New Brexit minister Steve Barclay gets a warm welcome from his NE Cambs constituency - but not so much support for Prime Minister Theresa May

PUBLISHED: 18:25 16 November 2018

Can MP Steve Barclay go the distance in his new job as Brexit Secretary? Clearly the opening of  Littleport Leisure Centre this year showed he has the stamina.. PHOTO: Ian Carter

Can MP Steve Barclay go the distance in his new job as Brexit Secretary? Clearly the opening of Littleport Leisure Centre this year showed he has the stamina.. PHOTO: Ian Carter

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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 widely regarded as a front runner for the new Brexit ministerial post and has not been thought of as a prominent spokesman for the vote leave campaign.

However earlier this week, in his role as health minister, he wrote that “a question that a number of people have raised is whether they will continue to be able to get healthcare in Europe after we leave the EU, for example if they are retired in France or Spain or going on holiday to Greece or Italy.

“We are determined as a Government to ensure that both British citizens living, working and travelling to Europe and EU citizens coming to the UK are able to continue with the current healthcare arrangements.”

He said: “On behalf of the Government, I have introduced legislation to Parliament to enable these arrangements to continue, which should help the nearly 200,000 British pensioners living across Europe and the many constituents who travel to Europe on holiday.”

And two years ago, during a debate over the possibility of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, and when he was city minister, he said: “With Brexit expected by 2019, the importance of the third runway on economic growth and international trade were underlined during a meeting (of the CBI) and I sat in the Chamber to hear the Chancellor highlight the significant economic benefits and how they outweigh any concerns.”

Mr Barclay said then that: “I am confident that not only will the United Kingdom succeed in a post-Brexit world, but with a new runway, we will draw more trade and gain further opportunities.”

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