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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

I fear that the hon. Gentleman may well be right on that. As I said in relation to the fishing industry, time will eventually tell. I fear, as I say, that he is probably right. The worst of it is that I really hope he is not, because the people who will suffer are not the people sitting in here but those in the crofts, in the hill farms and in the fishing communities around his constituency and mine.

Another reason we consider this to be a bad Bill is that it is another step in the walk that the Government are taking away from commitments they have previously given on environmental protections, labour rights, food standards, and—worst of all, in a really quite mean-minded step—the protections that would be given to refugee children. If ever there were an illustration of the way in which we risk diminishing our standing on the world stage, that is most surely it.

As we have heard, the Secretary of State’s Department is due to be wound up after the end of the month, but there is no doubting that even after that—even after 31 December—Brexit will continue to be a political phenomenon that will have a dominant effect on our politics for years to come. I make this plea today to those on the Treasury Bench: even if there is not to be a Department for it to shadow, this House should continue to have a Select Committee to look at the nature of the impact that Brexit has on our economy and our society.

The mantra on which the Government won their majority was that they would “get Brexit done”. The Prime Minister told us that he had an “oven-ready” deal. I think that to describe it as oven-ready was actually untypically understated for the Prime Minister. Many of us on the Opposition Benches see it in fact as being more half-baked than merely oven-ready. Ultimately, however, it is a deal that is going to leave us poorer and more isolated on the world stage, and it will affect us all.

Like many in this House, I am the first generation of my family to have had the opportunity to come here and to serve my community in this way. I did that because I was given opportunities principally by access to higher education, which I and my sisters all had. As a result of those opportunities, I have been able to develop whatever talents I have had. It grieves me enormously that the opportunities that we will now pass on to my sons—the next generation of my family—will be lesser than those that we inherited. It is for that reason that we shall vote against this Bill on Third Reading.