'Time to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK' - view of regional MP and new Brexit secretary Steve Barclay
PUBLISHED: 20:05 16 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:50 17 November 2018
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New Brexit secretary Steve Barclay has insisted it is time to finalise the withdrawal agreement and "deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK".
The Leave-supporting north east Cambridgeshire MP, who was appointed by prime minister Theresa May as part of a reshuffle, said: “We now need to keep up the momentum to finalise the withdrawal agreement and outline political declaration and deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK.”
Mr Barclay’s appointment came after Michael Gove reportedly turned down the post, saying he would only take it if he could renegotiate the EU withdrawal agreement.
Downing Street declined to say whether the Brexit Secretary post had been offered to anyone else before saying of Mr Barclay: “He was the Prime Minister’s choice for the job.”
The appointment of Mr Barclay is part of a reshuffle that has seen Amber Rudd return to Mrs May’s cabinet as the new Work and Pensions Secretary.
The reshuffle came just hours after Michael Gove offered the Prime Minister a lifeline by staying on in his Cabinet role.
The appointments followed the resignations of Dominic Raab and Esther McVey over the Brexit plan and came amid mounting expectation that the Prime Minister’s leadership will be put to a vote of MPs.
It is understood Mr Barclay’s job will be limited to the domestic delivery of EU withdrawal, preparations for Brexit either with or without a deal and shepherding legislation through Parliament.
In her first act in her new job, Ms Rudd delivered a pointed message to her colleagues: “This is a time for pulling together, for making sure we remember who we are here to serve, who we are here to help: that’s the whole of the country.
“I worry sometimes colleagues are too concerned about the Westminster bubble rather than keeping their eye on what our job is - to serve people.”
Ms Rudd was a prominent Remain campaigner during the referendum and her return to the Cabinet, in place of Brexiteer Ms McVey who resigned on Thursday, may do little to bridge divides within the Tory ranks.
The rehabilitation of Ms Rudd, who quit as Home Secretary in April in a row over immigration targets, comes after a report concluded she had been let down by her officials.
Who is Steve Barclay
In recent years the pace of Steve Barclay’s acceleration from back bench MP has quickened.
Following a stint in the whips office through to city minister and to the department of health he now finds himself if not at the prime minister’s right hand only an arm length’s away.
Barclay’s approach to constituency life has always been full-on but he likes to control of what the media takes from his visits locally.
His campaigns on ‘make it local’ for health services have enjoyed great success and influenced his ministerial work.
Barclay is also credited for unpacking the failings and lack of governance of the Greater Cambridgeshire and Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). A fervent supporter of devolution, he has been a consistent backer of the new combined authority for Cambridgeshire.
He will put Fenland on the map
The chairman of new Brexit Secretary’s North East Cambridgeshire constituency association tonight welcomed his promotion – but in the same interview felt it was time for the prime minister to go.
Councillor Jan French said she believes MP Steve Barclay was “the right man for the job and will put Fenland on the map” but had reservations about whether the current Brexit deal was right for the country.
“Personally I think it’s time for her to go,” she said of Prime Minister Theresa May.
“I accept she had a tough job to do once David Cameron threw his toys out of the pram and quit but I now believe it is time she stepped aside.”
Cllr French, however, like other Tories in the constituency is hoping Mr Barclay can still extract a better deal and she’s firmly backing his promotion.
“Like me he has always been a leaver and I’m pleased to see him get the job, even if no one else wanted it. What I am now hoping, like others, is that he delivers a better deal in what will be a tough but important job.”
Councillor Samantha Hoy of Wisbech, a prominent Conservative district and county councillor and leader of the town council, said: “I am unhappy with Theresa May’s Brexit plan as I don’t believe it delivers a true Brexit.
“The nation voted to leave and I feel that no deal is better than this bad deal.
“However I know Steve Barclay is a committed brexiteer and I have always found him to be an honourable man and a committed MP, so I hope he uses this role to push for change and a proper Brexit.”
More than 70 per cent of those who went to the polls in Fenland in the 2016 referendum voted to leave putting the NE Cambs constituency with one of the biggest percentages in the country of those opting to leave the European Union.
The contrast with Cambridge couldn’t have been more stark where the 71.6 per cent vote leave from Fenland contrasted with the city’s 73.8 per cent vote to remain.
Cambridgeshire as a whole become a microcosm of the rest of many other parts of the country where profound differences of opinion were found relatively near to each other.
Mr Barclay had not been regarded as a front runner for the new Brexit post and has not been thought of as a spokesman for the leave campaign.