Blog: I KNOW Rishi believes in Brexit and here’s the evidence, writes DR LIAM FOX MP – Express

I usually begin the process of deciding who to support by setting down the things that matter to me and then determining which candidate is the closest to that position. I want to see somebody who believes in Brexit and campaigned for it, who believes in free markets and free trade, who champions our precious Union and values the strength of our relationship with United States. I want someone who understands aspiration, the value of education and what it means to create opportunity, prosperity and hope in the UK. And, of course, someone who is likely to retain the votes won by the Conservatives in 2019 to enable us to beat Labour and their SNP allies at the next election.

It was the closeness of his beliefs that led me to throw my full weight behind Rishi Sunak in this contest.

Take the first, and arguably most important point: Brexit. Writing on his website in February 2016, just 8 months after he had been elected for the first time as a Member of Parliament, Rishi set out his beliefs on leaving the European Union.

Calling it a “once in a generation opportunity for our country to take back control of our destiny,” he went on to argue “that our nation will be freer, fairer and more prosperous outside the EU [because] we can decide our own immigration policy, ensure our own laws and courts are sovereign and enhance our position as a dynamic, outward-looking trading economy.”

Brexit is the greatest constitutional issue of our time and he was on the right side. Right from the beginning of the debate, he followed his conscience and his beliefs to support Brexit.

Such a decision, opposing the views of then Prime Minister David Cameron, would not have been easy to take because of his limited time in office. Yet Rishi took it because he believed in the benefits Brexit has and will continue to deliver.

This belief has been unwavering in the time since. For me, that is what leadership is all about.

During the 2019 General Election campaign, for example, in many of the seats that were strongly pro-Brexit, he was in the trenches fervently campaigning to “Get Brexit Done,” backing up his numerous public interviews to ensure we won the largest Conservative majority since 1987 and the largest share of the popular vote for any party since 1979.

As Chancellor, he used Brexit freedoms to reform the taxation of alcohol, air passenger travel, energy-saving materials and shipping. Just as the EU were clamping down on them, he brought in free ports to boost economic activity. Free ports were a cause he had personally championed for years, including in a report for the Centre of Policy Studies that he wrote in 2016, this also shows his belief in free trade and free markets, both of which we as Conservatives must strongly support.

Alongside this, he has been the driving force behind using our Brexit freedoms to unleash investment.

He has been leading ambitious reforms to EU rules like Solvency II that will allow billions of pounds of institutional capital to be invested more productively in the UK economy.

Again, as Conservatives we must support investment that underpins innovation. This is a how we create wealth, hope and opportunity in a capitalist system.

He has shown he can be decisive and clearheaded in a crisis. Had it not been for his quick response, during the pandemic, with the introduction of the furlough scheme, how many British jobs and British businesses would have been lost? We could have been dealing with today’s wave of global inflation with sky-high levels of unemployment, instead of the record numbers in work today. That is no small achievement.

Prime ministers have to weather many crises during their time in office, Rishi has already been tested in one of the most difficult challenges faced by any Chancellor in our lifetime and come through the test courageously and effectively.

But, we must always remember that we as Conservatives are not just electing a new leader, we are electing the next Prime Minister.

The person chosen must have the necessary qualities required for the position, specifically the experience, intelligence and vision to set up a new Government and have it in place quickly.

That government must represent the talent across the whole Parliamentary party. Conservatives need to remember that we avoid external coalitions by maintaining an internal one, something that our most successful leaders have understood and implemented. He has shown in the TV debates that he is on top of all the details across government.

I believe the team supporting him shows not only the depth, but the breadth of support, amongst MPs, the ones who know the candidates best.

Then there is the question of the next General Election. Of all the candidates running for leadership, only Rishi is polling ahead of Keir Starmer. That means only Rishi is best placed to ensure we beat Labour and deliver for the British people.

Finally, there is the issue of character. Mrs Thatcher used to say “if you want to be popular, go into light entertainment – politics is the wrong career for you”.

I have been deeply impressed by Rishi’s willingness to take difficult decisions, even if they are unpopular.

Politics needs to stop being an episode of X Factor and start dealing with the serious issues facing both our country and the wider international community.

I believe that if he is successful, Rishi Sunak will lead with responsibility and integrity, returning our Party to true Conservative values and delivering on the agenda he sets out for the British people.

The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP is a former Defence and International Trade Secretary. He was the UK’s Nominee to be Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2020.

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