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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:06 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Conservative, Mid Worcestershire 4:06 pm, 1st February 2017

The manifesto on which I stood in 2015 not only promised an in/out referendum on Europe, but stated:

“We will honour the result of the referendum, whatever the outcome.”

During the referendum campaign, I committed to respecting the result, even if it was decided by just one vote. In the end, the difference was more than 1 million votes. That 72% of the population turned out showed just how seriously the British public took the task of deciding their future. In my constituency, the turnout was more than 80%. By contrast, 58% turned out for the recent US presidential election. That was an election with huge consequences, not only for the USA but for the world, yet nearly 100 million Americans could not be bothered to turn out and vote.

As others have said, the referendum was not a consultation but an instruction. Today, I will do my duty and vote to trigger article 50. Then the work really begins. To use the analogy of a flight, we have boarded the plane and we are leaving Europe. Although we know the general direction, we do not yet know the destination. Some passengers believe that we are heading for some kind of tropical paradise, others an icy wasteland. Luckily we have a pilot who has a clear flight path, and I suspect that after flying around for a while, we will land not on an icy wasteland or in a tropical paradise, but somewhere quite familiar and similar to where we originally began.

I do not wish to belittle the great challenge ahead of us, but the fact is that the British economy is strong, resilient and dynamic. I never for one moment believed that the sky would fall in if we left the EU, but different segments of our economy will inevitably be impacted in different ways by Brexit. Some will obviously benefit and some will obviously struggle, and all are impacted to some degree by uncertainty. We must work hard and quickly to reduce that uncertainty, and we must provide every support and comfort to those sectors of the economy that we know are at most risk from Brexit.

We must listen to people with deep knowledge and expertise in sectors that are perhaps not well represented in this place, yet face particularly complex challenges due to Brexit, including the aviation industry, digital and creative industries, and those sectors for which there is no clear World Trade Organisation alternative. I encourage the Government to continue to engage with industry and with experts, and I look forward to playing my part by providing constructive input and holding the Government to account to ensure that they deliver a successful deal that helps Britain and secures my children’s future.