"In the early hours of Friday morning the Prime Minister secured an historic agreement with the European Union, which brings to an end the first phase of Brexit negotiations. The agreement secures the rights of the three million EU citizens living here and the million British citizens living in the EU; it represents a fair settlement in terms of money - the so called 'divorce bill'; and maintains the common travel area within the island of Ireland.
This agreement represents significant progress in the Brexit negotiations – the exact opposite of the picture that has been painted by parts of the national media in recent weeks. I'm grateful to the Prime Minister and our negotiating team for all their hard work in getting the best deal for Britain.
There has been lots of talk about our future financial obligations both during the referendum campaign and during the negotiations – but following a rigorous assessment by our negotiators the Government expects our final bill to be significantly below the £50bn - £100bn predictions that have been talked about in the media. Importantly the 'divorce bill' is money that we would have paid anyway had we stayed in the EU – but as we leave and pay off our commitments there will be significantly more sums of money to spend on our priorities. Including – and whisper it quietly – the NHS. Although I'm not committing to a figure on the side of a big red bus.
Now the first phase of Brexit has been agreed we can move on to detailed negotiations on other issues, including our future trade deal. This is of significant importance to our part of the country and crucial for Felixstowe as we need to ensure we can continue to trade freely through the port. The success of Felixstowe Port post-Brexit is an important strategic issue that affects not only the port itself but the many local businesses whose business relies on it. I'm confident that with the planning that's happening within Government we will avoid significant issues at Felixstowe.
As this is my last column of the year, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers a Happy and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I hope you have a fantastic time with family and friends."
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