2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:01 pm on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover 9:01 pm, 11th September 2017

I supported the remain side of the argument in the referendum, but my constituents listened politely to my advice and then two thirds of them voted to leave. A majority in this country voted to leave, so we have been handed instructions by the British people to leave the European Union and we need to respect the referendum result. This Bill is a key part of getting that ship under way. It is a process Bill that simply writes European law into our domestic legislation.

There are those who now say that we do not have enough scrutiny. However, it is strange that the European Communities Act has allowed all European law straight into our system since 1972 without any scrutiny in this House whatsoever. They did not complain about that, but they are suddenly worried about scrutiny. If we scrutinised and debated each and every one of the thousand statutory instruments and called them all in under the prayer motion procedure, we would do nothing between now and Brexit day but discuss the intricacies of writing bits of European legislation into our domestic legislation. I cannot speak for anyone else, but none of my constituents have asked me to do that. My constituents have not raised their determination for us discuss the minutiae and process of putting European legislation into our legislation. Has anyone else had a constituent say, “Between now and Brexit day I want you to discuss getting European law into our legal system”? I very much doubt it.

My constituents have asked me, “How can we ensure that we do not have to pay too much money? Does the EU have a legal case to demand money from us for the Brexit divorce bill? Does it have a case to demand £50 billion or whatever it is from us?” So I spent some time doing some research. I looked at the matter carefully with the eminent Martin Howe, QC, and we concluded that the EU has no claim at all as a matter of law. In fact, a compelling argument suggests that we are owed €10 billion by the EU for the return of our stake in the European Investment Bank, but we do not hear about that from the Opposition. We do not hear them making the case for scrutiny of the divorce bill to try to get some taxpayer value—not a bit of it.

Then, my constituents raised with me their concern about whether there might be queues on the roads to Dover and problems with trade when we leave the European Union, to which I say it is important that we are ready on day one, and that we are prepared for Brexit day, deal or no deal. That is a prime concern of my constituents, because gridlock at Dover means gridlock for the UK economy as a whole.

It is very much in the national interest that we focus on being ready on day one, but we do not hear about that from the Labour party, either. We do not hear any constructive ideas whatever about how we can be ready on day one, how we can make a success of Brexit or how we can ensure that we do not have to shell out too much taxpayers’ money. No, what the Labour party wants to do is scrutinise process, because it does not have a clue.

The people of Britain clearly said we should leave the European Union, and they gave a clear instruction that they want to end uncontrolled EU immigration. That means that, yes, we have to leave the European Union’s internal market. They gave a very clear instruction that they want our trade policy to be made in Britain, not in Brussels. Yes, that means we have to leave the customs union, but it does not mean we cannot discuss a free trade agreement with the European Union, and that is what we should be focusing our time on here. Rather than discussing process or the scrutinising of laws that already exist just so they can be written into our legal system, we should be discussing how we will have relations with the European Union in the years after we leave, because that is what matters to our constituents.

The prosperity of our people, the success of our businesses and the lifeblood of our economy is about making sure we foster international trade not just with the European Union but with the wider world. That matters because 80% to 90% of all global growth in the years to come will not come from Europe. Those are not my figures, and it is not my argument—they come from the European Commission in reply to questions raised in the European Parliament.