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2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:33 pm on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 8:33 pm, 11th September 2017

The hon. Gentleman will have heard me when I said that I believe we should leave the single market. I can pinpoint the particular reason. If we are going to follow the instructions our constituents gave us, at least let us be bold, ambitious and look outside the club of 27 member states who, frankly, have not allowed some of the poorest countries to trade with that block. We should now set our sights on helping those countries and forging links with them in a way that has not been possible thus far. There is, therefore, an ethical reason for leaving the single market and the customs union, and for forging a new way forward.

As one of the 498 MPs who triggered article 50, I look at the approximately 150 MPs who were not willing to do so. I can perhaps understand why they are not willing to support Second Reading. The Bill will preserve all EU law when we leave the EU. The 150 MPs do not wish us to leave the EU, so I can see, logically, why they are not willing to vote for Second Reading. I would, however, just make the point that it was the same ballot box that returned them to this place that they choose to disregard when it comes to the referendum. That leaves us with the remaining 498 MPs. We hear that many of them will not support Second Reading this evening. I can understand those who always wished the UK to leave the EU not wanting to retain EU laws but to get on with repeal straightaway, but I have not heard any voices on either side of the House advocating that position. I am working on the basis, therefore, having heard of no other mechanism for retaining EU law on day one, that there is no alternative to the Bill.

Why, then, will hon. Members not vote for the principle of the Bill on Second Reading? I am saying not that the Bill cannot be improved but that the Government will listen to ideas on how it can be improved—I can testify to that having had a conversation with the ministerial team today and fixed a meeting to walk through some of those improvements. On clause 6, for example, on the interpretation of EU law following departure, I have concerns that the lower courts will be required to follow retained EU case law and retained EU general principles. It appears that they will not be able to depart from EU case law but that the Supreme Court will. If a decision is taken by the lower courts on EU general principles, however, will the Supreme Court be able to depart on that basis?

There are issues to iron out, therefore, but notwithstanding all the intelligent arguments we have heard from lawyers in this place, the prime driver for me is the need to make suggestions and make this work. It behoves us to make it work. In a previous job, I took many cases through the court process, including the Supreme Court, and the more assistance we can give the Supreme Court with interpretation and the smooth administration of law, the greater the benefits we will all reap in the future.

But that is for another day. Tonight is all about whether we are willing to see all preserved EU rights and laws retained on day one, so as to deliver a smooth departure, retain the rights that many hon. Members want retained and ensure that we make a success of our leaving. I was willing to listen to other arguments, but I have heard none advanced, apart—I am afraid to say—from pure politics. I do not believe that our constituents, regardless of which way they voted, want politics on this subject; they want us to get on with the job and deliver a successful Brexit, not just for them but for the country and world at large.