The View From Westminster

Oliver's monthly column for the Plymouth Herald from March 2017:

Following last year's EU referendum, on Wednesday the Prime Minister triggered the Lisbon Treaty's Article 50 which begins the two-year process for the UK to withdraw from the EU.

Whilst I voted and campaigned for us to remain in, the UK voted 51.89 per cent to 48.11 per cent to come out and Plymouth voted 60 per cent to 40 per cent for Brexit.

In February the Government set out in a White Paper the 12 principles that will inform its negotiating position.

These key issues will cover trade, immigration, the future of EU nationals living in Britain and expats in the EU, sovereignty, the border between Northern and the Republic of Ireland and devolving more powers to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies and executives.

With Article 50 now triggered, the Government will soon publish the Great Repeal Bill putting all European laws into British legislation. Once passed, Parliament will then go through all the EU legislation which governs UK laws.

It will be interesting to see whether the forthcoming White Paper suggests what jurisdiction, if any, the European Courts of Justice will have over British businesses trading with the EU.

I don't think the Government will want to sign up to the internal market if that means free movement of people.

It remains very difficult for us to be in the Customs Union if that means the UK can't have trade agreements with other non-EU countries. The divorce settlement may come down to the amount we have to pay and our subscriptions to have access to various research projects.

British businesses will want to have free and easy access to sell their goods abroad – including access to their customers on the continent and the Republic of Ireland.

Businesses like Princess Yachts will be keen to avoid having surcharges placed on their boats when exporting to Europe.

Britain's exit of the EU could have significant impact on Plymouth and its global reputation for marine science engineering and research.

As the home of the Royal Navy, one of the UK's biggest fish markets and with research institutions like Plymouth Marine laboratories, the Marine Biological Association, the National Aquarium and Plymouth University, Plymouth plays a significant part in the UK's marine and science economy.

While it is vital that the Government encourages these research institutes to continue to be fully engaged with their EU counterparts, it also needs to encourage them to build links with other similar organisations in the wider world – the US, South Korea etc.

This needs to be accompanied by having the necessary financial and skilled migrant resources to continue to deliver solutions on climate change.

Since 2000 I have consistently campaigned for UK fishing waters to be brought back under UK control. To ensure there is enough fish in the sea for our fishermen to earn a living, I suspect we will still need to agree with the EU how much fish can be caught. We need to ensure that Britain has a greater share on these quotas – 60 per cent UK, 40 per cent EU.

In triggering Article 50, we will have a chance to decide how much fish should be taken out of UK waters and who can do this.

While our Royal Navy must have enough ships to police our waters, the regulatory organisations such as the Marine Management Organisation, and local voices like the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities, must have a more coordinated approach with the necessary powers.

I fully accept the result of last June's EU referendum. It was a decision that British voters made and I am not going to argue with them. However, I am keen to understand why Plymouth voters came to this decision.

Was it concern over the level of immigration, was it about taking control of our own destiny, or were there other concerns?

That is why I am mounting a series of public exhibitions in May and June - details of which can be found on my website.