By Robert Courts

As you may have seen, I recently resigned from my role as a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Foreign Office - a kind of Parliamentary aide - due to my concerns about the Government’s White Paper on the UK’s future relationship with the EU. I would like to tell you why.

My decision has nothing to do with whether I or anyone else voted Leave or Remain in the referendum. That vote was two years ago, before I was an MP, and the decision has been made by the country as a whole. Nor is it about wanting to see a “hard” or a “soft” Brexit - unhelpful and vague political labels that are used simply to muddy the waters and to avoid a detailed discussion of the issues. We are leaving the EU, and we now have to decide how, because the form that this will take will have implications for decades to come, and potentially for the foreseeable future.

I want, as I am sure do you, a country that is free, tolerant and open – with close links to Europe in trade, security and friendship, co-operating in almost every way – but that must be achieved in a way that, whilst requiring compromise, does provide for properly accountable democratic government. I am concerned that the start point represented by this White Paper does not achieve that, and so I wanted to ask the Government to think again.

As your MP, my duty is to consider whether a proposed course of action is in the interests of the people of West Oxfordshire and the wider UK; to use my judgment, having considered all the issues, not simply to toe the party line if I do not feel that it is in my constituents’ interests to do so. You may or may not agree with me at the end of the day - that is your right - but I do need to be able to say to you that, in my opinion, a certain course of conduct is the right one, and to explain why.

If I cannot do this, then I feel that the only decent thing to do is to resign from a Government role that requires me to follow a Government line. Resigning is never an easy thing to do, and I did not do it lightly. It is unlikely to be helpful for my career, but I am sure that you would agree with me that my country and constituency must come before any personal considerations.

It is hard to simplify my concerns with the White Paper in this short column, and I have gone into much more detail on my website. But in a nutshell, my main concern is that the White Paper will leave the UK giving too much control over our economy to the EU, and following EU rules and regulations - but without any real say over them.

We have said that we will agree a ‘common rulebook’ with the EU - but we should be clear: this will be their rulebook, not ours. It is not one that we will have sat down and agreed together. The European Court of Justice will in my view remain supreme in practice for any laws relating to goods exported to the EU – including any relating to how these goods are produced, potentially extending to environmental, social and employment laws.

If we are to accept the White Paper in its current form, it puts us in the position of being, essentially, a member of the European Union - but without a vote. Paying for the privilege, obeying its laws and adjudicated by its Court, but without a veto, or even much of a say. There is one clear view that prefers staying in the European Union. I respect that. Equally there is another valid view that prefers to leave. But I do not feel that the compromise expressed in this White Paper is the right one for either view, and I would like to ask the Government to think again.

I remain committed to fighting for a resolution to Brexit that I believe is best for West Oxfordshire and the UK. This decision was one on which I could not just put my head down and take the easy path. This is too important and will affect all of us for decades to come.

In life, and as an MP, you must make tough decisions. That is what this job is all about. I could not in good consciousness promote this White Paper as being in the best interests of residents of West Oxfordshire without making my views known. And so, I chose to make one of life’s tough decisions, but I know it is one that, in years to come, I will look back on and know I did what I felt was right for you all.

I should make clear that I remain supportive of the Prime Minister and I support the rest of her programme wholeheartedly. But, on this issue, as I should, I am exercising my right to my own opinion and to express it.

This is of course an ongoing, evolving situation, and should you want to discuss this further with me, please email me at At all times, I will continue to work very hard on behalf of the residents of West Oxfordshire both locally and in Parliament.