YOU may not be able to take your ham sandwiches to the continent, and Britain’s fishing industry may be in uproar, but for Meriden MP Saqib Bhatti, the deal Britain struck with the EU is the ‘Holy Grail’ of agreements.
Speaking after an intensive first year as MP that has also seen him take on the government to stop more houses being built in Solihull, he said: “For me Brexit had always been around sovereignty.
“I really felt that we would be successful outside of Europe, outside the political structures of the European Union and in the long term we will certainly thrive because we will have much more flexibility in what we do.
“For me if you’d said what is the Holy Grail in 2016 then I’d have said freedom from state aid and government interventions.
“Incentivising companies without having to worry about what is happening on the other side of Europe frees you from the shackles placed on us previously.
“So for me the deal is a very positive step, if you’d told me in 2016 that we were going to get that I’d have been incredibly happy.”
Aged just 35, Mr Bhatti admits he’s ‘been blessed in life’ – a businessman, a chartered accountant, he’s worked for blue chip companies handling multi-million pound budgets before joining the family firm of accountants.
“Lots of small businesses where you’re looking for the last £10, and you begin to understand what a small business owner really thinks about and that has driven a lot of what I’ve done,” he said.
By the 2016 EU referendum he was already president of the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce and he ran a national campaign ‘Muslims for Brexit’ to give ethnic minorities – not just Muslims’ a voice in the debate.
More than 800,000 people signed up to the cause, which led to an invitation to join the board of the Leave campaign.
Now parliamentary private secretary to Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, he says he now sees first hand the full range of opportunities that await Britain outside the EU.
Away from Europe, Mr Bhatti – who, inspired by her dedication to her constituents, cites Theresa May as his political hero – has been helping to stop Solihull take even more new housing developments.
“In terms of local issues the Local Plan has been the one that has dominated the in-box, apart from access to health care,” he said.
“It’s a national issue, planning reform, and under an algorithm Solihull’s numbers would have gone up, almost tripled I think.
“Under the calculation Birmingham was going down, Sandwell was going down, but we as a constituency would have had a significant amount of impact on our Green Belt and I have been beavering away on this with the Secretary of State, with the minister, with No10 and it was a real success to get that policy changed.
“I was able to say, hang on, the numbers being produced by the algorithm are not fair and if we hadn’t had the Local Plan going through the big problem was we could have had these centrally imposed national figures.”
On the health issue – people in south Meriden currently have to travel to the Urgent Treatment Centre in Chelmsley Wood, he said: “My argument is very simple – put the patient at the very centre of what you do – and this is a discussion I’ve had with the Clinical Commissioning Group.
“Obviously the CCG are having to deal with a significant strain on the system but this is something I will be pushing forward in 2021.”
He’s also passionate about ‘Levelling Up’.
“We have some real opportunities here particularly around the HS2 interchange site and we have to make sure we get those opportunities to the people in our vicinity, to make sure whether its construction or innovation, our local people and our future generations get those chances.”
He also wants to see Solihull retain a police station.
“Keeping Solihull police station is really important as well,” he said.
“We need a base, a place where police cars can stop and where officers can meet people, a physical space that projects security.
“It can’t just be a front desk in the library.”
On the issue of the future of the Meriden constituency – there had been talk of it being carved up between Coventry and Birmingham, he said: “The Boundary Commission is obviously independent and I can only speculate, but my understanding is there is likely to be a change, but I don’t think it will be as drastic as splitting it between Coventry and Birmingham but maybe around the edges.
“I will defend every part of my constituency and I will of course go out and consult with residents and see what they want.”