European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:51 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Craig Tracey Craig Tracey Conservative, North Warwickshire 4:51 pm, 7th September 2017

I echo many of the sentiments expressed by the hon. and right hon. Members who support the Bill, and I support many of the points that they have made. I voted to leave the EU, as did 67% of voters in North Warwickshire and Bedworth. During the campaign, it became quite clear that there was disillusionment with what the EU had become. The message I got loud and clear from constituents on the doorstep was that, yes, there was a degree of concern over uncontrolled immigration, but the overriding frustration was around our sovereignty and the consequent ability to control our own laws. The Bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 from the day we leave, bringing a welcome end to the supremacy of EU law in the UK, and I support its main purpose of ensuring that the UK has a functioning statute book once we leave the EU. That is obviously in the national interest.

I saw at first hand the negative impacts that EU laws and regulations can have on our local economy during the 20 years I spent running my own small business. Many of the regulations and laws that affected my firm stemmed from Brussels, yet I was unable to trade with its markets. To put this into context, only 5% of our businesses export to the EU, yet 100% are caught by its red tape, with small businesses usually disproportionately affected. During the referendum campaign, research across west midlands small businesses showed that they represented 99% of employers, employing 58% of local people. By a ratio of 4:1, they thought that EU laws made it harder to take on staff. By a ratio of 2:1, they believed that EU regulation hindered them, rather than helping them. A massive 70% of them thought that the UK, rather than the EU, should be in charge of negotiating trade agreements.

I am mindful, however, of the fact that we need to create an environment that works for everyone, not just those of us who voted leave, so I ask the Government to take into account the following two points as the Bill moves forward. First, businesses are already making decisions in preparation for March 2019 and they require legal certainty in order to meet their commitments to customers once we have left the European Union. Given that much of the detail of the new legal framework will be brought forward through secondary legislation, it is vital that the process of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and the programme of statutory instruments be prepared well in advance of March 2019, to provide them with the confidence they need.

Secondly, in order to avoid a legal vacuum on leaving the European Union, it is important that any inconsistencies within existing EU legislation are addressed prior to its transposition into UK law. I therefore stress the need for the Government to consult fully with stakeholders throughout the process of drafting and laying statutory instruments, to ensure that any inconsistencies between EU and UK legislation—especially in relation to their practical implications—are fully addressed by these measures. I firmly believe that there are exciting times ahead for the UK outside the EU, and that if due consideration is given to the issues I have mentioned, the Bill will provide the pathway to the smooth exit that we all want to see. I will be backing it in the Lobby on Monday, supporting the democratic decision of my constituents and the UK to leave the EU.