European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Leaving the EU – in the House of Commons at 10:46 pm on 14th January 2019.

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Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham 10:46 pm, 14th January 2019

It is a real pleasure to follow Lucy Powell, although we disagree about how to deliver on Brexit, because while we may have differences of opinion, we are all among equals in this place.

Some 65% of my constituents voted to leave the European Union in 2016. From holding street surgeries and public meetings across the constituency, I can say that that figure has not changed. When this matter was last discussed in this place, I was disappointed not to have been called and that the vote was pulled. The question is this: what has substantially changed between then, when the question was going to be put, and tomorrow, when the matter will be put before the House? The answer is nothing.

I refer Members to the words of Nigel Dodds. He said:

“Despite a letter of supposed reassurance from the European Union, there are no ‘legally binding assurances’, as the Prime Minister talked about in December…In fact, there is nothing new. Nothing has changed.”

That comes from DUP colleagues who help to keep us in government. We talk about 3 million extra jobs, 3 million apprenticeships and 1.9 million more children going to good and outstanding schools in our great country. That is happening under a Conservative Government who exist because we are supported by the DUP. We have to take its views and concerns into account.

I face a difficult decision in that I have never voted against the Conservative party in my nine years in Parliament. I had to resign as a vice-chairman of the Conservative party, as well as a Government trade envoy to Pakistan, where I was born before coming to this great country at the age of six, not speaking a word of English. It was this great party that stood for aspiration and said, “You can work hard and be whatever you want to be. You can be a Member of Parliament at the age of 31 and represent your home town.” When I had to step down as a trade envoy, trade had increased by 10%, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend Greg Hands, a former International Trade Minister, for his brilliant support in achieving that. Our manifesto commitment—it was on page 36—made it clear that leaving the EU meant leaving the single market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the ECJ. What we have here does not achieve that at all.

The opportunities that our great country will have to secure those brilliant trade deals with partners around the world will be limited. I was in the United States over Christmas for the 116th congressional opening session, and our parliamentary counterparts were very clear. They want to negotiate a trade deal, but they understand that if we have European regulation intertwined with this trade deal, it will limit our opportunities to do that great trade deal with them. Apart from being our key trading partner, the US is our No. 1 country for security, whatever our relationship in relation to Brexit. For me, security is the No. 1 priority for our great country, and the US is a key partner in delivering that.

I do not think it is right at all to have another referendum. No Member of Parliament who won their seat by one vote would ever say they should not take up their seat, so we should honour and deliver the public mandate. In my constituency, it was about sovereignty: British people electing British Members of Parliament to have the final say on our laws and how our country is governed.