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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall 3:30 pm, 1st February 2017

It is a privilege to take part in the debate on this historic Bill, which is designed simply to start a process. A number of hon. and right hon. Members have signed amendments to the Bill, and I say to them that there will be plenty of time over the next two years to debate aspects of European Union legislation when we introduce the great repeal Bill. To those who feel that now is the time to begin discussing our terms of membership or to cling to certain aspects of the EU, I would simply say that they are too late. Since joining the EU in 1972, we have been subjected to mission creep and stealth integration with no votes and no say. The great British people were clear with their instruction on 23 June: they said, “Leave. We have had enough.”

I know that voting on this Bill will present a moral dilemma for many in this place, but for me, it is a relatively easy matter because the will of the people in North Cornwall is clear, with 60% in North Cornwall and 55% in Cornwall as a whole voting to leave the EU. They voted with their eyes open, clear in their belief that they wanted to leave. Some have suggested that the vote was advisory, but I am a democrat and I say to those Members across the Chamber that it was an instruction, and I will vote this evening to ensure that it is carried out. To those discussing the question of a hard or soft Brexit I would say that there is no such thing. There is leaving, and there are different levels of remaining in.

We have seen the effects of globalisation and EU integration in Cornwall over the past four decades, including coastal communities being left behind while cities increased in wealth and growth. There has been no trickle-down to our rural communities, and it is little wonder that they felt disconnected, under-represented and powerless as decisions taken inside the EU affected their day-to-day lives. Whether because of restrictive Brussels farming policy, foreign trawlers in our territorial waters or immigration levels, people in North Cornwall and the UK have said that they want to be in charge of their own destiny. The erosion of our sovereignty has stopped us dealing with those and other issues, but that will be no more. I know that people across this great nation voted on 23 June for many different reasons, but we in Cornwall have seen with our own eyes the destruction of the fishing industry by the common fisheries policy. Leaving the EU will be seen as a success in that area if the common fisheries policy and common agricultural policy are replaced by British versions that work much more effectively for the people involved.

The people of Britain have spoken, and the people of North Cornwall have spoken. I stood at the general election to oppose EU membership unless significant reforms were negotiated. That did not happen, and my constituency voted to leave the European Union. That is why I will walk through the Lobby this evening to vote in support of a Bill to trigger article 50, to ensure that the democratic process that started with the referendum is completed in full.