Ministerial Resignation Statement - Dr Phillip Lee MP - Caring for Bracknell Constituency
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Ministerial Resignation Statement

Resigning as a minister from the Government is a very difficult decision because it goes against every grain in my soul. The very word resign conveys a sense of giving up, but that is the last thing I will do. I take public service seriously and responsibly. That is the spirit that has always guided me as a doctor and continues to guide me as a politician.

For me, resigning is a last resort – not something that I want to do but something I feel I must do because, for me, such a serious principle is being breached that I would find it hard to live with myself afterwards if I let it pass. I come to this decision after a great deal of personal reflection and discussion with family, friends and trusted colleagues.

The main reason for my taking this decision now is the Brexit process and the Government’s wish to limit Parliament’s role in contributing to the final outcome in a vote that takes place today.

If, in the future, I am to look my children in the eye and honestly say that I did my best for them I cannot, in all good conscience, support how our country’s exit from the EU looks set to be delivered.

As a Member of Parliament, I also have a major responsibility to my constituency of Bracknell. In extensive consultations with local employers, both large and small, I have been warned that they expect Brexit as it is currently being pursued, whatever the negotiated settlement, will damage their business. I have spoken to people, many of whom have lived, worked and raised their family here, whose fears for their futures I am not always able to allay. Regrettably, it seems inevitable that the people, economy and culture of my constituency will be affected negatively, and I cannot ignore that it is to them that I owe my first responsibility.

Sadly, from within government I have found it virtually impossible to help bring sufficient change to the course on which we are bound.

I voted to remain in the European Union and have not changed my view that continued membership would have been the better strategic course. Even so, I believe that it would be impossible and wrong to seek to go back to how things were before the referendum. We cannot and should not turn back the clock.

However, as the negotiations are unfolding, two things are becoming clear.

• The practicalities, logistics and implications of leaving the EU are far more complex than was ever envisaged and certainly more complex than the people were told in 2016. The UK is not going to be ready in time, neither is the EU, and both would suffer from a rushed or fudged agreement.

• The outcome that is emerging will be neither fully to leave the EU, nor fully to stay. This is not an outcome for which anyone knowingly voted. In my view, this raises the important principle of legitimacy: I do not believe it would be right for the Government to pursue such a course without a plan to seek a confirmatory mandate for the outcome. And I believe that Parliament should have the power to ask the Government to adjust its course in the best interests of the people whom its Members represent.

In my medical experience, if a course of treatment is not working, then I review it. I also have a duty to get my patient’s informed consent for that action.

If Brexit is worth doing, then it is certainly worth doing well; regardless of how long that takes. It is, however, irresponsible to proceed as we are, so we should:

• recognise that the UK and EU are not ready for Brexit and pause, extend or revoke Article 50 so that we do not leave before we are ready.

• re-engage with our European and international friends to talk about how to achieve the aims that we share for the future in ways that respect individual countries’ interests and sovereignty. Since 2016, electorates in many countries across Europe have expressed similar concerns to those that we expressed in the referendum and so much is changing, and will continue to change, across the whole of our continent.

• empower our Parliament so that its role is not limited to making fake choices – such as between a ‘bad deal’ and a cliff-edge ‘no deal’. Our Parliament should be able to direct our Government to change course in our interests. In all conscience, I cannot support the Government’s decision to oppose this amendment because doing so breaches such fundamental principles of human rights and Parliamentary sovereignty. A vote between bad and worse is not a meaningful vote. And I cannot bring myself to vote for it in the bastion of liberty, freedom and human rights that is our Parliament.

When the Government is able to set out an achievable, clearly defined path – one that has been properly considered, whose implications have been foreseen, and that is rooted in reality and evidence, not dreams and dogma – it should go to the people, once again, to seek their confirmation.

I will miss the Ministry of Justice and the enormous privilege of guiding our Government’s work to turn around the lives of vulnerable young offenders and female offenders; to mobilise the remarkable power of sport to transform lives and cut crime; and to improve how we deal with offenders’ health and mental health which drives so much human behaviour.

I have had the privilege to work with inspiring, dedicated people; to be touched by the appalling stories that some of those caught up in our criminal justice system have shared with me – both victims and offenders; and in a small way to bring some influence to bear to help make our society more just and more secure.

The experience has been deeply humbling. For the last two years, I have been completely committed to enabling our criminal justice system to serve our society better. There is so much more to do and I wish the department and its excellent ministerial team all the strength that they need to drive through the necessary reforms. I regret that I feel forced to leave and will remain a strong supporter.

