
I am ready to vote for a revised Withdrawal Agreement if the Prime Minister can secure changes through a genuine negotiation with the EU. I still believe we need to deliver what a majority of my constituents and of the British people voted for in the referendum in 2016.
What I will not do is allow a No Deal Brexit. It would devastate sheep farmers and automotive businesses in my constituency and across the country. It would put our union with Scotland and Northern Ireland in jeopardy. It would be the single most protectionist step taken by any democratic country since the Great Depression, raising tariffs and trade barriers between us and our largest market.
Taking this stand cost me the support of my local party and in April led me to resign the Conservative whip. But I have no regrets. I can look people in the eye, knowing that I have done what I believe to be right and put the interests of the country before my own comfort or career.