This country voted for Brexit, and it is incumbent on the House and the Government to deliver just that. The people who voted for Brexit did not vote for something that they did not understand. They voted for a land of opportunity and for freedom: freedom over our laws and borders, and the ability to trade freely, which we cannot do as members of the EU.
Today and over the next couple of days, we are asked to consider a withdrawal agreement and a political declaration. Amazingly, the withdrawal agreement has everything the EU wants in it, and would be binding. The political declaration, which looks at our future trading agreements and relationship, is what we in the UK want, and guess what? That is not binding.
In the west country, the impact on the fishing industry would be devastating. A clear link is intended between our ability to fish and reaching some form of economic deal. Voting for the deal would be damaging not only to my fishermen but to the country as a whole. Most importantly, it would not, in any shape, size or form, deliver Brexit. The motion is a triumph of hope over experience. Our experience of the EU is generally, “This is what we want. You can have as many goes at it as you like, but it is that and nothing else. We will not move.”
If we vote for this agreement, we will remain a rule taker from the European Court of Justice on environmental and employment matters; even the withdrawal agreement will ultimately, if there is a dispute, be determined by the ECJ. As has been discussed, we will have no right to leave unilaterally. We have all now seen the Attorney General’s advice; I do not really need to say more, do I?
We will be unable to pursue independent trade deals. The agreement does not say that we cannot, but because we are bound to strict equivalence with the EU in many areas of legislation, we are very unattractive, as the Americans have already said. If we stick to the EU’s rulebook, we cannot do what one normally does in a trade deal: agree tariffs and the methods of rule and regulation to ensure an equivalent outcome in both countries.
As we have heard said very emotionally, the backstop threatens the integrity of the UK, and would potentially put a border down the Irish sea. That is not acceptable; it breaks the Union. The extension period will continue the uncertainty for business, not bring it to an end, as many seem to think.
Quite a number of amendments have been tabled. They will not improve matters. What do they do? They have a go at sorting out the backstop by removing or time-limiting it, but the backstop is not the only problem with the agreement, so that will not work. There is also an amendment requiring another referendum. I am afraid that I have to disagree with Wera Hobhouse; the people have spoken, and we must accept that. It is not for us to say to the people, “Try again, and get a result that the EU wants.” That is simply not acceptable.
The Opposition’s amendment would keep us in the customs union, which would absolutely disempower us from doing any trade deals. Worst of all, none of the amendments would stop us paying £39 billion—and according to the Office for National Statistics, it is no longer that but £46 billion. If we extend our relationship, which we could do for a very long time, we continue making annual payments.
Next Tuesday, we will be asked to take a meaningful vote. Those who think that supporting the agreement is the only thing they can do to deliver Brexit should think again. That is absolutely not right. There is another option—I wish there were others, too, but there is no more time;