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Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:06 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford 6:06 pm, 27th February 2019

It is an honour to follow Owen Smith, although I slightly disagree with him, because I know people who have campaigned and argued over many decades to leave the European Union, such as my hon. Friend Sir William Cash, who do so for honourable motives of freedom and control over laws. I happen to disagree with my hon. Friend quite passionately about that, but he is almost as left-wing as I am on many economic matters. We should be careful about the way in which we describe the motives of people on one side or the other.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey on the work they have done to reach across the House. That work to bring us together is so important. Nobody will be satisfied with everything; that is an impossibility. However, we can come much closer together, and for the sake of the nation, that is vital.

I agree with Stephen Gethins that the way in which we talk about our relationship with our European friends and neighbours is extremely important. Most of them are very sad about this. They are not rubbing their hands with glee that we are leaving. They still want us to stay; I have heard that from so many people. They viewed us as a sensible, pragmatic country that helps the European cause, and they regret us leaving. It is therefore vital that as we leave—and I believe we must leave; that was the vote—we must maintain those close relationships and perhaps even get closer, because we will have to conduct them bilaterally and not through the means of the European Union.

I am against this business of leaving no deal on the table. The negotiations have gone far beyond that. This is not some game of chicken. This has to be a mature, grown-up relationship between parties that will remain close even if we are a bit more separate than we have been in the past. Let us do this in a mature way.

I would say to my great friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Stone—he should be the right hon. Member for Stone—that I gently take issue with what he said about article 4 of the withdrawal agreement. All these matters take time to disentangle. We will leave the European Union, but it will not be a clean break. Some areas of the withdrawal agreement will go on applying for up to eight years when it comes to citizens’ rights. It is vital that, just as when we entered the European Union it took quite a long time for us to come together on the various issues of policy, so as we leave, some issues will be hangovers for a period. We should not confuse that with being subject to the European Union. We should say that those are areas where we will continue to co-operate as we gradually move apart.

My final point is that we need to come together. I believe that today has been the beginning of that—the tone of the debate and the speeches has been very good —and we must continue to do that as we move forward.