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The reverse is true. It is also a pleasure to speak after Sir Nicholas Soames, and I particularly enjoyed his reference to Lewis Carroll. While listening to Stewart Hosie, who is not in his seat, I was put in mind of Milton:
“No light, but rather darkness visible.
Serv’d onely to discover sights of woe”.
Of course, that comes from “Paradise Lost”, which is exactly what the hon. Gentleman’s speech sounded like. As we are on a literary theme, I want to quote the Attorney General, who described the deal before us as akin to Dante Alighieri’s first circle of hell which, as we all know, is limbo. In fact, it is worse than limbo, because it is a bit like imprisonment, and it is why I, on the behalf of my constituents, from whom I have received many thousands of representations, will not be able to support this deal. If there was a guarantee that we could secure a trade agreement at the end of the transition period and if there were no automatic backstop, I may have been able to support it. However, I am doubtful that we would able to secure this trade agreement. The Chancellor said that he would prefer to see an extension of the transition period, and then there would probably be another extension, which is what the Attorney General was referring to.
I see no reason why there could not be a time limit on the discussions for a trade agreement with the EU. Canada has already been there and done that with the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, and those negotiations make me doubt that we would reach an agreement in the first phase of the transition. CETA took seven years, and it has still not been signed off and ratified—it is still a provisional agreement. We may not reach a trade agreement with the 27 member states, and we have already seen how difficult it is to negotiate with them. Belgium was incredibly difficult during Canada’s negotiations with the EU, for example. If we do not reach an agreement, we will have to ask the 27, “Can we leave?” There is no unilateral way to exit, which is like taking us into the transition period, but in a pair of handcuffs, and I simply cannot agree to that. That is not what people voted for. They did not vote for limbo or to continue to be dictated to by the 27 member states.
Turning to the backstop, whatever side of the House or the argument they are on, I know of no Member who will answer positively to, “What do you think the chances are of us negotiating a trade agreement with the EU in the transition period?” Almost everyone says, “Absolutely none.” We will therefore end up in the backstop by default. According to the legal advice, which the Attorney General provided at the Dispatch Box without having to publish it, that will put us in an extremely difficult position. Again, there is no unilateral way out, and it will precede the break-up of the Union. It puts us in an invidious position with regard to the Northern Ireland agreement. It will lead to a scenario that we do not need to be in.
I started talking about Canada, and that sort of agreement was offered to us by Barnier. Our negotiators refused to accept it, but it was what was articulated in the Lancaster House speech. If the Prime Minister had come back with an agreement based on that speech and on the Canada plus agreement that she was offered by Barnier, I would vote for that on the behalf of my constituents and they would agree with it, too. Sadly, however, she did not, and I cannot support this withdrawal agreement.