The Brexit deal

I have had hundreds of emails in the last couple of weeks on both sides of the argument. But out and about, people often say to me: "Please can you politicians just get on with it."

I have been consistent in my approach to Brexit since the referendum.

Firstly, we must carry out the result and leave the EU. It was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to decide on our membership of the European Union, and the country voted Leave.

Secondly, as we leave the EU, we should do so in a way that works for the economy - for people's jobs and livelihoods - and for our future. When I get back from Parliament my children are often already fast asleep. I look at them curled up under their duvets and think how we must get this right for them and all the others like them, whose future is in our hands.

With this in mind, I have reflected on the deal. As you will know, there are two parts, the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration. The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the terms on which we leave the EU. It means we leave in March next year but avoid the disruption of No Deal. It means we leave the EU's political institutions and we will no longer pay vast sums into the EU budget. We will no longer have free movement and will have our own immigration policy. And it sets out rights for UK citizens already in the EU and vice versa.

Many businesses have urged me to support the deal, warning that No Deal will mean people losing their jobs and livelihoods. Last week I visited a local haulier who told me how difficult he is finding contingency planning. Without a deal, the number of UK lorries able to operate in the EU may be severely restricted. To prepare, he's tried handing cargo over to EU-registered lorries at Calais. So far, his trial runs show it doesn't work very well. He worries about the future for him and his 30 employees.

Then, for us in Kent, there's the question of what will happen at Dover. I visited the Port a couple of weeks ago, and they said the Implementation Period is crucial. In the event of No Deal (which means no Implementation Period) they expect time-consuming customs checks, particularly for plant and animal products. But the entire operation is based on lorries rolling on and off ferries, without delays.

For months, work has been going on to avoid Operation Stack. There's a plan for a contraflow on the M20 to keep traffic moving, but there's only room to queue a couple of thousand lorries. With 10,000 crossing every day, it won't take long to fill up. I am frustrated we don't have a better solution - but we don't. Nor is it realistic for freight to take other routes. There aren't hundreds of spare ships waiting to be requisitioned. We must decide based on the situation we are in, not the one we might like to be in.

The two main criticisms of the deal are the commitment to the £34-39 billion payment and the backstop - and these were the two things that concerned me most when I first read it.

The money is owed to the EU because of commitments already made. If we end up with No Deal, that doesn't mean we keep the money. And bear in mind that the EU previously argued for more than twice this amount.

The backstop is the arrangement we go into if we haven't agreed our future relationship by the end of 2020, and if we don't extend the Implementation Period. When I started writing this letter, I wrote "If there was anything I could re-negotiate with the EU, it would be this". As I write, the Prime Minister is in the Netherlands, the first in a series of meetings, and I hope she gets the EU to budge on this. But any agreement must guarantee a free-flowing border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Political Declaration outlines our future relationship with the EU - outside it. We will no longer be fighting the pressure to be part of ever closer union. We will have our own immigration policy and be able to make our own trade deals. We will no longer be in the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. We will have a free trade area with the EU, without tariffs or quotas. This makes sense, recognising that we're not about to tear up the regulations we have for workers' rights, safety, the environment and so on.

I recognise that the deal on the table is not the clean break that some want, while others passionately want to stay in. But to move forwards, and get an outcome that works for the country as a whole, both sides need to make compromises.

I am deeply aware of my responsibility to you, and to all the people I represent. Brexit has divided the country, it has divided political parties, it has divided communities and families. And while it has exposed so much anger and discontent, for the most part, Brexit is not the answer.

We must develop a more productive economy so people can earn more and have a better standard of living; we must offer better practical education options for those who have been left behind in the push towards academic education; we must support lifelong learning as the world changes and with it the skills people need; we must modernise health care and rethink social care so we can afford to look after everyone who needs looking after - all this and more are where we need to devote our efforts to make Britain better.