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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:01 pm on 9th January 2020.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 3:01 pm, 9th January 2020

Like others have done, may I welcome you back to your restored position in the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker? We very much look forward to your presence moderating our proceedings in the years to come.

I congratulate Fleur Anderson on her maiden speech, which was a very accomplished contribution. There are a number of conventions and courtesies that need to be observed, but, as well as managing to observe them, the hon. Lady had something of substance and significance to say. I am sure we look forward to hearing her future contributions in the House.

A number of contributors to this debate have spoken about the way in which the tone of the debate has changed in the past few days, and that is a fair point to make. Some of that change in tone relates to the inevitability of the fact that the Bill will gain its Third Reading tonight. Another quite remarkable aspect is that there has been, if anything, an even greater inflation of the claims made about what will be possible. On that, time will tell.

Listening to the speech from Mr Paterson, who was present until a minute or two ago, I was struck by what he said about the fishing industry and the opportunities that would be open to it outside the common fisheries policy. I have heard him make that speech many times over the years. It would, of course, have been a done deal had the Government led by Mrs May done what they said they were going to do and put the UK’s removal from the common fisheries policy in the withdrawal agreement and not in the political declaration. Had that been the case, we would be looking at an exit from the common fisheries policy at the end of the month. Of course, they did not do that, despite their promise. They did not do it because, frankly, they did not have the political will to do it.

The removal of the United Kingdom from the common fisheries policy remains in the political declaration. It is not in the agreement that was negotiated by the Prime Minister either. Although we have never heard the reason why, I presume that there was not the political will to put it in the withdrawal agreement. As far as the claims made on behalf of Brexit regarding the future of the fishing industry are concerned, we shall have to wait and see. It will require the political will to deliver these promises, probably at the expense of commitments made to other communities and sectors.