I am pleased to be able to speak in this important debate on our withdrawal from the EU, and to contribute on the day on which we discuss the economic aspects—including the economy, jobs, opportunities, trade and business—that are so important to the future of our country. I praise the speech given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and all the work that he has done to help working people in this country in the past few years, particularly in his recent Budget, which was well received in my constituency. I am thinking particularly of things like the increase in the personal allowance, the measures on home ownership and the fuel duty freeze. My constituents are optimistic about and supportive of the Budget and believe that it will give us the basis for a great future outside the EU.
Bexleyheath and Crayford voted heavily for Brexit, with two thirds of people voting to leave. Brexit is a fantastic opportunity for our country, although the House would never believe it from listening to so many people on the Opposition Benches today. We have to embrace it to reap the benefits for years to come. We have the fifth largest economy in the world and great employment figures, and we are in a good economic state thanks to this Conservative Government. With an independent trade policy, Britain can reach markets around the world, opening up access to fast-growing markets, which will further strengthen our economy and the economies of our trading partners. We have to believe, we have to lead and we have to act. The British public want a Brexit deal done soon. They want an independent and global Britain that can take advantage of controlling its own destiny. We need to be upbeat and believe in ourselves: we are a great country with a great future. Let us be positive on this matter. We need to look beyond Europe to the developing world, the far east and other markets where there are trade deals to be done. We should therefore be upbeat, positive and enthusiastic about this country after we leave at the end of March.
I have to be definite: I do not want a no-deal Brexit. I do not think that would be good for our country, and we have to work hard to make sure that it does not happen. Nevertheless, the majority of my constituents feel that this particular withdrawal agreement contains some difficulties. A lot in it is good, but I am afraid that certain things are not. The political declaration is an interesting document and I welcome its content. We should be working towards having
“no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors”.
There are many good words in the document and good things that we believe in.
There are plenty of good points, but I have one area of concern. It has been raised everywhere in the debates this week, some of which I have sat through, and it is, of course, the backstop. It is a real problem. We want a deal that gets us out and we want to have good relations with Europe, because Europe is home to our neighbours and trading partners. We want to do business with them, but we do not want to be their prisoner before we can make the trade deals that we need with the countries of the world. Let me use the example that I used in a meeting with the Prime Minister. If I am buying a house, I want a completion date. I do not want to give over the money—in this case, the £39 billion, although my house would not be worth that much because in Bexleyheath and Crayford we do not have those kinds of properties—without an end date. We want a completion date, so I am really concerned about the backstop.
I listened to the Attorney General on Monday and his exposition was very good, but he did leave me with some questions. I am concerned that Northern Ireland would be treated differently from the rest of the country. It is not acceptable to separate one country that is part of our United Kingdom. Negotiation requires compromise, but for me the backstop is a step too far and leaves uncertainty as the central feature of our negotiations and the conclusion of our exit from the EU.
Let me conclude with this thought. Will the withdrawal agreement allow Britain to take control of its laws, its money and its borders? If not, there is something wrong with it. If it does, we should support it. However, if the backstop is not looked at and dealt with, and if there is no end date, the deal is flawed. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to look again at the agreement to make sure that our United Kingdom remains united and that there are no differences for different parts of this country when we leave the EU.