I strongly supported Theresa May’s bid to lead the Conservative Party in 2016. I have great respect for her and still believe that she is the best person to lead the country at this exceptionally difficult time. But the fact is that we have to make many big changes for our country to have a positive future. There is a great deal of work to be done to lead with more strength, vision and integrity. We must be honest and open at all times with each other and with the public. We must renew our effort to bring the nation back together and proceed in our collective national interest, drawing on the best talent our country has to offer.

We must also have an eye beyond our shores, sustaining our European friendships through a difficult time because what is very clear is that, in our interconnected age, it is nations with allies that will thrive.

It is important that individual ministers and Parliamentarians should be able to influence and speak up on these issues. But effective Government in our country also relies on the important principle of collective responsibility. Resigning my post in this Government will allow me to work towards what I believe can be a better future, inside or outside the EU, for my children, my constituents and my country.

That will start today when MPs vote on the House of Lords’ amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill and I will support the amendment which – if it is adopted – will empower Parliament to reject a bad deal and direct the Government to re-enter discussions, extending or pausing negotiations which are being badly rushed because of the deadline that Article 50 imposes.

We will not change our country overnight – but we can and must hand our children a better legacy.

  • Margaret Ellwood
    Posted at 12:30h, 12 June

    Well said Dr Lee, a thoughtful and considered resignation. Sadly it seems to be so rare to see people prepared to stand up for their principles these days.

  • Christiane Ruijsenaars
    Posted at 12:31h, 12 June

    You are a man of character, hopefully more of your colleagues will follow you.
    I wish your voice will be heard in Westminster and that you keep supporting your country, if then from another position. Thank you!

  • Anthony Sutcliffe
    Posted at 12:36h, 12 June

    Well done sir.

  • Frances Lilley
    Posted at 12:36h, 12 June

    A pause button would be a good time is running out for the process to be completed with common sense & consent. of Parliament.
    Respect for having the courage to resign at this point.

  • Rachel Cox
    Posted at 12:38h, 12 June

    Thank you so much for your courage and integrity. You can hold your head high and know that by making this very difficult and brave decision you have earned the respect of all those who can see that continuing with this Brexit folly will cause untold damage to the country. If only more of our politicians could be more like you!

  • Allan Loveday
    Posted at 12:38h, 12 June

    IT seems that all the support shown here are from people that don’t want to leave the EU. The country and his constituents voted to leave. He has resigned in protest of the course of action being taken so far. He was elected on the Tory manifesto and if he cannot support that then he needs to resign and stand as an Independant.

  • Richard Holynski
    Posted at 12:39h, 12 June

    He is my MP and a top bloke. I know of so many Bracknell people who voted Leave and didn’t realise the implications of a hard Brexit on their livelihoods. Leave said it would be easy, there’d be no downside. We could only be better off. To those who say Bracknell voted Leave, we have Redwood next door in Wokingham and they voted Remain. It’s not what parliamentary democracy is about.

  • Jenny Smith
    Posted at 12:41h, 12 June

    Thank you for your bravery. I applaud you.

  • Colin Macalister
    Posted at 12:41h, 12 June

    My total and utter respect.

  • Richard Doyle
    Posted at 12:44h, 12 June

    Nice one Phillip, well done for standing up for yourself and your principles. It is true that our children stand to suffer greatly if the government’s current path is not altered soon.

    I hope other MPs will find similar strength to do the right thing for the country,

  • Danny Brook
    Posted at 12:45h, 12 June

    Country First – Thank you! Time has taught us that sometimes terrible decisions are made to the detriment of our country – Brexit is one of those decisions and future generations will hopefully learn from this period in Bristish history. Thank you for putting your country first.

  • Rowland Jobson
    Posted at 12:48h, 12 June

    Great to see you stand up for what you believe in . Thank you for showing us there are still politicians with integrity and courage

  • David Alan Williams
    Posted at 12:48h, 12 June

    I concur with all of the comments that have been made in support of Dr Lee’s most principled decision. Dr Lee did useful business opinions research said that he had consulted a lot of employers – large and small – in his Bracknell Constituency and they all said that Brexit would not be in the UK’s economic interest as because of it all firms would produce poorer performances.

  • Bev Fox-Pearson
    Posted at 12:49h, 12 June

    A very thoughtful composition. Unfortunately this just shows that you are exactly the sort if politician we need right now.

  • Jane Armstrong
    Posted at 12:49h, 12 June

    Very well put! I am one of your constituents and a remain voter. I have been increasingly worried by the turn things are taking. I am very glad to see you are sticking to your principals and not just toeing the party line. Thank you.

  • Fabrice Saffre
    Posted at 12:51h, 12 June

    A courageous decision and a very convincing argument. I hope many others follow your lead and refuse to take any part in a reckless and ideologically-motivated Brexit.

