During the Referendum campaign I was clear that the Wealden Constituency Conservative Association would not take a position and would not campaign for one side or the other. Of course the officers and members of the Association held their own views and were free to air them and to campaign for whichever side they wished but not holding themselves out to be doing so on behalf of the Association. This was because I was aware that there were many different and very strong views held by all of you. To have campaigned would have been divisive and damaging. That was then and we are in a different position now.
The country voted to leave the EU; not to leave it partially. The majority of the people who voted to leave were not ignorant bigots or racists. They voted to leave as a matter of principle and appreciated that if we left the going would not be totally smooth; that the economy may initially suffer and we might, for a time, be poorer but that ultimately the benefits outweighed the difficulties.
The people of this constituency voted emphatically to leave. As a Conservative Party we have to deliver what we promised or the public will punish us at the ballot box and we will be out of office for a decade. Since the Chequers compromise position was made public we have received many telephone calls and emails complaining about it saying that it is a fudge and a betrayal. Consequently as a party we are between a rock and a hard place. If as a voluntary party we do not support the Prime Minister we will be said to have betrayed her, and yet if we do many of us feel that we will be betraying our principles and the long term good of the party. It is the most difficult situation I can remember in over 40 years as a member.
All I can say is that in my professional life I have negotiated many settlements and agreements, and as a qualified mediator I have seen many more, and it is almost unheard of for a party’s first offer (which the Chequers proposal essentially is) to be accepted or be expected to be accepted. Normally that offer would be rejected and negotiations would then really start and, hopefully, would result in a settlement less good than the original offer but better than the bottom line that the negotiating party had it its own mind. There is no indication that the other 27 nations will accept the Chequers proposal. There is no indication that the UK electorate would readily offer more. We seem to have boxed ourselves into a corner and the way forward is unclear.
If anyone wants to know what I think it is that this is still a country which punches above its weight, which because of its people can achieve more than the BBC suggests, and that the EU needs us and our money as much as we need a deal from them, so that a deal should be capable of being negotiated which is acceptable to the majority and which enables us to prosper as a nation. Rolling over and whistling Dixey is unlikely to achieve that.