Many ideas have been put forward today, but, as lawyers are fond of saying, we are where we are. I urge hon. Members putting forward ideas—650 different ideas, possibly, if you can fit everyone into this enormous debate, Mr Speaker—to look down the corridor, where there is another debate going on that is possibly even more thoughtful and perhaps a little less political than the one in this Chamber. I was made to stop and think when I read the speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier today. I encourage all Members to have a little look at what is going on down the corridor.
In the 2016 referendum, the result in the Banbury constituency was the closest in the country. By 500, we voted to leave. I have seen no evidence, talking to people or in my postbag, that significant numbers on either side have changed their minds, though there have been a few. It is really important, given that we are where we are, that we now be sensible and practical. This is a fair deal—in fact, it is growing on me more and more as I read it and listen to debates such as this. There are two main reasons why I think that.
We have in the deal the beginnings of certainty on the status of EU nationals and an inkling of where our immigration policy is going. We know a fair bit about immigration in north Oxfordshire. Poles make up 10% of the population of Banbury. We also have another significant minority in the Kashmiris, who have been with us, in some cases, for four generations. The Poles and Romanians living locally are well integrated, and we value their contribution to or workforce and all aspects of public life.
I am concerned that we put flesh on the bones of the withdrawal agreement, and I look forward to engaging in detail with the White Paper so that my constituents might get practical solutions to problems such as, “Will granny be able to join me when she needs care in her old age?”. The deal is going in the right direction, which is one reason why I am inclined to vote for it, but I am also persuaded by the almost frictionless trade ideas set out in it. Of course, the future agreement needs more work, but we are going in the right direction.
In Banbury, we are lucky to have almost full employment. We have a wide selection of middle-sized family manufacturing firms—in the food and automotive industries, for example—that are a part of the critical just-in-time European-wide system. When I was hoping to speak in this debate, I thought I would ask my local business leaders what they would like me to say. I asked a wide selection, but I have chosen to read out the comments of two in particular. One is a great local entrepreneur. He was a Brexiteer, which is unusual among my local business leaders, and he now runs a company that is a leading distributor of health and beauty and household brands. He said:
“The deal on the table sorts several of the big Brexit issues—immigration being one. It also protects trade. Smooth trade through ports and ferry terminals is vital to the UK. So much of everything we eat and use comes from Europe. Likewise our exports are crucial to many UK businesses—especially automotive.
My view is we should sign it. I have not seen any credible alternative proposals from others...The Irish situation was always going to be difficult. It should not become a deal breaker. No deal would be a disaster.”
Let me also quote what was said by a representative of a company that manufactures high-end tools. This lady was a passionate remainer, and I am particularly fond of both her and her business—as, indeed, was my predecessor. The company is a great local employer. It is notable that those who visit its factory meet people who have worked there for 35 years, and successive generations of whose families have worked there. She said:
“The deal that is now on the table I believe is the best we could get. It isn’t as good as staying in for obvious reasons—you don’t get a better deal being out of the club than you get by being in it. But, it is a deal that an export company like ours can work with and while trade with the EU will cease to be frictionless we will have until 2021 to get things in place to deal with that. If I do my best to be positive about the situation, there may also be benefits for trade outside the EU post transition—although I sincerely hope not at the cost of lower standards for products, employee protection, the environment or animal welfare.”
I could not have put it better myself.
It could be said that Banbury was the most divided constituency on