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Britain's Place in the World

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 4:27 pm on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate 4:27 pm, 15th October 2019

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that it is an amazing turn of events given the language used about the withdrawal agreement, but of course the reality is that it is not that amazing, because interests are finally entering properly into this discussion, and the interests of twice as many people in the European Union than in the United Kingdom are engaged in the economics of the outcome of there being no agreement. As the Foreign Affairs Committee said in our inquiry on the implications of no deal, it would affect a greater proportion of the UK’s economy, but more people on the other side of the channel and on the other side of the Irish sea will catch the consequences if we fail in bringing home a withdrawal agreement in the rest of this week.

I have to say to those on the Labour Front Bench, in the absence of the shadow Secretary of State, that the presumption that the noble purpose of defending the Good Friday agreement is why no deal must be taken off the table is false. Our fellow members of the European Union are of course not going to work to undermine the Good Friday agreement and the relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic once we have left the European Union. That is why we need to turn to the future and what Britain’s place in the world will be after this.

In the withdrawal agreement we have of course dealt only with the terms of the withdrawal, and what has to be settled is the future arrangements and relationship with the European Union. I trust that that negotiation will be rather better dominated from the beginning by the common interests that both the EU and ourselves have in a constructive trading relationship that gives us the opportunity to forge a new relationship with the EU, based on a new role in the world for the UK. The country made its choice between being part of a big bloc or being a nation of 65 million people on its own, and I think the choice it made in the long-term interests of the UK was the right one, given the direction that the European Union was going. We must convince our children of the merits of that role in the world.

The Secretary of State for International Development, in opening the debate, reflected on his visits around the world and on how the United Kingdom is seen. He focused on the values the UK is seen to uphold: our democracy, our rules-based system and the economic empowerment of people. One that he did not mention, which I think is one of the golden threads, is our respect for the law. That is why London is the place where so many international companies have their agreements judged under English corporate law—because our judges are trusted and our system is seen as fair. That is an English set of values that is seen as a global asset. Those values, including a sense of proper fair play, have been associated with England and the United Kingdom down the centuries.

We must explain Britain’s new role in the world to the generation of younger people who voted to remain in the European Union, thinking that voting to leave was somehow turning our back on internationalism. It is quite the reverse. The United Kingdom now has the opportunity to play a role in the world as a member of the United Nations Security Council, contributing properly to our security and defence through NATO, and as a development superpower making the commitment as a serious economy to spending 0.7% of our GDP on development and to putting our values into action across the world and being a global leader in every sense, for the best values of humanity.