My Week 13/10/2016

On Sunday I attended a service in Arundel for the town's excellent Mayor, James Stewart, who works so hard for his local community.

James and his team, along with fellow Arundel resident and another dedicated local volunteer, Derek Waller, have been trying to help residents of the town who have been in great difficulty since a section of the river wall collapsed in January.

I've been working closely with them and this week in the Commons will meet the residents' insurers and the Environment Agency to try and sort out a solution.

No-one is accepting responsibility for the repairs, which is obviously deeply unsatisfactory.  The Agency says that the law is clear that the owners are responsible, but the insurers do not agree.

The Commons returned on Monday and I attended a statement and then a debate on Brexit.  My view is that the outcome of the referendum must be respected: Britain will leave the EU.

But it is not only right for Parliament to debate the terms on which Britain leaves the EU and the new arrangements we will make: it is our duty to scrutinise the biggest change our country will make in a generation.

There is a great deal of business concern - including locally - that we should retain the best possible access to the European market, with which we do nearly half of our trade.

It is a great ambition that Britain should strike trade deals across the globe, but these cannot substitute, let alone rapidly, for our nearest and biggest market of 500 million people in which business is currently able to trade without barriers.

For instance, I've heard people say that we should do a trade deal with countries like Australia, and then everything will be fine.  But apart from taking years to negotiate, such a deal would cover less than 2 per cent of our trade.

I made the point in the Commons that seeking to clarify the terms of Brexit, and reassure business about the impact, is certainly not to frustrate the will of the people.

The ballot paper in the referendum asked if people wanted to leave the EU or remain.  The people - by a narrow but decisive margin - decided to leave, and so we must.  But the referendum question did not ask what the terms of our new relationship would be.

Ministers will negotiate the new deal, but it must be debated and ultimately agreed by Parliament.  After all, weren't we told that leaving the EU would mean returning decision making to our own elected House of Commons?

Nick Herbert