2016 was a non-stop roller-coaster ride in politics and I have personally loved most of it! We voted to leave the European Union in June. Theresa May is our second female Prime Minister. Jeremy Corbyn survived a second leadership election. Donald Trump is going to become the next US President this month. We have had several by-elections since last summer. On a personal level, I was liberated and felt ready to come out as gay in October just after the Conservative Party conference. It has also been great to meet so many inspiring people across the country and have the opportunity to hear lots of passionate voices. And now one has to wonder what 2017 will bring for our wonderful country and the rest of the world.
Over six months ago from the vote to leave the European Union, the outlook is still looking very positive. A lot of people who were on my side of the referendum and voted Leave are worried that Article 50 has not been triggered yet. They are also concerned about Theresa May’s previous stances on leaving the EU and whether she will deliver the full Brexit they voted for.
I am not surprised that those people feel the way they do. There are clusters of MPs in the Commons – particularly on the Lib Dem and Labour benches – who deep down still do not accept the democratic decision and remain out of touch with the many constituencies, like Staffordshire Moorlands and Stoke-on-Trent, who voted for Brexit. The Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn also keep giving very mixed messages on whether or not they will accept us leaving the single market and customs union.
Whilst I understand those concerns, I have absolute confidence in our Prime Minister Theresa May to deliver a smooth, full Brexit that benefits the entire country. We need to give her and the government the flexibility they need to secure the best possible deal, particularly for businesses and ordinary people. If she wants to create a country that works for everyone then this latter part is absolutely vital.
In 2017 we need to come together as a country, Leavers and Remainers, and get behind making the most of the opportunities provided by Brexit for us to reach out into the wider world. That means that people who voted Leave need to listen to and respect those who voted Remain. That also means that people who voted Remain need to accept the largest democratic mandate in this country’s history. This is why I am proud to co-lead Undivided, a campaign seeking to get the best possible Brexit deal for young people across the country and to ensure that we have a strong voice throughout the two-year or more negotiation process.
Therefore, I believe that we need to ensure young people are a major part of the Brexit negotiation process and have their say in what the final deal should look like. Young people will be able to do this through Undivided by visiting our website at www.weareundivided.co.uk to submit and vote on their demands. We have received over 70,000 votes and one of the main findings we are getting is that young people see themselves as global citizens and want us to become a more global country post-Brexit. Demands like this will be channelled through the new All Party Parliamentary Group on a Better Brexit for Young People, which will act as a bridge between young people and decision makers.
Let’s hope that the New Year brings about some much needed national unity so we can get beyond any divisions we saw during 2016. Let’s move forward together in 2017 and create an open, tolerant, global, inclusive and independent post-Brexit Britain.
Joe Porter is a Parish Councillor in Staffordshire Moorlands and Co-Leader of Undivided, a national campaign seeking to get the best possible Brexit deal for young people across the UK. He is also Deputy Chairman (Political) for West Midlands Conservative Future. He was the President of Keele Students for Britain and the Vote Leave Constituency Campaign Coordinator for Staffordshire Moorlands. Joe studies Marketing and Politics at Keele University, and is a Trustee of Keele Student Union.