I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
This Bill will implement in UK law the withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, ensuring that the United Kingdom departs from the European Union with a deal at the end of this month. We are delivering on our promise to the British people. It was a pleasure to spend yesterday afternoon in Committee of the whole House, and I would like to pay tribute to Members across the House for the contributions they have made throughout the debates and the constructive spirit, particularly more recently, in which everyone has engaged. I have no doubt that today’s proceedings will be of a similar calibre, and the Secretary of State, who is in his place, and I are very much looking forward to today.
I would like to thank the Public Bill Office for its support to all Members and officials across Government, not just at the Department for Exiting the European Union, for their hard work in ensuring the delivery of this Bill and for supporting Ministers throughout, many of whom have contributed behind the scenes rather than at the Dispatch Box. I would also like to thank the three knights of the realm who stood in as Deputy Speakers in Committee and Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition.
This Bill is essential in preparing our country for leaving the European Union and will ensure that the deal that has been reached can be implemented. It also ensures that we can protect the rights of citizens who have made their lives here, that there is no hard border on the island of Ireland and that we take back control of our money and our laws. The Bill will shortly move to another place, with its substantive stages beginning on Monday, and I know that the House will be watching its progress with great interest.
I notice that today, the President of the European Commission is reported as saying that it will be virtually impossible to conclude a trade deal within a year. Given that we start off with exactly the same regulations and tariffs, I am mystified as to what the problem is. What does the Minister think the problem is, given that we are going to protect workers’ rights? Unless they want to shackle us forever with business rules, what is the problem?
The Minister mentioned the fact that the Bill will be going to the other place and the much more positive atmosphere that has applied in this place. Does he believe that that sends a message to the other place as to how they should conduct themselves, and does he have any reservations about the fact that the unrepresentative make-up of the other place, in respect of the over-representation of remain forces, might derail the hitherto smooth progress of this excellent Bill?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. Just as we will be watching the House of Lords carefully next week, they have been watching us carefully during the Bill’s passage. They will have listened to the change in tone and seen the majorities by which votes were won, and I am sure that they will reflect on that in their deliberations, doing a proper job of scrutiny as part of the whole democratic process. Mr Speaker—sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker—
We do like elections on this side of the House at the moment, but I am not going to be drawn into reform of the House of Lords, which is slightly out of scope of the withdrawal agreement Bill.
Madam Deputy Speaker, this is an historic milestone—leaving the European Union with a deal on
I join the Minister in thanking the panel of Chairs for presiding over the Committee stages and the work they did in preparation for the debates we had, the staff in the Public Bill Office for the work they did over the Christmas recess and all Members who contributed to the debate in Committee.
The last two days have had their highs and lows. On the one hand, there have been very many thoughtful and considered contributions, and on the other hand, there has been a disappointing and resolute refusal of the Government to seriously consider any amendments however constructively intended. The Minister is right that there was a different tone to the debate, and that is clearly because everybody recognises that the result of the general election means we are leaving the European Union in 22 days’ time. But I think there was also a recognition, I hope on both sides, that leaving the EU does not mean that we will have got Brexit done. We will have completed the first step, departure, but the difficult stage is yet to come: agreeing the new relationship not just on trade, but as many pointed in Committee, on security crucially—but much more besides, from data sharing to research collaboration and more. These are in many ways more complex issues than those we have wrestled with over the last three and a half years, and they are issues with deeply serious consequences for the country.
May I thank my hon. Friend for his speech and add to his list the anguish that many of my constituents are feeling—not just EU nationals, but those whose neighbours or family are EU nationals? This is, for many, quite a difficult moment.
I very much agree with my hon. Friend. It is a difficult moment for many, and I will come on specifically to some of the issues involving EU nationals that were not resolved by our discussions in Committee.
As we move into this next stage, I would urge the Government not to overinterpret their mandate in the general election. Yes, they have clearly secured an overwhelming majority of seats, but not of votes. Most people in this country voted for parties that did not support the principle of getting Brexit done at any price. As the Prime Minister observed, many of those who voted for him and colleagues had lent him their vote. I hope, and I sense, that part of the different tone—the subdued mood of those on the Government Benches—was a dawning realisation that they may find it hard to deliver on the high expectations that they have created over the last three and a half years. The Prime Minister has talked about bringing the country together—the Minister echoed that—and we all share the hope after the divisions promoted by the debates of the last three years. However, I have to say that it will need a different approach from the one we have seen over the last couple of days. It needs open ears and a willingness to reach out.
I understand why the Government rejected some of the amendments that we and other opposition parties tabled, but not all. Many were simply restoring previous Government commitments and others were to improve the Bill; none was to frustrate Brexit. In the short debate on the Bill in Committee, we as an Opposition pressed five main issues that in our view reflect the serious problems with both the withdrawal agreement and the way in which the Government have chosen to implement it. Over 100 amendments were tabled in Committee, but not a word of the Bill has changed, and we will therefore be voting against its Third Reading today.
Our first issue with the Bill is that, despite all of Parliament’s efforts to avoid a no-deal Brexit last year, it introduces a trapdoor to no deal at the end of December 2020—something that the Brexit Secretary appeared quite relaxed about in his reported comments following yesterday’s discussion with Ursula von der Leyen. Other Conservative Members over the last couple of days have expressed total confidence—total confidence—in the Government’s ability to secure trade and security deals by the December deadline, citing the EU’s commitment to use its best endeavours and good faith to agree a future trade treaty. That good faith was evident from Mrs von der Leyen yesterday, but I hope Members have also heard her warning, which was echoed by Sir Edward Leigh, that it would be impossible to reach a comprehensive trade deal by the end of 2020.
I hope Members will reflect on whether it really is wise for the Government to have added clause 33, barring Ministers from extending the implementation period. Of course, this is just a gimmick, and with their majority, the Government could at any point repeal that clause and negotiate a short extension. However, whatever our views on these issues, we should all be concerned that this Bill removes any role for Parliament in shaping that decision, so if the Government have not concluded and ratified an agreement with the EU on our future relationship, the supposed sovereignty reclaimed for this Parliament will be meaningless. We will have no say on whether we crash out on World Trade Organisation terms, even if the Government are days away from securing an agreement with the EU.
It occurs to me, as I listen to the hon. Gentleman, that foreign policy is often common ground between successive Governments of different parties. I wonder if it has occurred to his party to take such an approach here: to recognise that the political declaration on the future relationship is now agreed between the EU and UK, and to get behind it as the Labour party, so that there can be absolutely no doubt in the mind of the Commission that where we want to go as a nation is the landing ground that is now common territory between both negotiating parties. Does he not agree that that way we could go forward as one United Kingdom and succeed?
I will come on to my observations on how we could have gone forward much more successfully as one country in delivering on the mandate of the referendum in 2016, but I think—this reflects the comment made earlier by the right hon. Member for Gainsborough—that the whole problem with the way in which Conservative Members talk about the ease of moving forward, because we are starting from a point of convergence, is that the objective of this Government is to seek divergence, and that is precisely why these negotiations will be so difficult.
Could we just dispense with this one country, one nation business? The United Kingdom is a Union of nations, and all of them have a particular set of views about Brexit. In Scotland, we overwhelmingly reject their Brexit, and that has to be recognised in the way we go forward from now on. I hope the Labour party takes that on board; I am beginning to sense that it is. Does the hon. Gentleman understand it, and will we now stop all this talk about one nation, one UK? It is a Union of nations with their own particular set of views.
I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point that we are a country of nations and regions and I hope, in relation to the comments I was making to Ministers, that in reaching out they will seek to reach out and obtain agreement and understanding on the way they move forward across the entire country of nations and regions.
