It is a pleasure to follow Nick Smith and to take part in this debate, which is historic by any definition. I rise to speak in support of the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, because my fundamental political belief is in pragmatism. I am no ideologue or absolutist, and the success of the Conservative and Unionist party has been its willingness to adapt to present realities, and to work practically to deliver what is in the national interest.
It is in the national interest for us to leave the European Union in an orderly way, by agreement, and to continue to have close and co-operative relationships with our European neighbours. It is in the national interest for us to achieve a free trade arrangement whereby we can continue to trade freely across borders without the encumbrance of barriers, tariffs and burdensome charges. It is in the best interests of our economy, businesses and jobs for this Parliament to get a grip on the practicalities of our predicament. It is in the interests of our democracy and public confidence in Parliament for this House to deliver on the instruction of the British people that we should leave the European Union. The people’s vote of June 2016 answered the question asked of the people by this House. This House must now honour that answer.
We must be careful to ensure that our opposition to the deal is not simply about waiting for a perfect one. What we have on the table before us is not a perfect deal. It is not an entirely comfortable deal, but it is acceptable. Compared with the risk of leaving the European Union in a disorderly way, without an agreement, this agreement is a good agreement. It secures the rights of citizens and provides for a transition period and an orderly departure from the European Union. I would much prefer no backstop, but I accept that the commitments that we have given to the people of Northern Ireland, which we must honour, make a backstop of some form or another an inevitable element of any agreement of any description.