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Leaving the Eu: Customs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:13 pm on 16th May 2018.

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Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Conservative, North East Derbyshire 6:13 pm, 16th May 2018

Well, well, well, it is Wednesday, it is an Opposition day, and we are doing the Humble Address again. That rarely used instrument of parliamentary procedure, which has not been seen much over the past 200 years, has suddenly been used half a dozen times in less than six months. I accept that, effectively, there are two groups within the main Opposition party. Those in the more sensible group—they usually sit towards the back of the Chamber —feel very heartfelt about leaving the European Union and disagree with the principle of doing so. They make it quite clear, through this kind of proposal, that they do not wish that to happen. I respectfully disagree with them and gently ask individuals such as the hon. Members for Streatham (Chuka Umunna) and for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty)—neither of them are in their place, although they were here for much of this debate—to reflect on some of the words that they use. There is a genuine view on the Government Benches—and in constituencies such as mine, which voted 63% to leave—that we should leave the European Union, the single market and the customs union, and that there are options and opportunities when we do. To suggest that we are extremists or that we are being overly partisan because of that does nothing for my constituents or for the reputation of this House and how we are debating this issue. Therefore, although I understand hon. Members’ concerns, I ask them to consider their language separately.

My respect, however, does not extend to the Opposition Front Benchers, who are being deeply disingenuous in pursuing this proposal and the suggestions in it. It was heartening to hear my near neighbour, Paul Blomfield, accept that the Labour party’s proposals would mean that it would have no control over customs or future trading arrangements—one of the key reasons why 63% of my constituents voted to leave in the referendum two years ago. If that is the case, that is fine, but we should not draw an artificial distinction between having a trade deal and not having trade. The North American Free Trade Agreement quadrupled the amount of trade in that region when it was introduced in the 1990s. We can go out and seek to strike independent free trade deals that will be positive and beneficial to our country.

It is deeply disingenuous of the Opposition to suggest, three quarters of the way through negotiations—three quarters of the way through the Government trying to understand how we are going to strike a new set of deals with the European Union—that we should just throw open the books and show the European Union exactly what we are doing and thinking. The Opposition’s motion misunderstands trading policy, misrepresents the negotiations—probably wilfully—and misjudges the public mood. I will happily vote against it.