I refer to what has just been said from the Scottish nationalist Benches because in fact this is about the United Kingdom, which made the treaty in the first place and abdicated its responsibility and its sovereignty, but is now reasserting its status within the United Kingdom. It is about parliamentary sovereignty, and it is also about democracy because that decision was taken by the British people in the full knowledge of the voters of the United Kingdom, not any one part of it.
I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. We had a whole debate around sovereignty in which my hon. Friend Thangam Debbonaire made some very astute observations, but the hon. Gentleman needs to recognise my underlying point: the decision of the general election is not a mandate to bulldoze through a particular version of Brexit at any cost on all the peoples of the United Kingdom, and the next few months must be approached with sensitivity and caution if we are to stay together as a United Kingdom.
May I take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend as we approach the end of this Bill on the incredibly gallant and diligent work he and his colleagues have done in attempting to investigate and scrutinise this legislation? It is tremendously sad that the Government have, in the minds of many people who voted leave, successfully brought forward the idea that any kind of scrutiny and any kind of amendment to their legislation is somehow disrespecting that mandate, as though whatever the Government say is what that vote back in 2016 meant. I accept that we are leaving the EU and I think we need to get on with that process, but it is extremely regrettable that under the guise of taking back control they have sought to disrespect parliamentary scrutiny in the way that they have done, and this will have serious consequences for us in the future.
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind comments, but also endorse the point he makes, and it has been a constant strand of the discussions over the past two days.
Yes, three years.
Through our new clause 4 we tried to offer a way of giving Parliament the role for which we were elected—and it is the role that my hon. Friend describes—without requiring an extension to the transition that is longer than necessary. Some Conservative Members who are not here today expressed sympathy with that approach, but not with our specific formulation, so I hope that this issue will be revisited when the Bill moves to the other place.
The second point that was a key concern to us was citizens’ rights. Colleagues from all Opposition parties set out why we believe that a declaratory system is essential to deliver on the Prime Minister’s commitment to EU citizens during the referendum campaign and subsequently, and to avoid a repeat of Windrush. This came up this morning in Brexit orals. In the Committee debate, I was pleased to get an important clarification from the Government on appeal rights, but I am afraid that I did not find the Minister’s speech on the broader issue of citizens’ rights at all reassuring. In a relatively convoluted argument—which the Secretary of State to a degree repeated this morning at Brexit questions—the Minister attempted to put the blame for the Windrush scandal on the safety net that ensured that victims could seek recourse against the treatment that they endure from immigration legislation and argued that the way to avoid a Windrush scandal for EU citizens was to take away the safety net provided by guaranteeing their rights.
We have already seen that almost half of applicants to the EU settlement scheme have not been granted settled status; they have been granted pre-settled status. Ministers have told us that we should be relaxed about this, claiming that pre-settled status is an automatic pathway to settled status. I am afraid we have every reason to be concerned, because it is not.
Well, the Home Office has got form on these things, hasn’t it?
Let me explain why I am concerned specifically on this issue. Pre-settled status is intended for those EU citizens who have been living in the UK for less than five years. However, many EU citizens who have been living here far longer, many for decades, are being granted pre-settled status. They will be required to reapply to the scheme before their five years of leave under pre-settled status is up. If they do not, they will lose all their rights in the UK and, as the Home Office Minister pointed out, be liable to deportation.
Despite these risks, my understanding is— I would be very happy to be corrected— that the Government have no plans to notify EU citizens when their leave is about to expire, and prompt them to apply for settled status. If they do not even know of the need to reapply, many EU citizens will face the same difficulties evidencing their five years’ residency, so in any closing remarks from the Government Front Bench I would be grateful if Ministers can tell us what will happen to EU citizens who are granted pre-settled status for five years, then reapply to the scheme for settled status but are not able to evidence the required five years’ residence, which was the basic problem leading to their being granted pre-settled status in the first place.
The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent point about the limitations of pre-settled status, but does he agree that there is as a gender element to this, too? Women, and particularly older women, who may have had many years of caring responsibilities and who may not have had their own bank accounts or paid the bills in the household may find it even more difficult to evidence that now and in the future?
The hon. Lady makes an important point, and it came up in Committee. That is why I have pressed Ministers time and again to release their equalities impact assessment of the settled status scheme, which they have refused to do. That failure presents real worries.
The scheme is clearly open to error—and, as has been pointed out, the Home Office has form on these things. It has already thrown up problems, and it is therefore crucial that there is proper and independent monitoring. The independent monitoring authority was set up in the withdrawal agreement, but schedule 2 to the Bill makes it far from independent from Government. I hope this issue will be re-examined when the Bill moves to another place, to ensure that the Government are not allowed to mark their own homework.
The third, and most immediate and outrageous, consequence of the Bill will be to remove the commitments on unaccompanied child refugees. This was a heartless move by the Government, signalling their intention to abandon our moral commitments to the most vulnerable. My right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper was right to point out yesterday that this move is troubling because the measures on unaccompanied children in the EU withdrawal Act were previously supported by the Government and by this House. There is no good reason for them to be removed at this point.
Moving to the fourth point, we have had significant discussion on this and we saw a remarkable moment in the House yesterday. All the Northern Irish parties represented here joined together to table an amendment on the impact of the Northern Ireland protocol in response to the overwhelming calls from the business community there, who fear the deep and long-lasting effects of this agreement. Claire Hanna was absolutely right to express her concern that in the two hours allocated to discussion of the protocol only one representative of Northern Ireland was given the chance to make a speech. By voting against new clause 55 yesterday and rejecting Labour’s amendment 1, the Government confirmed that they intend to avoid transparency about the impact of the Northern Ireland protocol and will continue to cut out the people of Northern Ireland from Brexit negotiations. There are clearly serious concerns across the House on that.
Finally, there were amendments on the future relationship with the European Union. The Bill paves the way for the UK to leave, as the Minister pointed out, on
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, and I would like to echo the comments about the diligent way in which he is going about this task. Does he agree that 52-48 was a mandate to move house but stay in the same neighbourhood? if we are actually about respecting the democratic mandate from 2016 that is about leaving the European Union—yes, leaving the political project—we should be staying aligned on workers’ rights, environmental protections and consumer standards? That is respecting the democratic mandate from 2016.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments, which anticipate a point I was just about to make. He is absolutely right. Throughout this process we have called for alignment on workers’ rights, environmental standards, equalities and human rights not simply because that is right—although that is hugely important—but because it provides the basis for the close relationship on which our trade and our economic partnership with the European Union depends.
I am slightly puzzled by the hon. Gentleman’s decision to oppose the Bill today, since the consequence of the Bill going down would be us not leaving the European Union on
The last four years have divided our country like no others. It did not have to be like that. If only, after the referendum, when David Cameron ran away from the crisis he created, the then new Prime Minister had been straight with the British people. If only she had said that our country is split down the middle; it has voted to leave but by a painfully close margin of 52:48, which is a mandate to end our membership of the EU but not to rupture our relationship with our closest neighbours and most important trading partners. If she had said that we would leave but stay close—aligned with the single market in a customs union, and members of the agencies we have built together over 47 years—we would have supported her. She could have secured an overwhelming majority within this House. She could have brought the country together again after the divisions of the referendum. Instead, she pivoted to those whom her Chancellor—not those on the Opposition Benches but her Chancellor—described as the Brexit extremists in her party, risking the economy and security of our country. The Bill continues on that path. We have consistently rejected that approach, and that is why we will do so again today by voting the Bill down.
May I welcome you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to your place? I look forward to your wisdom and benevolence.
In our age, hyperbole is commonplace. Exaggeration permeates debate and colours discourse. Superlatives litter our language. Yet there are few in this House who would disagree with my claim that it is almost impossible to exaggerate the significance of the Bill and what it facilitates—our departure from the European Union. The case I make today is that even more important than the Bill’s provisions is its purpose. Even more important than leaving is the reason that we are leaving. That is the people’s rejection of the prevailing political paradigm that the chatterati and glitterati, the denizens of the liberal elite, believed for years was beyond question. At the core of this perversity was an attachment to pan-nationalism and a consequent affection for supranational governance. This led, among the liberal establishment, to a diminished sense of meaningful place. They came to regard it as not just permissible but desirable to erode the familiar touchstones of enduring certainty.
