This might be the week that the Northern Powerhouse died.
As the news is dominated by internal conflict within the Conservative Party, one thing becomes clear: no leadership candidate to be our next Prime Minister will be a champion of the North East of England. Indeed, we have barely even had lip service paid to the region, except for another commitment that the Northern Powerhouse will continue. Now, more than ever before, we need concrete definition, not vague promises. This is a region built on coal and steel: we know that you need strong foundations to ground the industries of the future.
The people have voted in the EU referendum and I respect their decision. They have not made the decision that I hoped for, but it is a decision I accept and will work my hardest to get the people of the North East the best deal possible in our exit negotiations from the European Union. The North East has, thus far, been highly dependent on EU money, and was due to receive £726m in EU funds over the next five years. Whoever our next Prime Minister is, they need to replace this money for the region, and possibly even increase it. People in my constituency are already facing uncertainty over our status in the Single Market, and as the North East is highly dependent on exports, we will soon need answers on this, too.
I will continue to represent my constituents throughout all of this process. I will make sure their voices are heard within the European Parliament on a whole range of issues, including defending their rights at work, continuing to fight to bring jobs connected to the North Sea Grid, a collaboration between EU member-states and Norway to create an integrated offshore energy grid which links wind farms and other renewable energy sources across the northern seas of Europe, to this region, and trying to get the best deal possible for the UK in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. I invite my constituents to let me know their concerns about and their hopes for an exit, and what they think the most important elements of a plan for Brexit for the North East should involve.
This will be a long process, and I am committed and focused to representing my region through this difficult time.
We will not accept a Tory Brexit. It is vitally important that this is not a negotiation carried out by a small grouping within the Conservative Party, and which deliberately ignores northern voices. We need cross-party consensus and a plan, a real plan, which has contingencies and projections and guarantees. We are living in a time of great upheaval and great change, and what the people who voted in this referendum deserve is change which is for the better and not for the worse, and that is what I will spend the rest of my time in the European Parliament fighting for.