Brexit and Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:11 pm on 26th June 2017.

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Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 7:11 pm, 26th June 2017

Where I agree with Keir Starmer is on the fact that the decision that was taken just over one year ago was probably the most momentous political decision taken in my lifetime and that it will have profound consequences for this country. Obviously, it is essential that we should try to get the best possible deal. Unlike him, though, I campaigned in favour of a leave vote and I continue to believe that the decision that was taken is in the best interests of this country and offers huge opportunities for us both to reassert the supremacy of Parliament in our becoming an independent self-governing nation again and to take advantages of the opportunities that are opening up to us around the world.

Negotiating many of the detailed issues will be the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and the talks are just beginning. I do not agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he says that no deal is necessarily worse than whatever bad deal we may get. It would be crazy for us to go in at the start stating that we could not contemplate not reaching a deal. That is a guarantee of not getting the best outcome. I do not want to spend too much time on the negotiations. I hope that, if I am successful in re-joining the Select Committee under the chairmanship of Hilary Benn—if he is chosen as the Chairman—we will be seeing a great deal of the Secretary of State.

The opportunities that come from our decision are set out very clearly in the Queen’s Speech, and the first is the repeal Bill. I would have thought that everybody in this House welcomed the fact that, as we are going to leave the European Union in two years’ time or thereabouts, the repeal Bill will give certainty as it ensures that European law, which currently applies, will be transferred into British law. It also gives us the opportunity to consider at our leisure each of those individual measures to decide whether they are most appropriately framed and whether we could reduce some of the burden, or, in some instances, perhaps even increase the protection if we think that that is the right thing to do. The repeal Bill is not necessarily about reducing regulation— although there may well be plenty of examples where it is sensible to do so—but about giving us back the control to decide for ourselves the most appropriate level of regulation.

The immigration Bill will allow us to design our own system of determining whom we should welcome into this country and to whom we should say that we simply cannot accommodate them given the need to reduce the overall level. It means that we can create an immigration system that is fair to all and that does not discriminate in favour of European citizens against non-European citizens. We can judge everybody on the basis of what contribution they can make.

The agriculture Bill will allow us to design a system of support for farmers that is tailor-made for the benefit of British agriculture. It is not a one-size-fits-all system, which has to accommodate Greek olive growers just as much as it does wheat farmers in Essex. I hope that it will mean that we can deliver more support to British farming, and at a cheaper price as we will not have to be sending the money across to Brussels to have it judged, recycled and sent back to us.