I won’t right at the moment; perhaps a little later. I know the hon. and learned Lady will want me to repeat that poetic phrase: the familiar touchstones of enduring certainty, epitomised by a spirit of local allegiance and a sense of national pride. The truth is that the bourgeois liberals—and at that point I give way to the hon. and learned Lady.
I am not going to deny that I am a bourgeois liberal, but many people in Scotland who are not bourgeois liberals voted to remain in the European Union. Will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the situation he is describing pertains in England but not in Scotland, where 62% of the population voted to remain and where my party, which I do not think really could be described as a bourgeois liberal party but does contain some old bourgeois liberals like myself, won 48 of the 59 seats? Will he do us the courtesy of acknowledging that he is talking about England, not Scotland?
I congratulate the hon. and learned Lady on her honesty. She separates herself not only from most of her party but from most of the voters. She says that she is part of the bourgeois liberal elite, but they are not.
One day, if the hon. and learned Lady continues, and maybe she will for many, many years, she just might attain the 30,000 majority that I got in South Holland and the Deepings, but I think it is very unlikely indeed.
As I say, the bourgeois liberals find it hard to stomach that hardworking British patriots do not share their affection for globalisation and their preoccupation with diversity.
No, I won’t give way, because I want to make some progress as others want to speak.
Those hardworking patriots prefer tradition, order and established values to the politically correct, poisonous cocktail of egalitarianism and assertive individualism. This paradigm shift is at the heart of the message broadcast first in the 2016 referendum and then still more loudly in the general election at the end of last year. GK Chesterton spoke of the people who had “not spoken yet”. Well, the people have now spoken. They have spoken loudly, clearly and decisively. They have sent a message that this House had better hear. On the Conservative Benches I think we have. Indeed, not only have we heard it, we have rearticulated it and we are proud to do so.
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He is being very kind in giving way. I would not want to puncture his balloon too much, but here goes. The reality is not as he paints it. The reality is that 43% of people voting in a first-past-the-post system is why all this is happening. It is not that the great British whatever he wants to call them decided it, but that 43% in first past the post and the winner takes all. It is not the great sweep of the proletariat or the bourgeois, or whatever he wants to call it.
I do not want to go off on a tangent. Despite what I described earlier as your wisdom and benevolence, Mr Deputy Speaker, you would not let me, but I will just say this to the hon. Gentleman. This Prime Minister went to the people, at some risk to himself and to others on the Conservative Benches, and put a very clear message to them. He essentially said, “I cannot make progress in the current parliamentary arrangement because of the arithmetic. Do you want me to deliver Brexit? Do you want to get Brexit done or don’t you?” The British people said, “That is exactly what we want you to do.” They have sent us here to do just that. Any further prevarication or hesitation will, frankly, ring hollow in the ears of those people. I simply advise the hon. Gentleman that in victory the test of character is humility, but in defeat the test of character is being wise enough to learn the lessons of that defeat. One or two people on the Opposition Benches have learnt those lessons and have made that clear, but others need to do so very quickly indeed.
I know that others want to contribute, so I will bring my remarks to a conclusion by saying this. The Bill is the first step not on a trip to a different place but on a return journey: a return journey for this United Kingdom to hope, to patriotism and to greatness.
I beg to move,
That this House
declines to give a Third Reading to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill because the Scottish Parliament has not consented to those parts of the Bill which encroach on devolved competencies, and because it fails to take into account the fact that the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union;
and further believes that the Bill is not fit for purpose as it continues to undermine the fundamental principles of the Scotland Act 1998 by reserving to the UK Parliament powers that would otherwise be devolved to the Scottish Parliament upon the UK leaving the European Union.
I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your new position in the big comfy chair—hopefully you have your feet up on the foot stool.
I thank all the staff of the Public Bill Office and the Clerks for the support that they have given right across the House in helping to put the Bills together and in helping Members to draw up and submit amendments, which is no easy thing for many of us. They have had to do that through all the stages of Brexit legislation, and all of us should thank them for their work.
Despite all the understandable triumphalism after winning the election in England, we see in this Prime Minister’s deal the potential of a repeat of the Brexit saga of the last three and a half years, as through hubris he is making similar mistakes to his predecessor. She painted herself into a corner with her red lines before carrying out an economic assessment to decide what form of Brexit would be least damaging. There has been no economic assessment of this deal. The last one was in 2018, on the Chequers “cake and eat it” plan, which was such a fairy tale that we could hear the unicorns galloping down Whitehall.
The former Prime Minister launched the article 50 process, with its fixed end-date and the clock ticking all the time, without a scooby as to what the UK actually wanted to ask for from the EU. This Prime Minister has made it illegal to extend transition despite the fact that 11 months is a ridiculously short time to negotiate even a basic free trade deal, let alone the complex shopping list of the political declaration.
The former Prime Minister kept her cards close to her chest, so Parliament had no input or influence on the withdrawal deal as it developed. The removal of clause 31 from the Bill means that Parliament, and indeed devolved Governments, will have no influence on the future relationship with the EU, despite the impact on all our constituents and local industries.
The former Prime Minister was then terribly shocked that, when she finally produced her deal, it was such a flop, drawn like a lifeless rabbit out of a hat and rejected by those on both sides of the Brexit debate, including the current Prime Minister. Members of this House are being sidelined and can therefore only wonder what the future relationship will look like when it is eventually unveiled in December.
I say, first, how much I respect the hon. Lady. She sits on the European Scrutiny Committee, which I have had the honour to Chair for some time.
On the question of how the negotiations were conducted—as she knows, we have been conducting our investigation into that—a very important point that we made was that the terms and conditions were set by the European Union and accepted by the UK. That will change now because of the general election result—I just thought that I would make that observation.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. I think that the tone was set when we saw the former Brexit Secretary, Mr Davis, turn up to the first meeting with not a piece of paper in his hand to meet the EU negotiators. That was rather naive.
Early in her premiership, the former Prime Minister spoke of consulting across the House, and across the UK, before she went to Europe, but she never did. This Prime Minister has sought no common ground, within this Parliament or with the devolved nations, despite the fact that two of them voted to remain.
Brexit was never defined during the referendum. Indeed, Nigel Farage and some of the most ardent Brexiteers suggested that of course the UK would stay in the single market—that it would be madness to leave. They just wanted to get back to a common market.
The Scottish Government’s report, “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, put forward as early as December 2016— three months before the article 50 letter was sent—the compromise proposal that the UK should stay in the single market and customs union. With a 52:48 referendum result, that might even have provided the basis of a compromise between leavers who did not want closer political union and remainers who wanted to keep as many EU benefits as possible. However, if England and Wales wanted to diverge further, the proposal was that Scotland and Northern Ireland should be allowed to stay in the single market and customs union, which would have respected how those nations voted.
Sadly, the proposals were dismissed by the Government out of hand, and the fact that 62% of Scottish voters voted to remain has been completely ignored, with no quarter given and no compromise offered. Indeed, Scotland and the majority of her elected representatives have been treated with growing disrespect in this place over the last three and half years. I gently point out that we do actually have television and the internet in Scotland and that this is being seen by the Scottish people.
Our request for a devolved or, at least, regionalised immigration process after Brexit has also been dismissed, despite Scotland’s demographic need for immigration. We have to be able to ensure that EU citizens, who have made their home in Scotland—including my other half—can stay without being exposed to the notorious hostile environment of the Home Office, but, in future, we also need to be able to attract immigrants from Europe and across the world. With the risk to our public services and key industries such as tourism and farming, and the threat of depopulation in the highlands and islands, this UK Government are certainly not acting in Scotland’s interests.
