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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:51 pm on 22nd October 2019.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Conservative, Aylesbury 3:51 pm, 22nd October 2019

The Bill and the agreement that it seeks to implement represent a compromise. It is a compromise that I believe is acceptable, but I will not conceal the fact that I and many other Members on this side of the House will find elements of it difficult and uncomfortable. My decision to support the Government tonight rests above all on what I and the great majority of Members on both sides of the House pledged to the electorate in 2016—that we would, however we campaigned and however we voted, respect the decision that they took in the referendum.

When I look through the Bill, I see that much of it is familiar territory. That is hardly a surprise as much— indeed, most—of it ratifies precisely the same negotiated text as that negotiated by my right hon. Friend Mrs May. Of course, one significant change has been in relation to Northern Ireland. As my hon. Friend Simon Hoare, the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, said in an intervention earlier, there are advantages to what is in the deal. The guarantee of an open border on the island of Ireland is not only vital to allow trade and, indeed, normal economic life for people living in the border counties to continue, but is essential in my judgment for the maintenance of peace and security in the border areas. It is also important for the maintenance of the Union. When I look at the demographics of Northern Ireland as someone who passionately wants to see the Union continue and grow stronger, I conclude that for that to happen the Union will need to command the support—or at the very least the acquiescence—of a large number of people who identify as Irish or who are non-aligned in their affiliation.