Today is a day that, at times over the past three years, I didn’t believe would come. Today the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.
It is a day that, for me, is one of reflection. Not jubilation, nor despair, but a day when I look back on the journey we’ve been on as a country- and indeed personally, since David Cameron announced his intention to hold a referendum on UK membership of the EU, seven years ago.
It is a journey that we started when I was in University. On 23rd January 2013 I can remember watching his Bloomberg speech in the front room of my student flat in Aberdeen. Today the journey ends with me sitting writing this in the library of the House of Commons.
In 2016 I was working in Brussels- working in the European Parliament, when Cameron announced the date of the referendum; by the morning 24th of June that year I was sitting in the Scottish Parliament, watching him resign as Prime Minister – the sheer scale of what had happened and shock of the result still sinking in all around me. I, like most of Scotland, had voted to remain.
But, for the past three years, I have served in Parliament as we have struggled and battled to deliver on that democratic result. For the first six months of last year I was up close and personal with the Brexit battle and a small part of the immense effort made to try and leave, first in March and then in June, in good order, with a deal as I served in Number 10 Downing Street as Theresa May’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, or, aide. Sadly, for Theresa, it was not to be and I stood side by side with Philip in Downing Street that fateful May day as she announced her resignation. I was behind her as she performed her last PMQs and clapped her out of Downing Street last July.
But I backed Boris for leader because I knew that only he could keep the Conservative Party united- whilst delivering Brexit. And I knew he could do it with a deal. And so he has. It was not easy. The last six months of the year were horrendous for every Member of Parliament. The mood in Parliament was bitter, divisive. Old friends ceased speaking to one another. The country looked on aghast.
But we made it. The General Election returned a large majority for the Conservatives and today we leave the European Union. We are not leaving Europe. We leave on good terms. We leave with a good deal. The opportunities for this country are remarkable. As we look to cement old friendships and develop new relationships, I truly believe this country- this outward looking, international, open country, will thrive.
We have work to do. But today I reflect on a journey that’s taken me from Urquhart Road to the Palace of Westminster, via Brussels and Downing Street. And I reflect on the battles fought; the battles lost, and the battles won. And I know that for Britain, the future is bright.
This article first appeared in the Press and Journal on the 31st January 2020.