The UK Government have already taken the overall power to set the rules in 24 areas of devolved competence. All that the Scottish and Welsh Governments requested was that any new UK frameworks should be agreed rather than imposed, but the Tory Government refused—hardly the respect agenda that we used to hear so much about. With the inclusion of fishing, farming, food standards, food safety and food labelling, as well as public procurement, it is clear that this is about being able to tie up Scotland and sell it out in a trade deal. This power grab already drives a coach and horses through the Scotland Act 1998, but in voting down yesterday my simple amendment to protect the devolution Acts from sweeping delegated powers we saw a Government taking power to alter the devolution settlement without even parliamentary scrutiny.
Last night, the Scottish Parliament voted by 92 to 29 to withhold legislative consent from the Bill, due to the risk that it poses to Scotland and the current devolution settlement. Ignoring this voice and riding roughshod over the legislative consent process after 20 years of devolution will undermine the very Union that Conservative Members protest to hold so dear.
I heartily congratulate you on your re-election, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I wish you and the new team the very best of luck in your endeavours as you work with the new House.
I congratulate Dr Whitford on her speech. She made her points very well, but she will not be surprised that I disagree with virtually every single word. Above all, I disagree with her attitude and the gloom and the misery on the Opposition Benches, when I see this as a day of great celebration.
I also congratulate Mike Amesbury on coming top of the private Members’ Bill ballot today; I hope he chooses a subject that gets agreement across the House. A long time ago, in 2005, I came 16th in the ballot. I must acknowledge the part played by my near constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend Sir William Cash. He and I worked together closely drafting a private Member’s Bill, the European Communities Act 1972 (Disapplication) Bill, in which was used the memorable “notwithstanding” phrase, in clause 1(2):
“This subsection applies to any enactment which includes the words: ‘The provisions of this enactment shall take effect notwithstanding the provisions of the European Communities Act 1972.’”
With great prescience, my hon. Friend makes exactly the point I was about to make. Here we are, 15 years later, and, moved by the Government, the “notwithstanding” clause is going into law, subject to the other place being sensible. I pay tribute to him. He has been mocked, traduced and insulted, but he has stood for the simple democratic principle that members of the public, every few years, are given the opportunity to vote for individual human beings to come to this place and make laws. If those laws are satisfactory, they will get re-elected; if not, they will get booted out. They will be sent here to raise money by extracting it compulsorily, by law, from people’s bank accounts—that is what taxation is—and if that money is well spent, they will be re-elected; if it is not, they will be kicked out. It is an incredibly simple, basic idea. I find it staggering that we are still today listening to miseries from the Opposition Benches cavilling about this simple principle.
I will give the right hon. Gentleman something joyous to think about: 57% of the people of the United Kingdom did not vote for him or his Government, yet because of our dodgy system, as the 43% and people across the world can see, the Conservative party is in charge—winner takes all.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will not mention that 56% of the votes in the recent general election were for parties that wanted to keep Scotland inside the United Kingdom.
I have made this point many times, so I will be very brief. How many more times do the people have to be listened to? We had the Cameron referendum promise, which granted a very clear in/out referendum. We had the referendum itself. [Interruption.] It’s no good Hilary Benn shaking his head. Four times the people have spoken. The result of the referendum was clear: 17.4 million people voted to leave. We then had the 2017 election, when the Labour party and the Conservative party stood on a platform of honouring the referendum result, and 80% of the votes went to parties who promised that. Still the people did not get what they wanted.
With the complexities of the last Parliament, we had the creation of the Brexit party. Incredibly, that party, from nowhere, came top in the European elections. The Conservative party managed to come fifth behind the Greens, which was a remarkable achievement. Then we had the recent election. Yet again, people were bombarded with propaganda, and told they were racist and stupid, and again they voted in huge numbers for the very simple principle that they should send Members of Parliament here to make their laws and that if they cannot make satisfactory laws, they can be removed.
No. I’m not giving way. We know where the Scottish nationalists are coming from, because they make the same point every time. Just to keep them happy, though, I will give them a little anecdote.
In the town where I was born, Whitchurch, we have six polling stations in one building, the civic centre. On referendum day, people came up to me off a building site, covered in dust, and said, “It is good to see you here, Mr Paterson, because it’s about them”. I asked, “Who’s them?” They said, “We can get rid of you, we can vote you out, but we cannot get rid of them”, and then they made the very telling point, “You can do nothing about them either”.
We had an interesting debate yesterday about this. We can do absolutely nothing about European law, which is imposed upon us. I had the honour to serve on the European Scrutiny Committee with my hon. Friend the Member for Stone. One day, a Labour Member was ill and a Liberal Democrat got stuck in the lift and we managed to vote that a measure on the dairy industry—of great interest to my constituents—would be passed for a vote on the Floor of the House. It would not have been amendable, but we could have made our points. What happened? The Leader of the House at the time, Margaret Beckett, turned up at business questions and said, “You’re not even having a debate”. That was the amount of scrutiny we had. I find it extraordinary that people do not welcome the chance to scrutinise Ministers. From now on, they will be able to harpoon Ministers who make bad decisions. They can have Adjournment debates and criticise law. We can get law amended and repealed. None of that will apply to European law until we pass the Bill.
There are so many areas where European law has damaged this country, but the winner by a mile is still fish. In 2005, as shadow Fisheries Minister, I wrote a green paper called “A Consultation on a National Policy on Fisheries Management in UK Waters”. It is the paper on which we fought the 2005 general election. For the first time, a serious political party proposed repatriating a power. I come from North Shropshire. One of the most fascinating experiences of my 22 years here was going all around the coast of the UK—right up to Whalsay, right down to Cornwall and Dover—but above all going to the maritime nations of Norway, the Faroes, Iceland, Newfoundland in Canada and then down the east coast of the United States. I also went to the Falklands. It was extraordinary to see how modern techniques could bring thriving fishing communities—some of the most remote communities in the world—wealth, prosperity, jobs and investment.
By contrast, in this country we have utter devastation. This wonderful occupation delivered wealth and jobs for centuries until we were stupid enough to give the power to the continental level, and we now have the shameful, wicked waste of 1 million tonnes of fish thrown back dead into the sea as pollution every year, and yet Opposition Members this afternoon are defending staying in the EU and the common fisheries policy.
My right hon. Friend will remember that I was shadow Fisheries Minister before him. I was very good and he was even better. The truth is—this is the question that Opposition Members in particular need to answer—that the CFP was not only disastrous for fishing communities and fishermen; it was also a conservation disaster for our oceans. Anyone who signs up to the EU signs up to the CFP and the decimation of our oceans.
My right hon. Friend is quite right. The opening line of my paper said:
“The Common Fisheries Policy is a biological, environmental, economic and social disaster;
it is beyond reform.”
Today we are giving ourselves the power to reform it and take back this power. I would like those on the Front Bench to remember that this is a crucial, totemic issue. We have to take back full power and complete control over our exclusive economic zone and all the marine resources within it.
Given his previous experience, I am sure my right hon. Friend was coming to this point, but does he agree that in the negotiating phase, which we would have been into 10 months ago had Opposition Members voted for the original deal, we must not trade access to our waters for a free trade agreement, and that, despite the scare- mongering—perhaps even wishful thinking—from Opposition Members, there is no evidence that the Government will do that?
My hon. Friend, who speaks with great knowledge of this subject and represents his constituents so well, has just spoken with total wisdom. It is fundamental that we do not make the mistake of the 1970s, and allow the allocation of fish resources to be a trading card in these negotiations.
