Hello. My name is Nick Boles, born 2 November 1965, and I live in a small village on the outskirts of Stamford.
Family and farming
I grew up as the youngest in a large family and have fourteen nephews and nieces so I know all about competing for attention!
My parents live on the family sheep farm in Devon. 300 hundred acres of heavy clay soil divided into small fields by high banks with hedges on top. It’s a far cry from big fields of Lincolnshire silt that are a modern tractor driver’s dream. But, like so much of the English countryside, it owes its preservation to the dedication and commitment of generations of English farmers.
After school, I spent nearly a year teaching English and Bible Studies in a small Methodist secondary school in the middle of the bush in Zimbabwe. It is heart-breaking to see what Robert Mugabe’s brutal leadership has done to a country that I remember as beautiful, fertile and full of potential.
Before starting work, I spent 3 years at Oxford studying politics, philosophy and economics and was awarded a first class degree. I then won a Kennedy Scholarship and spent 2 years at Harvard University in the US studying the practical application of public policy.
Unlike so many MPs today, I didn’t go straight into a job in politics. I worked for a few years in Germany, Russia and Eastern Europe, helping state-owned industries prepare for private ownership. I then set up my own business with a friend and spent over 5 years running one of the UK’s leading suppliers of paint brushes, rollers and decorating tools to the DIY industry.
Doing business was hard. We were caught between powerful customers like B&Q on the one side and cut-throat competition from Chinese importers on the other. But we survived and the business is now part of a larger European group.
My business career did not make me rich. But I learned a huge amount about managing people, dealing with suppliers and keeping control of the company’s finances. I also saw how small interventions by government can handicap British businesses’ ability to compete in a global market.
In 1998, I made my first venture into the political world and was elected as local councillor in London. There I was appointed the Chairman of the Housing Committee and succeeded in bringing down the number of people housed at huge cost in B&Bs because of the lack of permanent accommodation.
My biggest achievement in politics so far has been to set up and run Policy Exchange, which is now the largest and most influential policy research institute on the centre right. While I was its director, Policy Exchange devised policies to make police forces more accountable to local people, to expand the number of places in good schools and to give local communities incentives to build more houses.
We also exposed the activities of Islamic extremists in some mosques in the UK and their effect on the attitudes of young British Muslims. Many of our ideas have been adopted by the Coalition Government. I was selected as the PCC for Grantham & Stamford in 2008 and was successfully elected in 2010, I was appointed Planning Minister in October 2012, In 2014 I was appointed as Minister of State for Skills & Equalities until June 2016.
In April 2017, I was re-selected as the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Grantham & Stamford. I was successfully re-elected with a 20,094 majority on the election held on the 8th June 2017.
What I really think about Brexit
This evening I am attending a meeting with members of the local Conservative association. Many of them are unhappy about the things I have been saying and doing in Parliament in relation to Brexit and want me to be deselected as the local Conservative standard bearer. That is their right. But I do want to make sure that the constituents I represent in Parliament, have an accurate picture of my views. Here is what I really think:
- The best thing would be for the UK to leave the EU on 29th March with a deal that has been ratified by Parliament. That’s why I voted for the PM’s deal last week and will vote for any variant of the deal that she agrees with EU and brings to Commons.
- The next best thing would be for the Government and the EU to extend Article 50 for a few months so an alternative deal like Common Market 2.0 or Norway Plus can be negotiated and ratified.
- Revoking Article 50 and abandoning Brexit would be a huge mistake. I will never support it.
- Leaving the EU on 29th March without a deal would be a disaster for farmers, businesses and families in Lincolnshire as the country is not remotely ready and the government has totally failed to make the necessary preparations. I will do everything in my power to stop it happening.
- A second referendum would deepen divisions and increase cynicism about the honesty and competence of politicians. I will never vote for one.
- The UK voted to leave the EU and must now forge a new kind of relationship with our European neighbours. If a second referendum were to be held, I would not vote to remain in the EU.
I doubt many readers will agree with me on all of these points. But I have thought very hard about them and drawn what I think are the right conclusions for those I was elected to serve.
Stopping No Deal Brexit
Over past weeks, it has become increasingly apparent that the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on the Future Relationship negotiated by the Prime Minister are unlikely to obtain majority support in the House of Commons today.
During those weeks, a number of MPs across various parties have been working together to secure amendments to the procedures established by the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. Some of these amendments have also involved adjusting the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, so far as they relate to the operation of the Withdrawal Act.
Some of the MPs working on this are strong supporters of the PM’s deal. Others will be voting against the deal today. But all of the MPs involved are united in the belief that a no deal Brexit in our current state of preparedness would be against the national interest.
The combined effect of the changes to procedure that have been secured by these MPs is that, if the PM’s deal fails to obtain a majority today, then:
- By 21 January, the Government will need to set out its plan B in a motion.
- This motion will be amendable.
- Amendments to the motion may, within certain limits, further adjust Standing Orders in such a way as to affect the handling of parliamentary business relating to the Withdrawal Act 2018.
Against this background, a cross-party group of MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit are intending to lay an amendment to the Government’s motion when it is debated on (or before) 21 January.
If this amendment secures a majority, it will give parliamentary time for an EU Withdrawal (No. 2) Bill to be programmed, taking precedence over Government business. It will also provide for the tabling of an accompanying Business of the House Motion.
The purpose of the Business of the House Motion will be to schedule all Commons stages of the EU Withdrawal (No. 2) Bill for completion on a single day.
We anticipate that if, on the day programmed by the amendment, the Business of the House Motion and the EU Withdrawal (No. 2) Bill succeed in obtaining majorities in the House of Commons, then the Bill will subsequently also secure wide support in the House of Lords and will therefore quickly become law.
The EU Withdrawal (No.2) Bill would:
- give the Government a few weeks in which to secure both a majority in the House of Commons and the agreement of the EU for whatever is its Plan B.
- If that fails, the Bill would give the Liaison Committee of the House (the most senior and most comprehensive Committee of the House) a few weeks to propose and obtain a majority in favour of an alternative plan which might include proposals for changes to the Brexit deal and/or proposals for processes to arrive at a compromise (such as indicative votes, citizens’ assemblies, or a referendum). The Government, under the new Act, would be compelled to implement the plan, if it is approved by the House of Commons.
- If the Liaison Committee cannot agree a plan or if the House of Commons rejects the Liaison Committee’s plan or if the Liaison Committee requests an extension as part of its plan, the Bill would compel the Government to seek an extension of the Article 50 process (and provide for the ‘exit day’ in the original Withdrawal Act to be adjusted accordingly).
I presented the EU Withdrawal (No.2) Bill for First Reading.
The Bill is sponsored by Liz Kendall, Norman Lamb, Yvette Cooper, Hilary Benn, Nicky Morgan and Sir Oliver Letwin.
- Nick Boles Biography and Profile (Nick Boles)