[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 2:03 pm on 11th January 2019.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay 2:03 pm, 11th January 2019

I am conscious that I will need to be quick, given the time, Mr Speaker.

This is obviously one of the most momentous debates that many of us will ever take part in, although we must remember that for many of our constituents their jobs, their homes, infrastructure and many other issues already decided in this Parliament will be the priority, as was perfectly encapsulated when I was invited to appear on BBC Radio Devon this morning to talk about the key issue in Torbay today: dustbin collections.

It is worth saying that Torbay voted strongly to leave the EU, so I do not see an option of staying in. People across the bay did not vote to leave the EU just because they saw a bus or they had some thoughts on immigration; they did so because they considered the issues carefully and many wanted to see the UK open to the world, continuing trading and looking at a different path. This is not the way they are sometimes painted and it shows why a second referendum—a politicians’ vote—is for the birds. Could we imagine any of us on the doorstep saying, “Next Thursday is your chance to decide the outcome. It is your chance to decide whether we leave or remain”? When they then say, “Didn’t you ask us to do that three years ago”, we would say, “Yes, but this time it really counts.” That is nonsense, as is the idea of extending article 50. I do not see what people think that would achieve, aside from kicking the can down the road for another couple of months. If people think article 50 should be revoked and we should stay, they could at least coherently argue that. I passionately disagree with them on that, as it would be a mistake, it would be going back into the EU and it would make us look like fools. As my hon. Friend Mrs Badenoch pointed out, if we cannot leave, no one else can, and it would make our future negotiations look daft.

In deciding how to vote on this, I have, as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, had the chance to speak to him at some length about it. He has been clear that whatever outcome we argue for, be it Norway-plus, Canada or any other of the future relationships, there needs to be a withdrawal agreement. There are going to be three parts to any agreement; one on citizens’ rights, one on money and a third on guarantees about the Northern Ireland border—this is known as the backstop. Few of us in this Chamber would argue about the issues on citizens’ rights. We have a responsibility for our citizens who live in the EU, and, having a system in which the EU enforces their rights is where we need to be. Relying on 27 individual Governments is not a practical place to be. I would have every confidence in some countries honouring their obligations, but not all. The money aspect is something we would probably need to tolerate, as to get any agreement we would need to look at our existing obligations, but with this deal we would at least not be making large contributions in the future.

That brings me on to the backstop, which, as a Unionist, I find difficult; I do not see Northern Ireland as a third country. I have read with interest the opinions of people such as my hon. Friend Michael Tomlinson and my hon. Friend Robert Courts, whom I see in his place. The balance here is about what the likely alternative is if we do not go down the path of this deal. I have some sympathy with one amendment on approving anything other than the deal, but, as I saw on Tuesday, there are those looking to use their arguments against this deal not in the hope of a no-deal Brexit, which the UK could survive and manage, putting policies in place to keep our economy going and revitalise it—some Opposition Members would probably then be too busy trying to shoot those down to make that work—but in respect of what would be the actual outcome in this Parliament. That would probably end up being that people would be hoping for no Brexit. Some are open about that, and I respect it when they are, but others are not. So if I want to see us do things such as implement the referendum result, look to accede to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for a trans-Pacific partnership, and at least have the chance of getting a comprehensive trade deal with the US as an independent nation, this deal, in some form needs to go through.