We have said that we will take back control, and I am looking at the Secretary of State. We will take back full control, and we will then behave like a normal independent maritime nation. We will have the very best bilateral relations with our neighbours, exactly like Norway and exactly like Iceland, and, on an annual basis, we will have discussions and possibly do reciprocal deals with them. Let me say emphatically that we must not allow fisheries to be snarled up in these negotiations.
I was disappointed yesterday that President von der Leyen—in what I thought was a very interesting speech, much of which I welcomed—talked of a
“partnership that goes well beyond trade”,
and mentioned fisheries. That is unacceptable. As my hon. Friend has just said, it is absolutely essential that we take full, total, sovereign control of the EEZ and all that is within it, and that from then on we negotiate as an independent maritime nation.
My right hon. Friend will, of course, recall that prior to our accession to the common market, there was no common fisheries policy. It was concocted entirely in anticipation of our accession, so that our waters could be plundered.
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.
If we can just assume that the right hon. Gentleman’s Brexit utopia will not happen, we are only 11 months away from a no-deal crash-out. We have 11 months in which to agree and ratify all the trade agreements with the EU. The right hon. Gentleman is a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Can he tell us what is the magic technology that is available to man the borders and prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal crash-out, bearing in mind that it has been said that there will no infrastructure at the border either?
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
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
It is a real pleasure to see you back where you belong, Mr Deputy Speaker—in the Chair—and I congratulate you on your stunning success in securing that position. I think that we have a fantastic team of Deputy Speakers, and I look forward to serving under you for years to come.
I wish I could say that it is a pleasure and a privilege to follow Mr Paterson, but it is not. I think that I represent the almost extreme other side of the Brexit debate. I usually say that it is good to speak in a Third Reading debate, but unfortunately I cannot say that either. This is something that the people of Scotland will very much regret and mourn. We are not “leaving” the European Union; we are being taken out of the European Union against our national collective will, and believe me, Mr Deputy Speaker, that is something that will not stand.
As is conventional on Third Reading, I shall offer my congratulations to a series of speakers. I congratulate the Secretary of State—who has just departed—and his team on getting the Bill through the House of Commons. He is the one Secretary of State to be actually attuned with his Prime Minister, unlike a succession of others who did not quite see to eye with their Prime Ministers and the direction in which their Brexit was travelling. I also pay tribute to all the Opposition teams, and, in particular, to my hon. Friend Dr Whitford, who has just assumed her new role and who, as always, has led our debate with such distinction and articulateness.
The people I most want to congratulate, however, are the real winners of today, the hard Brexiteers and the Farageists. Their success has been total, brutal and absolute. Not only have they managed to secure the hard Brexit that they have craved for years, but, with this Bill, they have kept in place the bullseye, the gold standard, of all hard Brexits—the possibility of a no-deal departure from the European Union. Their anti-European obsession will be quenched today: insatiable lifetime ambitions of wrenching this country out of the EU will be realised. Their victory is even more impressive because they started as a small, insignificant, cult-like fringe on the edge of the Conservative party. Such is their tenacity and commitment to the cause that they have now gone mainstream. Just one generation ago they were the B-A-S-T-ards of John Major folklore. Now they run the country. Their commitment to the cause has been so absolutely determined that they were prepared to bring down their own Prime Ministers to get their way—[Interruption.] And I shall give way to one of them now.
I thought it might be helpful if I could distinguish ourselves from what the hon. Gentleman described as the Farageists, for the simple reason that UKIP and now the Brexit Party were never going to form a Government. They could therefore never negotiate, nor could they legislate and nor could they deliver Brexit. They have now been reduced to dust by the decision that was taken by the British people, including in Labour leave marginal constituencies. It is the Conservative party that has now come back into its own and is doing the right thing for the right reason in the national interest.
I am so grateful to the high priest of hard Brexiteers. The reason that UKIP and the Farageists—whatever incarnation they are on just now—have disappeared is that they have become the Conservative party. Their whole agenda has been accepted and subsumed into the Conservative party so that it is almost impossible to tell the modern Conservative party from the UKIP and the Farageists of the past.
That victory is so complete that, on 43%, their utter arrogance is such that they never need to go back and check with the people that they are doing the right thing. In Scotland, on 45%, we demand a referendum, not to do what we want but to ask the people if they want independence. But that is not for the Brexiteers, oh no; on 43% they will do what they want. The arrogance is massive on that side.
My hon. Friend makes a good and concise point. I want to return to some of these issues, and I hope that he will come back in, because I think that this is worth being aired, discussed and debated in this House. It is an important key issue—[Interruption.] I can tell that the high priest wants to come back in again, and I will obviously indulge him.
There is a fascinating journal, account and book to be written about this, and I am looking forward to the hon. Member’s memoirs after all this.
I want to pay tribute to some of the other people who have won today, in the great victory of this Brexit. I know that the Conservatives will, uncharitably, not do this, but somebody has to congratulate Nigel Farage. It is his vision that has been realised today. Without Nigel Farage, there would be no Brexit. Without the pressure that was put on the Conservative party from whatever incarnation of his party existed at the time, there would not be the hard Brexit that they are all celebrating today. Come on, Conservatives—give the man a peerage, for goodness’ sake! He, more than anybody else, deserves it. And wouldn’t it be comedy gold for a man who rails against unelected politicians to be given an unelected place in the legislature? Please do it, just for the comedy value.
We are not just passing a piece of legislation today. We are actually entering into a new age, a new epoch: the age of hard Brexitism. Everything that this House does from this point on will be informed and directed by this new atmosphere, culture and direction of the United Kingdom. I am trying to think of a poster boy for the new hard Brexit age, and the only thing that comes to my mind is Mr Francois in combat casuals flying a Spitfire to the sound of hope and glory heading straight to the ground because his aircraft has suffered engine failure. That is the image that comes to mind in the new Brexit age, and God help us as we go forward. It is viciously right-wing and isolationist, and takes no account of the views of anywhere else around the whole world today. It is this new age of hard Brexit that we are now entering into.
I am looking around for some of the other hon. Members on the Conservative Benches. Obviously Mr Paterson is here, but I am looking for the newly knighted dark lord of Brexit austerity, Sir Iain Duncan Smith. He is not in his place, and neither is John Redwood, who so excited us with his tales of English nationalism. None of them is here, but all of them have to be congratulated. They are now the mainstream of the Conservative party. They effectively manipulated what was a moderate centrist party to become this party of Brexit extremists. They booted out all the moderates; none of them is here now. There is no debate or discussion, or any sort of contradiction of the views of hard Brexiteers any more, because they have booted all the moderates out. This is the new Conservative consensus, and I hope that the party today in the Bulldog Club is generous and full of largesse, and that they very much enjoy it.
My right hon. Friend Mr Paterson spoke of the gloom and doom on the other side of the Chamber, and I think that the hon. Gentleman put his finger on it in his complaint about the hardness of this particular Brexit. What was clear throughout the Committee stage was the harking back of Opposition Members to a previous Bill that did not make it through this House in December of last year. It did not make it through this House because those Members voted against the programme motion, and they now feel guilt for having delivered the very situation about which he complains, but which we rather regard as the intervention of providence.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I know he is tempting me to speak about the Labour party, but that is just cruelty. I will resist the opportunity to say a few words to Labour Members, other than: for goodness’ sake get your act together, because you have to be an Opposition. Not one of their Back Benchers is standing to be called in this debate today, which shows how humble they have become in this whole debate. However, I say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is a bit rich blaming a useless Labour party for sinking that last Brexit deal, because it was the hard Brexiteers who brought it down. They were prepared to sink their own Prime Minister and reject a deal because of their ultimate vision, objective and all-consuming obsession with the hardest of hard Brexits, which is what is being delivered today.
It is ironic that the Conservatives are now saying, “You should have voted for our crap deal, but now we’ve made the deal even crappier, so get it up ye.” Does that not sum it right up?