  • Mark Lynch
    Posted at 12:51h, 12 June

    Well done for standing up for Parliament to ensure that it ‘takes back control’ of a chaotic process. A shame that my MP Zac Goldsmith doesn’t also represent the views of his constituents.

  • Alexander Nicholls
    Posted at 12:51h, 12 June

    Such bravery displayed by going against command to stand up for the best interests of constituency and country. Helps restore faith in politics!

  • Mark Neary
    Posted at 12:53h, 12 June

    Thank you for taking such a principled and intelligent stand on what is, as you so rightly said, such a crucial matter. It is only a pity that so few of your Parliamentary colleagues, and none of the Cabinet, have even a grain of your integrity in their makeup.

  • geoffrey trebilco
    Posted at 12:54h, 12 June

    How encouraging to find there are still Conservatives who are honourable. Whatever ones opinion on the Brexit referendum the major reason for voting Brexit was to restore power to the Westminster Parliamant. Curtailing Parliaments powers is surely something every Brexiteer should oppose. His statement says it all. How can any reasonable person regardless of their view on the EU think otherwise

  • Michael Wadsworth
    Posted at 12:55h, 12 June

    Dear Dr Lee

    As a Liberal Democrat (albeit a Tory voter until about 1975), I rarely agree with you politically. But I admire your integrity and your willingness to put your career on the line for the sake of your principles. I don’t accept that it would be mistaken, or impossible, to go back on Brexit, by rescinding our implementation of Article 50.. The latest evidence of impending economic catastrophe is Land Rover. Bob Neill (whom you will know well, not least from your Justice role) is my own MP, and I respect him likewise. I regret that you’ve had to put up with being trolled on Twitter, but I guess you’ve demonstrated you can take it, and I suppose it goes with the territory,

    Although I’m not local to you, my grandchildren live in Maidenhead and were born in Heatherwood. Hospital.

    Thanks and best wishes

  • Adam Smith
    Posted at 12:56h, 12 June

    I believe your instinct is right and wholeheartedly applaud you in taking this very difficult decision.

    The Brexiteers have had two years to demonstrate the feasibility of their vision. They have comprehensively failed to do so.

    There is no plan. There is no scrutiny. There is no debate.

  • Chris J
    Posted at 13:01h, 12 June

    The continued union of the countries within the UK and our future well-being is paramount. It has become clear that the leave campaign was conducted in a sensational and dishonest fashion whilst creating harmful divisions. Many facts and issues surrounding Brexit in 2016 were never fully known or explained, and therefore couldn’t be adequately considered in advance of the referendum. Even the timing of the triggering of Article 50 was made with too little forethought as Britain loses influence within Europe. I am sorry that you have resigned your important position, but you are an honourable and courageous man, and your example is to be applauded and should be followed by more MPs. As time goes by, the decision you have made today will be shown to have been the right one. Thank you, Dr Lee, and very best wishes for the future.

  • Roger Haydon
    Posted at 13:01h, 12 June

    Well I never thought I would ever commend a position taken by a Tory MP – especially in the Tory Party as it is these days. But, this has to be an exception. Phillip Lee’s statement is sober and reasonable and thought through. He doesn’t need to even think of leaving the Tory Party as a couple of people on here have suggested, he is taking a principled stand against the foolish intentions of the leadership of the party of which he is a member and, in doing so, is serving it loyally. Good for him even if I would never ever vote for a Tory

  • Pam Berridge
    Posted at 13:01h, 12 June

    Thank you for being a man of principle.
    I have great respect for you.

  • John Hunt
    Posted at 13:02h, 12 June

    Bravo Dr Lee,
    You do have a moral compass. Your analogy to reviewing a course of medical treatment that’s not working exactly mirrored my thoughts. Well done to you.

  • Simon Berry
    Posted at 13:03h, 12 June

    Very well said Dr Lee. Hopefully you will embolden the many MPs who must feel the same.

    It’s a cliché I know but now really is the time to put the country first.

  • Alan W
    Posted at 13:04h, 12 June

    Thank you – your actions have spoken for many across the country not just your constituents. If only there were more politicians with integrity and decency I feel our country would have a brighter future.
    (not a conservative voter)

  • Patricia Brambley
    Posted at 13:05h, 12 June

    What’s desperately needed right now is more honest and principled men and women like you with the boots and integrity to speak up for the good of the country.

  • Muriel Turner
    Posted at 13:06h, 12 June

    Working for the good of the nation with integrity is lacking in our politicians these days. Pleased to see you standing up for what is right and holding our government to account (which is more than I can say about the current opposition!!) Well done. Keep up the good work!.

