[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 11:54 am on 11th January 2019.

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Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Chair, Administration Committee 11:54 am, 11th January 2019

I certainly support the hon. Lady on one thing and that is on thugs. Throughout my political career, both in the House and in local government, there have been right and left-wing thugs, and some of them are beyond imagination, especially in the dark corners of some of the inner-city areas in which I have worked.

For further safety, I need to declare a number of interests: I am a very part-time dentist, a member of the National Farmers Union, and an ethnic minority immigrant holding dual nationality. Unlike those on the Front Benches, I am the immigrant.

In the referendum, I voted to remain in spite of growing discomfort over the EU’s progressive political integration, but I have changed. As the negotiations have gone on, the EU appears to have moved closer to unity. It was a great relief to me that we did not join the euro. That was brought home to me by someone who had visited the visitors’ centre at the European Parliament and informed me that there was a plaque that said:

“National sovereignty is the root cause of the most crying evils of our times.”

It then goes on to say:

“The only final remedy for this evil is the federal union of the peoples.”

Marx lives.

As I have said, I voted remain and lost. I accept the vote and am fully committed to the UK leaving the EU with a reasonable compromise deal. I say that because, having been a Minister many years ago who negotiated with the Europeans, I can say that they are tough negotiators, but then, too, so are we. We always ended up, to some measure, with a compromise. Those colleagues who say that we should go back and demand this or that are really away with the pixies. I expect a response from my hon. Friend Sir David Amess with whom I agree to disagree on many things, including on this particular issue. The thought that the EU and the 27 will roll over to the demand of colleagues on either side of the House after two and a half years of tough negotiations beggars belief.

Like all colleagues, I listened and talked to my constituents, or, rather, mostly, they talked to me. They have moved, too, especially the business people. They are saying, “Get on with it. What are you doing in the House of Commons? Stop it and get on with it.”

As I have mentioned, I belong to the NFU. Over the past few weeks, my local NFU members, in classic farmer speak—and there is a classic farmer speak—have been asking, “What are you lot mucking about with in Westminster?” Some of these families have farms here and in France. Many, if not most, export their agricultural products to Europe. All whom I have spoken to want us to take this deal and move on. Their livelihoods depend on trade, as do those of my Mole Valley manufacturers.

An additional factor raised by manufacturers and farmers is the relief that is felt over the new attitude appearing on immigration. I arrived in the UK under a work permit as a needed professional and spent a considerable time working in London in the national health service. Many of my doctor and dentist colleagues from New Zealand and Australia did the same, but when we went into the EU, or the Common Market, that flow stopped. The importance of that was brought home to me a couple of years ago when I ran an Otago University alumni dinner—Otago is my old university—in the Members’ Dining Room. About 30 medical, dental and other distinguished academics from the university flew over from the United States and Canada. They pointed out to me that huge numbers of New Zealand and Australian academics, doctors and dentists in America would have preferred to come here, and they may do so in the future if these new immigration approaches happen. But, as ever, one of my farmers had the last word. He said that, in recognising skills, we need to accept the many forms. Considering my background—I left a very large sheep farm in New Zealand, which now, after lambing, has 50,000 sheep—it is clear why I was caught and amused by his remark. He said to me that we used to like New Zealand and Australian sheep shearers coming to this country to shear our sheep. Does sheep shearing, I ask the Home Secretary, count as a skill?

I am backing this deal. I hope that we will wake up, grab the deal next week and move forward, because we have spent too long negotiating and too long waiting for it to happen.