2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:25 pm on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park 4:25 pm, 11th September 2017

It is an honour and a pleasure to follow Caroline Flint, who gave an extraordinarily compelling and principled speech.

This is a critical Bill. We cannot logically leave the EU if we continue to subject ourselves to EU law, courts and regulators. It is for exactly that reason, however, that some Members will use the Bill as an opportunity to scupper the process and prevent us from leaving the EU. And that worries me. In perhaps the most important—certainly the biggest—democratic exercise the country has ever seen, people voted to leave. I believe that 80% of electors in the general election voted for parties that pledged to honour the result of the referendum. If that promise was broken, the resulting anger would give rise to extreme political movements right across the UK that would change our politics forever. We can improve the Bill in Committee and on Report, but to stop it on principle is to play with fire.

I want to comment briefly on one area impacted by our leaving the EU: the natural environment. The opportunity to do great things here is almost incalculable. We have a chance not only to right some wrongs, but to make historic progress. Under the common agricultural policy, for example, vast amounts of public money are handed to wealthy landowners simply because they own land. The policy supports perverse incentives to harm the environment and shuts off the UK market to developing countries through higher tariffs. For years, environmentalists, farmers’ organisations and a whole succession of farming Ministers have dreamt of changing and profoundly reforming the CAP. Well, we now can—and we must. We will be able to ensure that the subsidies regime that replaces the CAP supports food production and improves and protects the natural environment, with a system whereby public money is genuinely a return for public good. We have an opportunity to raise standards and boost our rural economy at the same time, and that opportunity extends beyond the CAP. As a country, we have led the way on animal welfare, but we have been limited in what we can do due to our membership of the EU.