It is a pleasure to follow Mr Carmichael, who was right to speak about the opportunities that generations in this country have had, provided in part by freedom of movement and the ability to travel and work in countries across Europe.
We are being asked to consider one of the most important decisions in our post-war history, and there are no good choices. At the time of the referendum, I voted to remain as I took, and still hold, the view that we could not get a better deal than the one we already had with the EU. However, we held the referendum and I made a pledge to implement the result, and to do so responsibly. That is why I voted for article 50 and the EU withdrawal Act, despite my misgivings. This is not a perfect deal, but it does deliver the referendum result. I therefore feel honour-bound to vote for it, as I believe that it delivers that result in a responsible way.
This deal delivers in a number of areas. It gives the UK tariff-free, quota-free access to EU markets, while ensuring that we are out of free movement and have control of our agriculture and fisheries. More importantly, it keeps us out of ever-closer union. Does this deal live up to the promises made in the referendum? No—nothing could. We were promised that Brexit would be easy, that we would have the exact same benefits outside the EU as before and that we held all the cards in the upcoming negotiations. Those who promised sunlit uplands now criticise a deal that requires compromise. To choose WTO terms over this deal, about which I do have some concerns, would be an act of the utmost irresponsibility, for which the British public would rightly punish us.
For the past two years, I have been a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. Over many weeks and months, I have heard evidence about the impact of Brexit. Like everyone, I am certainly better informed now than I was in 2016, and an email from one of my constituents—I will call him Mr D—reflects much of the evidence that I have heard. He said that since the vote to leave,
“our business has endured significant hardship. Not all of this can be directly attributed to Brexit but the deterioration in sterling has impacted costs and economic uncertainty has made long term investment decisions next to impossible…
The forthcoming vote in parliament provides our country with an opportunity to bring about a little more certainty and stability.”
He claimed that while those who think the Prime Minister’s proposal is not ideal may be right,
“as the person most heavily involved in the negotiation—a negotiation that leading Brexiteers ran away from after the vote—she is well placed to judge whether it is the best we can get. Certainly EU leaders are unanimous in that view.”
He goes on to say that whatever deal is put in front of Parliament, one faction or another will be dissatisfied and that the notion that we can leave a club and no longer pay its subscriptions, yet pick and choose which services to continue to enjoy is frankly delusional. We are not in a position to select from a menu of membership benefits to suit our needs—we are leaving.
Mr D continues:
“When people find that the prices of goods and services rise sharply, and when they find that food starts to run short—I work in the grocery supply chain—and when they find that they are losing their jobs, they will judge you, and I doubt they will forgive you.”
That reflects the evidence I have heard from countless businesses who have come before the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. Those businesses provide jobs and employment to my constituents, and they speak with one voice when they ask us to vote for this deal. My right hon. Friend Sir Nicholas Soames spoke about the need to come together, compromise and work towards an outcome that delivers for our country. It may not be perfect, but it is a good deal.