Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement

Part of Yemen – in the House of Commons at 7:51 pm on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean Conservative, Redditch 7:51 pm, 10th September 2018

It is a great pleasure to follow Jonathan Edwards. I rise to speak about this issue from the point of view of the people of Redditch, who are always at the forefront of my mind in this place. I remember clearly the expression of their sovereign desire to leave the EU, which they expressed in the referendum with 62% in favour of leaving. I have not found anyone in Redditch who has changed their mind during the ensuing period, even though we have been grappling with a series of extremely difficult and complicated technical issues.

We spend a lot of time in this place dealing with incredibly complex legislation, some of which has been eloquently explained tonight by hon. Members on both sides of the House. However, my constituents always come back to talking about three basic things. They voted to leave the European Union in those numbers because they wanted to take back control of their money, their borders and their laws. That brings me to something that we have not heard mentioned at all tonight. It is something that is very hard to put into figures, and it is called sovereignty. It is an emotional concept for people in my constituency and in constituencies across the United Kingdom, including Hartlepool, which we heard about earlier.

People in Redditch and across the midlands are very level-headed. They know very well that we are reliant on jobs in the manufacturing industry and in the supply chain. The excellent Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, makes this point on a regular basis. I declare an interest in that I helped him to win that election, and I am very proud that I did so. He is a businessman, and he understands the need for a deal so that those jobs can be protected. I also understand that very clearly from the businesses in my constituency, including GKN and a number of other businesses, large and small.

I come back to a point that I have made before in this House, which is that we are sometimes misled by listening to the voice of the very large corporate businesses and failing to heed the voices of the small and medium-sized enterprises. I know those SMEs intimately, because I ran one for 26 years before I came to this place. I can tell the House that there are many things that stand in the way of businesses. They face obstacles every single day as they grapple with trading conditions, whether at home or around the world. The great genius of our British entrepreneurs is that they are able to turn those obstacles into challenges and to innovate and be entrepreneurial. They are able to seize the opportunities that are provided by any state of affairs or economic situation that they face. That is why we have such a thriving and dynamic economy in this country, and why we have given rise to some of the best businesses in the world.

I asked the Minister earlier whether she believed we would be in a position to take advantage of the 90% of trade outside our European borders in the future, and she assured me that we would be in a position to start signing those deals and that we would shortly be able to move quickly to ratify them. That is why I welcome this withdrawal agreement. We have all been calling for certainty and clarity; I hear it from my constituents in the business sector all the time. This agreement will start to put in place some of the things that we have been calling for. It is not perfect, of course; there have been vigorous debates on these subjects and they will continue.

When I think about being the Prime Minister, I think, “My goodness me! Who would want to do her job?” At the end of the day, she just cannot win, can she? She cannot ever please everybody, either on our side or on the other side of the House, or in the country. We had a vote in which some people voted to stay and some people voted to leave, so she is never going to be able to please anybody. However, I hear people in Redditch saying, “Good on her. She is just getting on with it. She is facing down criticism on all sides.”