‘Brexit? It is about far more than jobs and cheap flights’

East of England MEP John Flack

East of England MEP John Flack - Credit: Archant

It is still too early to say exactly what impact Brexit will have on jobs, business and personal finances.

MEP John Flack has urged the government to ensure the best deal possible for the region's fishermen

MEP John Flack has urged the government to ensure the best deal possible for the region's fishermen Photo: PA / Owen Humphreys - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

But there are 73 people who already know for certain that Brexit will leave them without jobs after March 29 next year.

Britain’s MEPs might be returning from Brussels but not all of them will be sorry.

Conservative East of England MEP John Flack will be celebrating. He is an ardent Brexiteer who only took up his post in Europe last year but is eagerly counting down the days until Britain quits the European Union.

He is supremely confident about Britain’s ability to survive outside the EU and believes Brexit is about far more than “jobs” and “cheap flights” insisting it is about the “whole future of our country”.

Political Editor Richard Porritt interviews MEP John Flack

Political Editor Richard Porritt interviews MEP John Flack - Credit: Archant

“I have stood four times for the European Parliament – I first stood in 1994,” he said. “For 25 years I have wanted to represent people but also – particularly in the past – I did not want to leave Europe for the Europhiles in the Conservative Party.

“People like Chris Pattern – clever, principled people – but their view was the UK was finished and we needed to be part of the United States of Europe. It’s the same view that David Cameron would have had, that Tony Blair had. It is a view that I profoundly disagree with.

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“Already I have been able to help people which has been hugely personally rewarding – that is another big reason as to why I wanted to do this job even for such a short time.

“But also to actually steady the ship a bit because there is a lot of concern about how the Brexit negotiations are going or whether Brexit is the right thing. I am so certain that it is the right future I would like to think I am able to reassure them.”

But why is he so certain? What is it about Brexit that Mr Flack feels so passionate about?

“The big one for me is sovereignty,” he said. “The EU is all about creating the United States of Europe. There are people that will disagree. David Cameron would say ‘we could have got them going in a different direction’ – no you couldn’t. Believe me, since it was first founded this is what is has been all about.

“This is not about whether you can get on a cheap flight to Malaga or how much it will cost if you are downloading a video on your phone in Poland. It shouldn’t even be so much about jobs. It is about the whole future of our country.

“I am very proud to be British. Why on earth would we consider pooling our sovereignty?”

Regarding those who think leaving the EU will be disastrous for the UK, Mr Flack has some confident words: “We are going to Brexit, we will move on and it will be wonderful.”

But when pressed on whether the extra funds for the NHS promised on the side of the infamous Leave campaign bus will be made available he avoided the question.

He does have some concerns though. Especially when it comes to animal welfare.

“I care passionately about the welfare of animals,” he said. “One of the fears I do have is in the rush to sign trade deals food standards and animal welfare suffer. Many people have said that food prices will come down after Brexit because we can import cheaper goods – but let’s not do that at the cost of animal welfare.

“And I am opposed to imports of chlorinated chicken.”

And he also shares the concerns of the fishing community who voted heavy to leave the EU based on the Common Fisheries Policy which many believe was unfair to Britain’s industry. And campaigners have raised fears that little will change during the transitional period.

“The British fishing industry was raped by the Common Fisheries Policy. The lives that were ruined was devastating. Anything that gets us out of that policy must be welcomed.

“During the implementation phase there is not the immediate change the fishermen and I wanted. This is a negotiation but I am adamant the British fisherman must not be scarified at the altar of the City of London.

“I have heard people say ‘well there are 30,000 fisherman but the City of London brings very much more wealth’ – both have to be accommodated. I hope that our government does not betray the fisherman to get a slightly better deal on selling financial instruments in Frankfurk or whatever.”

Only time will tell if Mr Flack’s confidence is misplaced. The likelihood is there will have to be compromises that harder Brexiteers like him will find difficult to swallow. His campaigning may well be far from over.

Hard or soft Brexit?

There is a lot of talk about the type of Brexit the UK is negotiating.

Only this week former foreign secretary David Miliband warned against a so-called hard Brexit but it is a term that Mr Flack scoffs at even claiming the “fuss” about the Irish border is an attempt at a land grab by those who want a united Ireland.

“I don’t recognise the term ‘hard’ I only recognise it as a clean Brexit,” he said. “There should be no customs union but there is absolutely no need for a hard border in Northern Ireland.

“I went on a fact-finding visit to Northern Ireland. I wanted to go and see it for myself. I came away with no doubt that the fuss being caused is mischief making by the Irish government and the republicans who see this is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity for a land grab or at least a start at making a big shift to move Northern Ireland away from the UK.

“And also Remainers see the value for them in playing up this issue. There was a huge Leave majority in the East of England. They were adamant that leaving the EU meant leaving the custom union, cutting immigration ... they knew what they were voting for.”

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