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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby 3:45 pm, 1st February 2017

One of the benefits of making a later contribution to a debate is the opportunity to reflect on earlier speeches. The standout one for me came late yesterday evening, when my hon. Friend Matt Warman, who supported remain in the referendum but represents a constituency that voted to leave, set out very clearly why it is important to recognise the referendum result and why we should vote to deliver the wishes of our constituents and the country as a whole. That is also my position.

Last week, I met some children in my constituency when I visited their school. I was asked some pretty serious questions. They asked me why I voted remain, and I explained why I felt that remaining would have been better for our businesses and given us a sense of certainty. They asked why so many people voted to leave, and I explained that I believe that people were attracted by the proposition of taking control, particularly of immigration. They then came up with the tough one: what happens next? This debate is all about that—the process of triggering article 50 and the negotiations that will take place over the next two years.

We have before us a clear, simple Bill that represents the result of the June referendum. I supported the Government’s decision to give the people a say. It was in the Conservative party manifesto, and in 2015 my constituents gave me a significantly larger majority and Parliament voted six to one in favour of it. It therefore follows that support for the referendum requires respect for its outcome. As my right hon. Friend Alistair Burt argued, I do not see how anyone can suggest otherwise. No decision had been made for more than 40 years and the body of which we were a member had changed, so it is entirely right that we voted for a referendum. As with the United States election, though, if we ask the public a question, we should not be too surprised if the electorate come back with an unexpected answer. It is now our job to implement their decision.

The decision to leave the EU presents us with opportunities, as was underlined to me in a discussion with a small business owner in my constituency. He was an ardent remainer who had joined me to hand out leaflets to commuters at the station. Nevertheless, he described the referendum as being like a business owner pitching to retain an account and the custom for his business. The decision had gone against his company—the customer decided not to renew and was not going to change his mind. A businessman in that position has to start to look for other deals elsewhere.

That is precisely the approach the Government are taking. They have formed the new Department for International Trade and are making deals with new partners and managing the process of the leaving. I have some misgivings about the route we are about to go down, but we must accept the wishes of the people and proceed with the Bill in support of what the people decided.