EU Withdrawal Agreement

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 18th December 2018.

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Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley 3:50 pm, 18th December 2018

I will not give way again, as I have taken my two interventions.

Let us not have any pretence about what is going on. Of course the people have spoken, including a million Scots who voted to leave the EU, and by a margin of 1.4 million the British people decided that they wished to go. I am well aware that I sit in a Parliament packed full of remain Members, and I understand that they are very angry and feel badly let down by the electorate. This really does turn things on their head; normally people are let down by their politicians, but in this case the politicians have been badly let down by the people. They were asked for their decision as to whether we should stay in or leave the EU. We had this massive exercise in 2016 when the British people said “We wish to leave,” and the politicians cannot quite get over it—the establishment cannot quite get over it, the BBC cannot quite get over it—and they have tried their level best since that vote to ensure that, one way or another, the decision of the British people is stymied.

There are 285 MPs who voted remain who represent leave areas, so I understand where people are coming from in this Chamber. But when sovereignty passed from this Parliament to the British people and we issued a pamphlet to every household that said that we would carry out their wishes, and when this Parliament itself voted for the referendum, really we do have to respect the wishes of the British people instead of refighting the referendum campaign of 2016.

Indeed, when we talk about what was written on the side of a bus and how much money was going to go into the national health service, I would have thought that Scottish nationalist Members of Parliament would be more interested in how much of our membership fees that are not now going to be sent to Brussels will be going to Scotland—to public services in Scotland, to the NHS in Scotland—rather than into the pockets of Brussels. Indeed, I am sure that President Juncker is very happy with his pay increase this week, which takes his salary to €32,700 a month; that is how much the President of the European Union is getting—way more in a month than most of my constituents earn in a year. I am delighted that we are coming out of the European Union and saving that money so I can see it being spent in my patch, and the Scottish nationalist Members will see it being spent in their patches as well.

Yes, I believe we got some things wrong at the beginning of the negotiations. The scheduling was completely wrong. It gave the EU negotiators a stick, in the form of the backstop over the Northern Ireland-Irish border, and they have hit us with that stick time and again. We are talking about a backstop that the United Kingdom and the European Union both say they do not want to use. They hope they will not need to use it, and they also say that it is going to be temporary. However, when our Prime Minister went to see President Juncker to raise our concerns about the possibility of our legally being able to be held in the European Union for an eternity if the EU so wishes, or of the backstop being used as leverage in the next round of trade talks between us and the European Union, all of a sudden they dug their heels in. They say that they do not want to use the backstop and that it will be temporary, but they are not prepared to allow us to leave the European Union unilaterally if we believe that they are stalling. That absolutely says it all.

I am delighted that the Prime Minister made it so clear yesterday that there would be no revocation of article 50 and no second referendum. She knows what a second referendum would be all about. I am delighted, too, that the Cabinet has today stepped up its preparations for WTO. As I said yesterday, President Juncker listens to what is said in this place, and he gets a bit of succour from the calls for a second referendum because he believes that if the first vote is overturned we will still be spending our money in the European Union and taking its laws. He gets a bit of succour from that, but he will also hear that we are stepping up plans for WTO, and that should provide some leverage.

We should not get angry with our Prime Minister. Where is the anger at President Juncker digging his heels in? Does he really want to see jobs being threatened in the European Union? We always hear people standing up in this place and talking about safeguarding jobs in Britain, but what about safeguarding jobs in Germany, Spain, Italy and the various other EU countries that want to sell their goods to us? We have a £95 billion deficit with the European Union. We buy 850,000 German cars and £3.5 billion-worth of flowers and plants from Holland, and we will want to carry on doing that.

I shall not be taking part in any of the debates tomorrow, so I just want to wish everybody—including you, Madam Deputy Speaker—a merry Christmas and a happy Brexit in 2019.