I rise to remind people that it was only two months ago that there was a debate on “Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement”, when I cited the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend Dominic Raab, and his ambition for
“a smooth transition to a comprehensive future economic and security partnership for business and citizens”.
It was admirable and convincing, and it recognised the 2016 referendum. That day, I argued that we should look for a free trade arrangement—perhaps Canada plus—because I believed that that was deliverable. The Prime Minister said that she was more ambitious than that, and we now have a different deal before us.
Industries in my Gordon seat have embraced Brexit. They have prepared for change and considered the solvable problems of Brexit, and they have done so in good faith. Today, we can consider supporting the withdrawal agreement, fundamentally because of good faith.
In the Treasury Committee hearing yesterday, I asked the Chancellor whether, had we prepared in 2016, we could have had regulatory and certification preparation in place for WTO rules. That, at least, would have given us a realistic backstop from which to negotiate.
The industries in my constituency—the oil and gas majors, which employ 280,000 people, plus farming, the food sector, tourism and the financial and service sectors—need us to behave like grown-ups. They need us to recognise that they need a deal that works for businesses and jobs.
The Bank of England has run comprehensive stress testing, which the Chancellor recognised earlier. The good news is that under every circumstance and every scenario, our financial system is safe and robust. As I said to the Chancellor earlier, in future negotiations we should be extremely robust with the EU.
The stress tests were not forecasts. I have heard many Opposition Members say how damaging Brexit will be to our GDP, but I would like to remind them why this country is the second highest destination for foreign direct investment: it is among the top 10 freest markets in the world and it has a legal system and rule of law that mean that people want to be based here. In the first half of 2018, only China had higher levels of FDI than the United Kingdom; we were in front of the US, Singapore, Hong Kong, Spain and Holland. This is a country in which people are investing now and will invest in future.
What are the upsides if we get an agreement with the EU? The foreign exchange has discounted the pound so significantly that we could see a currency bounce. The stock market is falling again today because of the concern about no deal. As a businessperson, I recognise that concern. There is pent up investment in the system of potentially hundreds of billions of pounds, because companies have held back.
Fundamentally, I can support this deal because I support the Brexit vote. Being a Scot, I was involved in another referendum. Opposition parties seem unwilling to recognise that the people have spoken. I believe, democratically, in what they have said.