Today, Prime Minister May has triggered Article 50 signalling the start of a 2 year period to negotiate the UKs exit from the European Union. I have said many times since the Referendum in June last year that we must accept the outcome of the vote but it is now more important than ever to watch the government closely and it is my job to stand up for the interests of people living in my constituency.
Last year I conducted an extensive survey sent to every house in the constituency asking what people here in Selly Oak constituency thought. Although half of the constituency backed Remain (Bournville and Selly Oak wards) while the others backed Leave (Billesley and Brandwood wards) there was a lot of agreement about how we should go forward on some important issues.
The majority of people were concerned about increases in the cost of living as well as employment and job security. Unemployment in Selly Oak constituency is now in the top 10% in the country so for me protecting jobs and the economy must be a priority for our exit negotiations. How will we protect investment and funding for our flourishing motor industry, for our universities and life sciences sector? And how do we make sure we are equipping our young people to meet the demands of the jobs of the future? Any exit deal needs to make sure that Britain is still an attractive place to invest in and our key industries and jobs of the future are at the heart of our economic and industrial strategy.
On immigration, my constituents have told me they are in favour of fair and sensible controls on immigration from the EU. 66% of people in Billesley and Brandwood thought in future EU citizens who want to work in the UK should have to apply for a work permit and 63% thought it was reasonable for British nationals to apply for a work permit if they wish to work in the EU. Just over half (53%) of people living in Bournville and Selly Oak wards thought EU citizens should be required to apply for a work permit to work in the UK but only 39% of those thought British nationals should have to apply for a work permit to work in the EU.
What is absolutely clear from my survey is that people across Billesley, Brandwood, Bournville and Selly Oak believe the Government should guarantee the rights of EU nationals already living and working in the UK (74%). I believe this is something the Government could and should commit to straight away.
We are living in an increasingly global and connected world and I think it is vitally important that we continue to work with our EU neighbours on security and cross-border crime. Britain has always been an outward looking country and I think we should be strengthening ties with Europe when it comes to matters of national security.
There are of course many other areas that will be subject to negotiation but I believe these priorities must be central to the exit talks. Leaving the EU is not going to be a straight forward or easy process and we need to make sure we get the best deal we can for Birmingham and Selly Oak constituency so that no regions or nations are left behind.
My top 3 priorities for the Brexit negotiations:
1. A Clear plan to protect jobs and the economy
2. Fair controls on immigration and a guarantee for EU nationals already living and working in the UK
3. Continue to collaborate with EU countries on security and cross-border crime