My hon. Friend has a very delicate use of phrase, and I have to say that nothing could be put more elegantly than that. That is well understood from this side of the House.
The Brexit deal could have been anything. It could have involved a customs union or single market membership. It could have been Canada-plus-plus-plus or Norway-minus-minus-minus, but it is none of those. It is the hardest of hard Brexits because nothing else was good enough for the Conservatives, and that is what is being passed today.
Not only that; their victory has been so total that it has also been a victory over arithmetic. They know, or they should know, that their Brexit is going to damage GDP and economic growth by 5% to 6%, and that even if they get a trade deal with every country in the world, they can only make up 1.4% of that. America is only going to give them 0.2%, or a thirtieth of the damage they are going to do. To make up this damage, they are going to have to find 47 planets populated with people as rich as Americans today. That is the level of damage and arithmetical oversight that the hard Brexiteers have achieved in their victory. Numbers do not matter to a Tory party that was once obsessed with numbers. This is just the sweep of Brexit harking back to the 19th century and probably to opium wars and gunboat diplomacy. That is where their minds are stuck, sadly. The unfortunate thing is that the rest of us across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are going to pay a very heavy price for their lunacy.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his very brief intervention. All I can say to him is that they couldn’t care less about the economy or about the damage to the UK. They couldn’t care less about our relationship, about isolationism or about all the other things that this Brexit does. The only thing they care about is their hard Brexit. That is the only thing that has underpinned their whole approach in the course of the past few years. That is the only thing they wanted. Nothing else mattered other than securing a hard Brexit, so there will be huge celebrations down the Bulldog Club tonight and I hope the champagne tastes good. Will we be celebrating in the White Heather Club in Scotland, or here? Nobody bothered to ask me. Well, no, we will not. We most certainly will not be celebrating this Bill passing today.
The Government may have won their hard Brexit, but they have most definitely lost Scotland. Nothing could sum up the alienation of Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom more than the passing of this Bill. This Bill symbolises the difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK. I sometimes think this House forgets Scotland’s relationship with this Brexit disaster and chaos, so let me gently remind Conservative Members what happened. One MP was voted from Scotland with a mandate for the EU referendum, and one MP from Scotland voted for the Bill that allowed a referendum to take place. When Scotland was obliged to vote in an EU referendum that it had nothing to do with, we voted 62% to remain.
Now, people may have thought, given all that has happened, that Scotland’s voice would be accommodated, listened to and somehow taken account of—not a bit of it. Every representation was rejected. Everything to try to minimise the blow to a Scotland that wanted to stay in the European Union was ignored out of hand before the ink was even dry. Everything that we brought forward that said, “Listen. Maybe we have a different view about Brexit than the rest of you down here,” was totally and utterly ignored and disrespected.
That is why yesterday, when the Scottish Parliament was asked to agree to a legislative consent motion to allow the Government to progress and pursue this hard Brexit, the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly said no, and only the rump of Scottish Conservatives in that Parliament voted for it. Will that matter to this Government? Will that be listened to? Absolutely not. It will be rejected, ignored and disrespected. I say to Conservative Members that that is what is driving the new demand for Scottish independence. We will no longer be ignored, disrespected, and rejected out of hand. That is why we are back here with 48 Members. That is why we have 80% of the vote. That is what the people of Scotland voted for.
I just want to gently correct the hon. Gentleman. I do enjoy hearing him speak, and we have been known to share a stage together, in fact, because I enjoy his entertainment that much. I will gently correct what he may have said inadvertently. He said that 80% of the vote in Scotland—
—80% of the seats—[Interruption.] Listen, I have absolutely no compunction about accepting that the SNP gained seats in Scotland during last month’s UK general election. We lost some seats, but it was ultimately a general election to form a Government in this place, not a general election in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon is not the Prime Minister. On the percentage of the vote, I gently say that 55% of people in Scotland voted for Unionist parties, not for the SNP—[Interruption.] I have made my point.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is of course right that the SNP won only 80% of the seats, and I am glad that that is on the record. I say ever so gently to him that it is all very well him standing up and telling me to correct all that, but his party in Scotland has one message—I do not expect him to dispute this—and all the signs in the fields of Perthshire and Banff and Buchan and all the leaflets that went through every door said, “Vote Scottish Conservative to stop indyref 2.” All he needs to do is shake his head. That was the main message.
No, he should just let me finish, then I will let him come back in. That was the main message put out by the Scottish Conservatives at the general election. The result was that they lost more than half their Members of Parliament. They said, “Send Nicola Sturgeon a message,” and the Scottish people did. The message they sent was, “We want to decide our own future.” The hon. Gentleman must be a little humbler about what happened. He must accept his defeat and understand the reason behind it because at some point—not today, next week, or next month—he will have to respect Scottish democracy. He will have to say that it is up to the Scottish people to determine their own future.
On the subject of democracy, this should be well known, but I point out to the House that each and every SNP Member has two main jobs. One is to speak for their constituents, of which the SNP has more because it won more seats. The other is to speak for their party. It is not necessarily their job, solely, to speak for Scotland. The SNP does not represent Scotland. I am just as much a Scottish MP. The hon. Gentleman asked me whether I accepted my defeat, but I won my seat. I am here with an increased majority, thank you very much.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on that, but he really must accept what is happening in Scotland. Something dramatic is going on. I think all of us agree that there will be another referendum at some point, because things are totally and utterly—[Interruption.] Conservative Members are saying no. Did my hon. Friends hear them?
We heard them say no, but whenever they say no to Scotland and say that they will deny Scottish democracy, the only thing that that does—this is a note of caution to Conservative Members—is drive support for Scottish independence. The more they say no to us, the more we will assert our rights, and the idea of Scottish independence will continue to grow and will overrun and consume them.
My little bit of advice to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite is to say, “Just get on with it.” Just give us that independence referendum and acknowledge that we are on a different trajectory to the hard Brexit UK that they want. They can have their hard Brexit. If that is what they want, and if they want an isolationist United Kingdom, please have it. That is their choice and their democratic right. Nobody is preventing them from doing that, and I will be the first person to say, “Good luck.” Let us hope they get on and make a success of it, but do not hold my country back, do not subsume my country into what they are trying to achieve. We do not want it, and we have told them that on numerous occasions. It is over. Scotland will be an independent country, and the sooner this House recognises that, the better.
I will finish now, because I realise that I have kept the House attention’s for long enough. The battle for hard Brexit is over, and Conservative Members have won, but the battle for Scottish independence has just begun.
Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is good to see you return to your place, as have I. I know that you will correct me if I say that I am making my maiden speech, but it feels a little like that. With your Welsh heritage, I hope that you will allow me a little leeway to talk about my new constituency and pay tribute to a person whom we will all miss: my predecessor, Glyn Davies.
I wanted to make my non-maiden speech on the Third Reading of this Bill, because I was reminded by a colleague that they had looked me up on TheyWorkForYou and saw that I done little speaking for two and a half years, so I hope that I can correct the record, because I have very little opportunity to do so. I have worked with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and the Front-Bench team for several months in different guises, and I pay tribute to him and his team for their diligent professionalism. He has overseen a very difficult situation over the past six months.
This feels a little like Groundhog Day—not giving another maiden speech but talking about this particular subject. I recall being encouraged to leave Parliament by a different constituency when we were on this subject, and I have now returned with a healthier majority while we are still on this subject, and I appreciate that we can now get it done.
If I may say a bit about my home, the seat I now represent is not just my constituency but my home—born and bred. Montgomeryshire is incredibly important to me and was important to my predecessor. It is an old county of Wales and forms the gateway to mid-Wales, covering an area from Welshpool over to Machynlleth, which was the seat of the Welsh Parliament in days gone by, to Llanidloes and Llandinam. It is good to see my neighbours by my side, including my right hon. Friend Mr Paterson and my hon. Friend
There are issues—they will, of course, be pertinent to this Bill, Mr Deputy Speaker—that I will look to champion, and it has been terrific over the past month to see so many opportunities and ideas come to the fore as we settle the Brexit issue.
