UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 3:21 pm on 14th March 2019.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 3:21 pm, 14th March 2019

Perhaps their loss is my gain, because I am speaking a little sooner.

It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate because I feel that we have somewhat lost the plot here in Parliament. I have done a lot of canvassing throughout my constituency—in all my major towns such as Honiton, Tiverton, Cullompton, Seaton and Axminster—and as far as people are concerned, they voted in 2016 to leave. They had the people’s vote and they decided. What they cannot understand is why we have not actually left or will not leave on 29 March. They really do not understand it at all. What I cannot understand from one or two of my hon. Friends is why, when we have a strong economy and growing employment and we want to spend money on the health service, education and police, we do not just get on with it and leave the EU.

I was a remain voter, but in the end the EU is becoming more federal and an institution that we will want to leave. But we want to leave with a deal and a trade deal. You would have thought that we could have done it; that we could have all joined together. In the past I have supported the Prime Minister because, first, I believe that she is right and, secondly, I cannot go into the opposite Lobby.

I have a great deal of time for Mr Bradshaw, and if he was here I would say the same thing. He stands in the Lobby like a big spider, and we know what spiders do to flies—spiders eat flies. So our Members who take an extreme position on a different type of deal for Brexit walk into the same Lobby as the right hon. Member for Exeter. But the right hon. Gentleman is clear that he does not want to leave the EU. He wants to revoke article 50 and remain in the EU. My colleagues going in there with this spider want a much tougher Brexit; they do not like the deal that is on the table. They are completely contrary positions.

This Parliament and my party have to decide whether they want to go along, rightly, with what the British people said. I stood on a manifesto to deliver Brexit, like all my colleagues, and Labour Members all did the same. All we are doing is thwarting Brexit. People might wrap it up in all sorts of different clothes, but that is exactly where we are. Therefore, we have to come together and vote, believe it or not, for the Prime Minister’s deal.

The Prime Minister’s deal is a withdrawal agreement. It is not a trade agreement. It leads to the trade agreement. It means that we leave in an orderly fashion. It means our businesses can trade across borders—we will not have the problem in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that a tariff may be charged on lambs coming into Northern Ireland but not on going out, or vice versa—and it will deal with all of the problems that can happen to our businesses. Travel arrangements are covered by the withdrawal agreement so that we can travel. Human rights, workers’ rights and all of those things are in this withdrawal agreement.

All we spend our time in this House doing is nit-picking just to see what we can find wrong with the withdrawal agreement. It is a bit like selling a house, Mr Speaker. You take ages trying to sell a house because you cannot get the price for it, but as soon as you have sold it, a whole load of people come along and say they would have paid you more for it. Everybody’s got a different idea, but they are not actually doing the negotiations.

As far as my residents are concerned—and, I reckon, most residents in most constituencies in this country—they just want the deal done. They believe that we just make it complicated. They believe that the majority in this House voted for remain, and that therefore we will not carry out the wishes of the people. I voted remain, but I will carry out the wishes of the people, because I believe we need to leave, and leave with a deal.

We like to lambast the Prime Minister all the time in this place. Again, I go out all the time and talk to my residents on the streets, and I assure hon. Members that the Prime Minister is actually very popular still. They think she was dealt a very bad hand of cards, and all we have done is to make it more difficult. Believe it or not—hon. Members will all laugh at me when I say this—I think the withdrawal agreement will come back once more, and I actually believe that it might well go through this House, because the British people expect us to leave on 29 March.