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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:02 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot 2:02 pm, 1st February 2017

Absolutely, and I think that the overwhelming view, not only in this House but across the country, is in favour of that proposition.

A number of speeches during this debate, principally yesterday, have sought to rerun the referendum arguments, but it is no good complaining that the people did not know what they were voting for. The Government spent £9 million of our money on a brochure riddled with inaccuracies, and they mounted an extraordinary and utterly counterproductive “Project Fear” campaign warning of dire consequences if we voted to leave, none of which have come to pass. My right hon. Friend Mr Osborne, the former Chancellor, who is sitting in front of me, predicted an

“immediate and profound economic shock across the country” and a DIY recession, but none of that happened. Instead, the economy grew by 0.6% in the third quarter of 2016, compared with 0.3% in the first quarter, before the referendum. Major companies such as SoftBank, Google, Novo Nordisk and Nissan have announced significant investment in the United Kingdom.

Some have argued that the public were not told that a leave vote would require us to leave the single market, but recovering control of our borders and restoring to this Parliament responsibility for the laws of these islands—in other words, a return of sovereignty—was at the heart of the debate. Membership of the single market is completely incompatible with those objectives. As my hon. Friend Matt Warman said yesterday, the people knew what they were voting for and it is patronising to suggest otherwise.

Some suggest that the validity of a referendum in which more than 33 million voted is in doubt, yet no such question troubled them in 1997 when Tony Blair secured a majority of 179 with just 13.5 million votes. By contrast, 17.4 million voted to leave the European Union. We are leaving and there will be no second referendum. We undoubtedly face challenges ahead, but let us not kid ourselves: there would have been major challenges if the United Kingdom had voted to remain.

There are 70 billion reasons why our EU partners will want to reach a mutually beneficial trade deal with us, because they have a £70 billion trade surplus with us. I hope that those countries that in large part owe their liberation from the Soviet yoke to the Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher will respect our decision and help us forge a new, constructive relationship. I hope that the same will apply to those countries that we helped rebuild after the second world war.

Free from the EU customs union, we will be able to embrace the world and negotiate trade deals with our Commonwealth friends, encouraging fair trade deals, and the tiger economies of the world. However, it will be hard graft; the US may be our closest ally, but commercially they will be no pushover.

I have another note of caution: the EU’s determination to create an EU defence identity shows no sign of relenting. Such a policy presents a direct threat to the ultimate guarantor of European security, NATO, and risks alienating its principal paymaster, the United States of America. I shall support this Bill tonight.