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I want to argue for the inevitability of imperfection, the lack of credible alternatives, the value of compromise and, above all, the benefits of safeguarding the interests of our constituents.
Let me start with the deal and its imperfections, many of which have been listed by colleagues around the House. Above all, there are concerns that the backstop arrangement to prevent a hard border on Northern Ireland could lead us into an indefinite purgatory of neither in nor out, with rules from the EU governing aspects of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If the Government can give further reassurance on that point, many colleagues on both sides of the House will clearly be relieved.
But the deal does something else: it balances honouring the result of the referendum, looking after citizens and their rights, and not damaging business, jobs or the security of our nation. For those of us who voted remain—because, as I wrote at the time, the short-term risks outweighed the potential longer-term benefits—and those who voted leave, to bring back control, the deal mitigates the risks, gives certainty to people, trade and security, and allows us the chance to shape opportunities that may come forward in the next stage of the negotiations on detailed trade and customs arrangements.
For my constituency of Gloucester, with our engineering and manufacturing heritage, aerospace and nuclear interests, our growing cyber sector and the contribution made by our academics and health specialists from the European Union, this compromise may not look heroic, but it is practical.
Let me make three other key points. The first is that flaws in negotiations are as inevitable as the weathered stonework on Gloucester cathedral. As Churchill said,
“democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 444, c. 207.]
So it is with this deal. Those who criticise the deal because it does not satisfy them, either because it does not have a close enough relationship with the EU or is not distant enough from the EU, are effectively offering one of three alternatives: no deal plus WTO, a Labour renegotiation, Norway-plus, or a second referendum. Let me brush aside, I am afraid, the concept of a Labour renegotiation, as this comes from the party whose only position has been not to have a position—resolute only to be irresolute. On a second referendum, this would be the only genuine betrayal of the promise made to every household before the referendum: “What you decide, we will implement.” On Norway-plus, however defined, which could become a place of refuge if this deal were rejected, the House should be in no doubt—it is not a good deal. We would pay a lot to be a rule taker and never have an independent trade policy.
For those of my colleagues representing seats from Uxbridge to North East Derbyshire who rail against the deal, the challenge is this: show me your better deal, and do not risk what you wanted—Brexit—by now demanding everything from a negotiation that will never be achievable.
Our constituents want to see this deal done. They want us to move on and get back to what they want to focus on: better care, less knife crime, easier transport, good broadband and excellent public services. In the civil war—