  • Carol Brodie
    Posted at 13:07h, 12 June

    Well done. standing up for what you know is best for the country.

  • Charles Gordon
    Posted at 13:10h, 12 June

    Well done for standing up for your principles. I wish more MPs on both sides of the House would do the same.

  • Roger Harding
    Posted at 13:11h, 12 June

    Succinct, realistic and accurate. The Conservatives should realise that, when the effects of Brexit take hold, the people will finally realise they were hoodwinked. So why should they ever trust the Tories again?

  • Nan Bovington
    Posted at 13:11h, 12 June

    Thank you for standing up for what you sincerely believe to be in the best interests of the country, It can’t have been easy to give up a Ministerial job, It takes bravery to go against the herd and risk tabloid attention – I only wish that others will be inspired by your example of integrity, and put country before party loyalty, and personal advancement. Bravo!

  • Paul Keen
    Posted at 13:12h, 12 June

    A brave stance and an excellent one. Shame our own MP (Heaton-Harris) doesn’t have the balls you do.

  • George Black
    Posted at 13:17h, 12 June

    At last – a politician with guts and honesty. Why would we negotiate a deal that leaves us very much worse off and then let a handful of extreme politicians agree to it. Well done

  • Chris Wood
    Posted at 13:19h, 12 June

    Well done sir. Your statement is brave, necessary and principled. Sadly I live in the wrong place to vote for you, but that little inconvenience aside, you would have my vote.

  • Caroline sue Muller
    Posted at 13:25h, 12 June

    Bravo sir bravo. I stand with you.

  • Kym Ypres-Smith
    Posted at 13:27h, 12 June

    Thank you for having a conscience. There are many Remainers who are grateful for your stance.

  • Patrick Beaty
    Posted at 13:28h, 12 June

    A man of sound principle, at last! I hope that your very well articulated resignation will encourage many others, across the political spectrum, to vote down the May Government and the Brexit agitators on the Lords’ amendments to the Withdrawal Bill. This bill of itself needs to be stopped in its tracks, as it underpins the very constitutionality of the assumption by Theresa May – egregiously acting upon the result of a febrile, and fervently misguided non-binding referendum – of the extra-Parliamentary and so-called “Decision of the UK to Leave the EU”, when indeed no such Decision has been taken by the UK’s sovereign Crown in Parliament.

  • Jenny
    Posted at 13:31h, 12 June

    Well done to you! I wish your fellow MPs would stand up for their principles also. Hopefully they will be inspired to follow your example. and vote with their conscience today.

  • Tom Hinton
    Posted at 13:36h, 12 June

    Congratulations on being one of our few representatives with courage and principles. Thank you for this brave decision

  • Ron Ballard
    Posted at 13:38h, 12 June

    Thank you Dr Lee. I hope that your honesty, integrity and intelligence will encourage others, of all parties, to follow your example and speak up for what they, individually, believe is best for their constituents and our country.

  • Daniel Wrightson
    Posted at 13:41h, 12 June

    Well said and thank you for standing up to be counted, Whether remainer or leaver, what is clear is that the government is driving us over a cliff. Post referendum we could have had a government that sought to re-unite the country and clearly address the obvious worries that emerged from it, some of it were actually far more domestic than EU caused. Instead it feels as though the process has been hi-jacked and turned into an exercise to damage the economy. This cannot go on, I hope more MPs have your same courage.

  • Sarah Gillett
    Posted at 13:44h, 12 June

    Thank you for your integrity and putting the country first. I hope other sensible ministers, including my own MP Greg Clark, will follow your example.

  • Marc Johnson
    Posted at 13:45h, 12 June

    Untill today I have never come across your name ,. but you are an inspiration. I agree with the comment of Chris j above about continued union of the nations of the UK. Many thanks and good luck in parliament and any new job. PHILLIP LEE for prime minister!!!!!!! M Johnson from chester

  • Alan Critchley
    Posted at 13:45h, 12 June

    You’re a star, a politician with principles. It can’t have been easy but it’s the right thing to do. You’re on the right side of history and others will surely follow.

  • Andy Miller
    Posted at 13:46h, 12 June

    Well said – and well done for giving a voice to local business leaders

  • Paul Hoskins
    Posted at 13:49h, 12 June

    Thank you sir for your principled and courageous stand.

  • Andy Drake
    Posted at 13:56h, 12 June

    There are so many accurate and succinct points raised but above all, and irrespective of the way people voted , is the point about diluting and diminishing Parliament. I agree on nearly everything you say but if I didn’t I think you raise the overarching issue. I admire you and your decision in a period when integrity, principle and true belief in your country is challenged by the baying media and a herd mentality. You have done the right thing.

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