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It is a pleasure to follow Janet Daby. From my experience as a divorce lawyer before I came to this House, I can say that no divorce ever results in parties being better off financially immediately afterwards. That is the reality of the situation we are going to be in as we divorce ourselves from the European Union.
There has been a compelling analysis during this debate from my right hon. Friends the Members for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and for Clwyd West (Mr Jones). I wish to associate myself with that analysis. During the past two years, it has been a privilege to serve on the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union. As you will know, Mr Speaker, that is one of the largest Select Committees and contains representatives of five different parties in this House. I can say that the membership of that Committee is overwhelmingly against this deal.
The feeling also applies in my constituency, where the deal is anathema. Tom Blyth, who runs the Christchurch Conservative political forum, has succinctly described the problem. He says that his membership is dispirited by the
“Government’s deceitful, cowardly, supine capitulation to EU bullying in a senseless obsessive pursuit of a Withdrawal Agreement that betrays the Nation”.
That is the message from my constituency and my Conservative association membership, in case anybody was in any doubt about that.
In preparing for the deal, the EU has clearly taken inspiration from the plant kingdom. In its negotiating strategy, it has looked to the Venus flytrap, which uses nectar to get its victims inside, from where they cannot get out. That is exactly the model that the EU has drawn up for us in the Northern Ireland protocol. My right hon. and learned Friend Sir Oliver Heald was interpreting the Attorney General’s statement as suggesting that there might be a way out of that protocol, but that is not what is said in the actual text of the Government’s legal advice, which we have now seen. So let us not be seduced into thinking that somehow the EU is on our side and will eventually let us out of this protocol. The EU will let us out of the backstop only if we agree to further demands that it places on us.
On page 36 of the 2017 Conservative party manifesto, it says:
“We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside our withdrawal, reaching agreement on both within the two years allowed by Article 50.”
Obviously, that has not happened. Why have we reneged on that promise, given that not doing so would have ensured that we would not be parting with £39 billion of taxpayers’ money without a guarantee of a good future trading relationship? As the EU is desperate for our money, why has the United Kingdom unilaterally thrown away its strongest negotiating card and, in so doing, also gone back on the Prime Minister’s oft-repeated promise that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed?
The Government are now intent on also throwing away our second-best negotiating card—that no deal is better than a bad deal. The 2017 Conservative party manifesto asserted:
“we continue to believe that no deal is better than a bad deal for the UK.”
The Prime Minister set out in her Lancaster House speech the reasons why she believed that and the benefits that would come from having a no-deal solution. It is extraordinary that she now seems to have reneged on what she was saying then—that no deal would deliver us the opportunity to trade globally and enable us to attract overseas investment into our country. Why has she gone back on all those agreements and left us in a situation now where we have no option but to vote against this withdrawal agreement?