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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:48 pm on 9th January 2020.

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Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire 1:48 pm, 9th January 2020

I want to move on, because others wish to speak.

I really hope that Ministers take this on board. It is fundamental that we take back full control, and, however much pressure we are under from our current European partners, regain our status as an independent nation, partly because of the environmental harm—the shocking shame of throwing back a million tonnes of fish.

There is one other issue which we did not have time to discuss fully yesterday, and which I hope very much will be resolved in the negotiations. That is the essential benefit of a comprehensive free trade agreement whereby Northern Ireland will be level-pegging with the rest of the UK on every aspect of policy, which will mean that we can drop the current protocol. As the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my hon. Friend Mr Walker, agreed yesterday in reply to me, the current protocol is a fallback position. With a comprehensive free trade agreement, all the complexities such as the worries of the Northern Ireland business community—mentioned yesterday by Paul Blomfield—will fall away, and we will also have a great opportunity to embrace growth around the world.

It is worth pointing out that our exports to the EU grew by 1.3% last year and now total £296.8 billion, while our exports to non-EU countries grew by 6.3%, reaching £376.7 billion. The European Commission itself has said that 95% of world growth over the next 20 years will be outside the European Union, which is why the International Monetary Fund predicts that soon the only continent with a slower rate of growth than Europe will be Antarctica. This is a great day for our economy. This is a great day to escape all the rubbish on the other side about gloom and doom. If we do a proper, comprehensive deal, we will have opportunities to work with the 11 countries in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership—which represent 13.4% of GDP—and, of course, we will have a huge opportunity to do a deal very rapidly with the United States.