I have been given many ideas by organisations, such as opening the Montgomeryshire canal to the network. The Welshpool and Llanfair railway campaign captured the spirit of both Montgomeryshire and this country, and it received the Queen’s award for voluntary service. This week—just to reinforce the fact that Powys and Montgomeryshire are not complacent on any issue, despite our being the safest place in England and Wales—we received the knife angel, which is touring the country to demonstrate and reinforce the message that we need to engage with the community on knife crime and other serious crime to minimise it as much as we can.
I hope the House will forgive me for spending some time paying tribute Glyn Davies, my immediate predecessor, who is a great man. He has 50 years of public service to date, and it is not capped. I know Glyn and, in fact, I was with him on the weekend as he continued his public service. I am sure he will continue in some guise. I know the House will miss him, but I can assure the House that I will not miss him because he will continue to guide, advise, inform and, I am sure, take part in Montgomeryshire life.
Glyn’s passion for representing his home, his passion for Welsh politics and his passion for his nation, Wales—and for the Union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, before my Celtic cousins start—inspired me early in life, and he is one of the reasons I got involved in politics. He is one of the reasons I stand before the House again, representing my home seat. That other true son of Montgomeryshire, who I am sure will either read or listen to this debate, can be very proud of what he has achieved, having been an Assembly Member, a councillor and a Member of Parliament. At his tender age, which I will not mention, he is fit and able. I will send the House’s good wishes to him.
This Third Reading debate is a significant moment for the House and the country, and it presents me with an opportunity to talk about some of the issues I will seek to champion during my time as the Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire. I represent one of the most rural seats in England and Wales—I would be immediately corrected by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire if I claimed it was the biggest in England and Wales—and it has both agriculture and tourism, with the former being primarily affected by this Bill.
I was taken by the exchange at DExEU questions this morning, when my right hon. Friend Mel Stride spoke precisely about the challenges and opportunities facing hilltop farmers as we leave the EU. He spoke about how the Brexit vote and bringing sovereign power back to this place, which we are doing right now, will mean that we can do things differently. I am heartened to see us moving straightaway on our manifesto commitments on agricultural funding to 2024, and I will be working with the Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire, Russell George—he is a Conservative Assembly Member, so I had better mention him—and the Welsh Government to ensure that that funding and support continues and gives certainty to farmers.
Agriculture is important, but so is tourism. This Bill will now provide certainty. For those who have not visited Montgomeryshire, I give a special shout out to Lake Vyrnwy. The private investment in the hotel and the wider developments at Lake Vyrnwy will push on at pace now that we have certainty on where this country will be going next. That certainty on opening up infrastructure is important to a rural area.
I will mention my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire one last time because I want to work with him on opening up the important Pant-Llanymynech bypass. I will continue apace so that Mr Deputy Speaker does not notice my getting that into this debate.
Finally, the Union is incredibly important to me. I realise that this is not a maiden speech and Members can intervene—I will tiptoe around it so that my SNP colleagues will be kind—but the Union is important to Montgomeryshire and the Welsh Conservative party. It is important to think about the Union in relation to the withdrawal agreement.
When we joined the European Union, the United Kingdom’s powers on agricultural support were given to Brussels en bloc as we joined a bigger single market. We are now leaving, and we will be forming a single market between the four nations of the United Kingdom. It is incredibly important to the farmers, businesses and residents I represent in Montgomeryshire that there is a united and regulated framework that allows us to keep our porous border between England and Wales and to continue as one of the most successful Unions in the world.
I will continue to champion the role of Wales, as my nation, in the Union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I will build on the work of my predecessors, such as Glyn Davies and Lord Carlile. So many things have changed over the two and a half years that I have not been here, but there are many similarities. It is good to see Lord Davies of Gower in the Gallery, as it was a privilege to watch his maiden speech in the other place yesterday. I am heartened to see him return favour.
So many things have changed, but there are some similarities. I am delighted to represent my home, and I am delighted to take part in this important Third Reading debate. I pay tribute to all the parliamentarians on both sides of the House, the civil servants and the other bodies that have got through what looked from the outside, at times, like quite a challenging two and a half years. I hope we can now move on, and I am glad to have given my semi-maiden speech on Third Reading.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the honour of calling me to give my maiden speech, especially on this European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill that has dominated our political life for years and will dominate and define our country for a generation or more. There could not be anything more important to speak about.
I start by thanking God, and I start as I mean to go on by thanking the residents of Putney, Roehampton and Southfields for putting their faith in me and for electing me to represent them. I also thank my family for all their support.
I pay tribute to my predecessor Justine Greening, who is held in very high respect for being a hard-working local MP. Many people told me during the campaign and before that she made their issues her own. She championed local causes and, nationally, she championed the cause of social mobility. She represented our views on Brexit, even when it cost her politically. We can always have a few more independent-minded female MPs, and I wish her and the Social Mobility Foundation all the very best.
Putney, Southfields and Roehampton are fantastic places to live and work. We have the best of urban London life, the river and brilliant green spaces. For any new MP looking for their London home, I cannot imagine anywhere better. Please come to Putney.
We have a strong community. We have faith groups, residents associations, great pubs to meet up in and community organisations that bring people together, including—I hope the House will forgive me for indulging a few local organisations—the Putney Society; Regenerate and Regenerate RISE; the Independent Food Aid Network; local food banks; Growhampton—doesn’t that sound fantastic?—Green the Grid; Abundance, which makes cider; the tidy towpath group; the Roehampton cultural centre; the over-60s lunch club in Roehampton; and over 20 rowing clubs and the most famous boat race in the whole world.
I have been running a local community centre for three years, so I know how important and how threatened community spaces are, and I will continue to champion them. Clement Attlee is one of Putney’s most famous former residents. He was born in Putney in 1883, when it was in Surrey, and he went on to be Labour Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951. He also went into politics because of his experience running a London community centre, so we have much in common. His Labour Government founded the welfare state—both the NHS and the benefit system—which defines us a country. To this day, it is one of the jewels in our crown, which I will make it a priority to defend.
But the current welfare state is failing families in my constituency. One in three children is in poverty and 30% of families in Roehampton live in overcrowded homes, most of them hard-working families. More than 3,000 children in Wandsworth borough are homeless, living in temporary accommodation. The Alton Estate and Putney Vale include areas that are among the most deprived 10% in the country in terms of income and housing. It is not all about the boat race. Two of the most important marks of the Government’s success or failure in the next five years must be whether they reduce child poverty and end the need for food banks.
Before I turn to the subject of the debate—I know that we are talking about Brexit; I will get there—I want briefly to highlight some important issues for Putney and the country. The first is the environment. This must be the climate Parliament. I have worked with aid agencies around the world, and in Bangladesh I have sat down with communities of women whose jobs, livelihoods and ways of life have been devastated by rising sea water as a result of climate change. It is already happening. I have also met parents, like me, who know that our London children have permanently damaged lungs because of our air pollution. In both situations, it is always the poorest who are most affected. We need urgent action on climate change. We cannot wait five years.
Housing is a major issue. Overcrowding, uncertainty for private renters, leaseholders’ rights, lack of social housing and homelessness must be a priority for the next five years.
Youth services and youth centres are closing across our country. More than 700 have closed in the last nine years. Together with school cuts, that takes away opportunities for our young people. Roehampton youth centre was closed just last summer.
Adult social care is beyond crisis. It came up time and again in all my seven hustings during the election campaign. It needs urgent action. Joining up the NHS and community care services is essential. We do not need just a cross-party wish list, but urgent action. I know that that was in the Queen’s Speech, and we will have to see what the result will be.
