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[3rd Allotted Day]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 5:35 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Conservative, East Devon 5:35 pm, 6th December 2018

No one ever said it was going to be easy. I never shared the lofty visions of the founding fathers of the EEC, the EC and the EU—Schuman, Adenauer, Monnet and others—but I totally understand where they were coming from in post- war, post-consensus Europe and what they were trying to achieve. I never shared the vision of wanting an ever closer set of federal European states or a European army. I am pleased we were awkward members of the club, as de Gaulle always knew we would be, and that we maintained our own currency, and so on.

We had a failure of understanding and a failure of negotiation when my friend David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, went to try to persuade Chancellor Merkel that he needed to be given something to bring back to the United Kingdom. She did not quite understand his predicament.

None the less, I voted to remain because I believed that the EU is immeasurably stronger with the United Kingdom as a moderating force. I questioned as to who would benefit from a weakened EU, and I still maintain that that is Russia. I have no doubt that people living in Sweden or the Baltic states would share that view. As a former Northern Ireland Minister, I did not understand how we could address the issue of the Northern Ireland border, which I was sure would come up.

My constituents in East Devon, by a small margin, voted to come out of the EU, and I respect that view. Nationally, 1.3 million more people voted to come out of the EU, and we must respect that view. I have been perturbed and variously alarmed and horrified by the way our negotiations have been conducted over the past few months. How we could have agreed to pay a sum of up to £40 billion without securing an agreement I do not know, and I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will look carefully at the idea of paying the EU with a Brexit bond, linked to the EU’s co-operation with us, to ensure our economy actually prospers.

Normally, as a former remainer, the House would expect me to endorse the withdrawal agreement in the vote next week, but I am currently unable to do so because of the Northern Ireland protocol. I cut my political teeth in Scotland as a Conservative and Unionist candidate, as did my right hon. Friend Sir Nicholas Soames, who made such a good speech earlier, and as did you, Mr Speaker. I served in Northern Ireland as a Northern Ireland Minister. [Interruption.] You are now denying it, Mr Speaker, but I think you did fight a Scottish seat, unless I am entirely wrong.