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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

If my right hon. Friend will forgive me, time is limited.

I believe that this House also needs to take account of the shift we are seeing in attitudes among other Governments in the European Union. Sometimes I think that colleagues in this House are a little guilty of wishful thinking. Frankly, those Governments are no longer hanging on, hoping somehow that the United Kingdom is going to change its mind. They are impatient. They are increasingly exasperated with all political parties and at the ability of the UK political system to take a decision on this matter. As far as the EU Governments are concerned, they want this brought to an orderly conclusion as soon as possible in a way that does as little harm as possible to the interests of the EU27. That interest includes the future constructive and close relationship that they—like, I believe, most in the House—wish to see between this country and the continuing European Union.

There are strategic challenges that face our country and every other European democracy. We debate them when we are spared time from debating Brexit: climate change, terrorism, serious and organised crime, and the mass movement of people. As European democracies, we are having to confront those challenges in the context of a shifting balance of world power, with a Russia that is aggressive and actively seeking to divide democratic European states, a China that is assertive and offering economic opportunity but championing a model for government and society at odds with that embedded in our own democratic and liberal values, and a United States whose unquestioning support for European security and a rules-based international order can no longer be taken for granted. I believe that because of the referendum result we have to leave, and we need to get on with the task of trying to build a different, but close and enduring partnership with our European neighbours and allies and to work together to meet the challenges that confront us all as fellow democracies on a shared continent. Passing this Bill will enable us to take one step closer towards starting on that task.