Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

We have done much work on that, assessing alternative arrangements, and I have fed into this. As the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, these issues have been massively exaggerated. There is a border today for VAT, there is a border today for excise duties, there is a border today for alcohol duties, and there is a border today for currency. It works perfectly smoothly with modern technologies, and that will continue.

Yet again, the Scottish National party is anti-business, cavilling away and looking for problems. There are fantastic opportunities for Scotland. Our largest export industry is food and drink, and a large element of that is Scottish whisky. When I was in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, we calculated that if we did a deal with India, where there are currently duties of up to 550%, and we got duties down, there is not enough distilling capacity in the whole of Scotland to satisfy thirsty Indian quality whisky drinkers.

On that happy note, let me add that the other great opportunity is of course the United States, and I urge the Government to move rapidly. From 1 February we should be negotiating rapidly in parallel with the 11 countries of the CPTPP, and we should be moving rapidly to a deal with the United States. I met President Trump in October. For all the colourful aspects of his character, which are much criticised, he is probably the most pro-British President we have had for decades, and we have an extraordinarily well-informed and active US ambassador in Woody Johnson. We will never have another team that is so well disposed towards us. However, the window is tight, given the presidential election timetable, and I strongly urge the Government to push on rapidly. As we saw yesterday, the European Union wants to drag its heels. If we can do a deal with the CPTPP and the United States, that will probably shame the EU into doing a deal with us.

I wish the Bill well, but, touching on the comments of my right hon. Friend Dr Lewis, I give a very clear warning to those who will deal with it in the other place. They are overwhelmingly for remain, and many of them benefit from their previous employment in the European Commission. However, they should respect four massive votes from the people. The Bill has gone through this House rapidly. Notwithstanding the bleating from the official Opposition, we did not use the time available in the last two days: on both Tuesday and Wednesday, we bunked off early because the Loyal Opposition could not come up with enough good arguments or speakers. Indeed, they can hardly man their own Benches. I hope that those in the other place have watched what has happened.

The Government have a clear and determined goal, which is to honour those votes, honour the result of the general election, and ensure that we leave the European Union at 11 o’clock on the evening of 31 January. I look forward to voting for the Bill’s Third Reading tonight.