It is an honour to follow Neil Gray. I did not come into politics to talk about the European Union. I think I have spoken more about it in the past couple of weeks than I have in the past couple of years. I wish to start by praising the Prime Minister. I am certainly no sycophant, and I suspect she probably did not like the letter I sent her a couple of weeks ago, but she deserves huge praise and credit for the determination and perseverance she has displayed throughout these negotiations, securing a deal that many said could not be secured. She has won my respect and, I suspect, that of the nation for that tenacity.
My constituency was split on the same lines as the country in the referendum—52:48. I did not get involved in either campaign, because although I decided, on balance, to vote for Brexit, I am a democrat and I said that whatever the result was, I would respect it—I stand by that. The decision I have taken on the Brexit negotiations and the EU withdrawal agreement that was due to come before this House is that it is for every Member of the House to do their due diligence, look at every aspect of anything before us and vote on it accordingly. I see my role as being to review the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and to come to a conclusion.
The deal has considerable merit and, apart from one element, I have little hesitation in offering it my full support. The hesitation comes in relation to the backstop. I have been clear about this in meetings with the Secretary of State, who has been hugely accommodating in listening to my concerns, the Attorney General—on more than one occasion—and the Prime Minister. I entirely understand and respect the Government’s position that the backstop will almost certainly be an uncomfortable position for both the EU and the UK.