European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Leaving the EU – in the House of Commons at 11:57 pm on 14th January 2019.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow Conservative, Taunton Deane 11:57 pm, 14th January 2019

I am pleased to follow Christine Jardine.

The outcome of the referendum in Taunton Deane reflected exactly the national average—52% leave, 48% remain—and I am committed to respecting the outcome. However, I believe this means not just who won and who lost, but the balance of the vote. I hear the leave side saying there was a roar for change, but if 17.4 million people represent a roar, I put it to hon. Members that 16.1 million must represent a loud growl.

I voted remain, but I have never been fearful of leaving. In fact, I am astonished by how many people agree that this was a very difficult decision, with many shades of grey, but then suddenly seem to find it so absolutely black and white. For two and a half years, I have listened to the same dominant voices, many of great intellect. Among these I put my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg and my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve, but look how polarised their views are. No one has a monopoly on wisdom, and no single person on either side has all of the answers.

I came into Parliament after a long career working as a team member. I believe that party politics can function properly only if we act as a team, and I am saddened that not everybody seems to see it this way. Extricating ourselves from the tentacles of a 40-year relationship with 27 other countries is no mean feat. The negotiations have been long and complex, but certainly not inept. I have yet to hear a speech in this House that convinces me that anyone would have made a better fist of it than our Prime Minister. It is clear to me, however, that we must find a way through this with good will and compromise.

My view is to support a deal that gains the most for the most people, respecting the balance of the vote—in other words, leaving—while, crucially, respecting the needs of business. Business in Taunton Deane has been at pains to point this out to me at every stage and to urge that we get on with the deal so that we can move on, while at the same time keeping close links with the EU and frictionless trade. That was stressed to me vehemently by the head of Pritex, a company in Wellington that makes soundproofing for cars. It has also been stressed by food manufacturers, the main industry in the south-west, and sheep farmers in particular, who rely almost entirely on the EU for their exports.

While the deal works for those people, it also works for the many companies that are already trading on the world stage. Many of them, such as Somerdale cheese and Sheppy’s cider, want to go many steps further, and this deal also works for them. Our nine trade commissioners are at this very moment forging opportunities that we can sign up to once the deal is over the line. For me, one of the most exciting opportunities that the deal offers is the chance to leave the common agricultural policy and the fisheries policy and to recreate our own land use strategy. That is a real opportunity, and we have already started, through the Agriculture Bill and the Fisheries Bill, so let us get it right.

This deal may not be perfect, but it does enable us to move forward. I believe that I have personally moved a great way towards to this deal, because I was originally a remainer, and would urge other colleagues to move forward too. Let us do it not just for the people in this House but for the young people out there too, like my son, who has just gone to university. I promised him that when he gets out in a few years’ time, this will be done and dusted. He and his generation will be part of the generation that will forge a new era, for which we are paving the way right now. I urge colleagues to support the deal.