This column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle on Friday 30 December 2016.
Whatever else 2016 is remembered for, this will be the year when a new word really entered the English language: Brexit.
A couple of weeks ago I voted in the House of Commons for Brexit and for the Government to invoke so-called Article 50 – the process by which we get the ball rolling on Britain leaving the EU – at the end of March next year.
In the referendum I campaigned to Remain. I did so knowing most people in Barnsley would vote to Leave, which you may think is a little counter-intuitive for a politician.
But politicians should also do what they think is right and stand up for what they believe in – not simply go with the tide.
I was worried what might happen to the economy if we came out (with forecasts for growth being revised downwards and government borrowing set to be billions higher, I still am). When the economy goes belly up, places like Barnsley tend to struggle the most.
I also never believed the claim from some Tories and UKIP (who want to privatise the NHS) that Brexit would deliver billions more for our cash-strapped National Health Service.
Most importantly I did understand and shared many of the concerns that people had about the EU, especially the scale and pace of ‘free movement of people’ that can put pressure on communities and have a downward impact on pay and conditions. I’ve argued for donkey’s years that Labour needed to champion tough new controls on immigration, despite its undoubted benefits in some areas.
But in the end I voted for Brexit because we must now respect the will of the people.
Yes, the Government needs a proper plan. Brexit can’t mean Britain going backwards on jobs and workers’ rights.
But I think it’s our job to get on with it – uncertainty itself is bad for the economy. And it’s our job to get the best deal for Britain and for Barnsley. That’s exactly what I intend to do in 2017.