The NHS, crime, transport, daily commuter misery, saving our high street, international development and saving the Department for International Development, not merging it with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, are all issues that I will return to in future debates.
And so to Brexit. It was the main issue of the election in Putney: 74% of Wandsworth residents voted to remain—an even higher figure than in Scotland. More than one in 10 constituents in Putney are from other EU countries and are a very welcome part of our community. I believe that Brexit is an act of monumental self-harm. In Putney, I have spoken to people who have burst into tears on the doorstep, not just from seeing me, but because of their heightened anxiety about their rights and status as EU citizens, no matter how many years they have been here. I have met NHS workers who are struggling to cope at work because so many other staff have left and returned to other EU countries, and people whose businesses have been damaged and even closed—and we have not even had Brexit yet. We know the risks. We know that Brexit will not be done for many years, so my mandate to protest against the harm that it will do is certainly not over.
The Government have made big promises over the days of the debate, which I do not believe, given their track record in the past nine years, but I hope they prove me wrong. For a start, there are promises that there will be no regression on environmental standards. We must have a UK version of dynamic alignment on environmental policies. I know that the Government do not want dynamic alignment because it means that we are in hock to the EU, but there must be a UK version, whereby we do not end up with zombie policies and stay backward while the EU moves forward. We must always vie to keep outdoing the EU on climate action. We must phase out diesel and petrol cars, bring in eco-friendly homes and achieve 100% clean energy. I hope that all those policies will be in the upcoming environment Bill. The measure must have teeth to match the European Court of Justice.
There have also been promises that workers’ rights will be retained so that we will not have a race to the bottom. I have worked with countries around the world on trade negotiations at the World Trade Organisation and I have seen, time and again, how free trade fails communities and is especially bad for women. We need to know the impact, including the gender impact, of future trade deals.
There have been promises not to have a no-deal Brexit, but we could still face that at the end of the year. We are just pushing it down the line. There have been promises of rights to stay for EU nationals, with yet more paperwork and checks for pre-settled and settled status and issues that are not yet resolved.
There have been promises that the rights of vulnerable refugees—children, whose rights have been removed from the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill—will be enshrined in the immigration Bill. Why take reuniting children with their families out of the Bill? I am as flabbergasted and perplexed as everyone else on the Opposition Benches. Families belong together. The policy had cross-party agreement. It is not many children. I have seen the conditions in which young refugee children live and I have seen the traffickers circling and preying on them. Those children are amazing. My children often cannot find their way from the table to the dishwasher to put their plates away, but those children have found their way across Europe to other countries, desperate to return to their families here, who are just as desperate to see them. Yet we have closed the door on them. I do not understand why and I hope that it is not a sign of the kind of country we are going to become.
There have also been promises that the NHS is not for sale to the US. Well, we’ll see. The Bill is a huge power grab, with the Government running scared of scrutiny and transparency, yesterday rejecting all the amendments that would have meant that we as elected Members rightly saw the aims, objectives and progress of negotiations.
We are leaving, but our role now is to define what leaving means: what our values are and what nationalism means. There is a high risk that racism and discrimination will be given permission by the Bill. I have seen it happen. It happened straight after the referendum and it has happened since. It is therefore important to say here, in this place, that we may be leaving the EU, but we are proud of our place in Europe and the world. We must be a society that is ambitious for everyone, welcomes diversity and is open to all. We must both take pride in our country and define that pride as being more internationalist than ever. That will make us all stronger.
I thank the people of Putney again for electing me. It is such an honour. I promise that I will work hard every minute of every day to serve and represent you.
First, Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate you on your successful re-appointment. Thank you for everything you have done for us in the past.
I welcome Fleur Anderson to the House of Commons. Her speech was very measured. I do not agree with much of it, as she will expect, but it is a pleasure to have her in the House. I worked extremely closely with her predecessor, Justine Greening. The hon. Lady may not know this, but the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, which I introduced as a private Member’s Bill, got through despite being 16th in the ballot largely because of the support I had from her predecessor, as well as Opposition Members and many others, including Glenys Kinnock and Mariella Frostrup. Justine Greening put real effort and determination into getting the Bill through and it was a real privilege for me to work with her. The purpose of the Bill was to make sure that women and children in the third world and developing countries were protected against female genital mutilation and things of that sort. In saying all that, I want to make it clear that there is a degree of continuity of some sort between the hon. Lady’s speech and mine, although I have to dissociate myself from remarks of hers on which I will not comment right now.
I always enjoy speeches by Pete Wishart—they are such fun. He comes at us 100% and there is never any let-up. I pointed out that we Maastricht rebels—I had the honour to lead that rebellion in 1992-93—acted as we did because for us it was about democracy and the benefits that will now come to us as we leave the European Union. The European Union was going to take the democratic decision making of this country and hand it over to what was, in effect, a European government. As I said yesterday, parliamentary sovereignty and democracy run together. We are not “hard Brexiteers”; we are democrats. We are people who believe that this country should be governed by the people, that people should be governed by themselves, and I would have thought that SNP Members, above all others, understood that.
In a minute. It may surprise the hon. Gentleman to hear that, while I am a fervent believer in the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England, I do understand, for reasons not far removed from my reasons for wanting the UK not to be subjugated to the European Union, why the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire and his colleagues indulge this passion—understandable but wrong—for leaving the United Kingdom. I understand where they are coming from, so to that extent I appreciate some of the remarks he made, but I disagree fundamentally regarding the outcome they desire. It would lead to a lot of trouble for Scotland were it to leave the United Kingdom, as the referendum demonstrated.
The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is not just about Brexit. It is primarily about the United Kingdom and our future. The reason why we adopted the position we took on Maastricht, and later on Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon, and in the debate of the past few years and on the referendum, hinges on one simple principle: the ability of the people of this country to govern themselves through their elected representatives on the basis of their free choice in general elections. We are not little Englanders or trying somehow to make our country less democratic. We fought this battle for democracy and the rights of our own people, our own voters. That is why I am delighted that we now have a significant majority and will be able to put into effect the right of the British people to govern themselves through a range of policies, unconstrained by the European Union and the European Commission.
The argument the hon. Gentleman is making about voters getting who they vote for and governing themselves is pertinent in Scotland. His party have been rejected by 75% of the people of Scotland. We have an unelected Tory Government governing Scotland. Surely he sees the justice of being able to ask the Scottish people whether they want to continue with a Government that 75% of them have rejected, and what they want to do about the European Union, where 62% of them want to remain.
If the people of Scotland ever were to obtain independence and stay in the European Union, the extent to which they would be subjugated in a range of areas—fishing and many others—would become very apparent to them. That would be extremely damaging to the Scottish economy. Through the qualified majority votes of other countries, Scotland would find that, as a relatively small country, the experience would not be at all advantageous.
Is it not so nice, after so much anguish over the past three years, that tonight we are at last delivering on the result of this referendum, a democratic vote that we are now respecting?
I so much agree with what my hon. Friend has said, because he has been with us right the way through the passage of this over the past decade and more. People on this side of the House have fought, sometimes against the establishment, in order to achieve this objective. I can only thank the British people with all my heart for the decision they have taken. We have been the catalysts. We have tried to present the arguments. If the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire is right at all, it is about the fact that there has been a victory in the general election: the British people have spoken and they have supported the idea of leaving the EU, and we will do so accordingly on
I wish to make a further point. The decision to leave was taken by the British people, but not on a party political basis. The argument in this House always gravitates around party politics, but the decision in the referendum was taken by the British people in their individual homes; at breakfast or on the night before they sat around and talked to one another, asking, “What are we going to do tomorrow?” They made that decision but then found that remainer MPs, whether on the Opposition Benches or even on our Benches, were repudiating the decision that the individual voters had made, whether they came from Labour, Liberal Democrat or, more likely, Conservative constituencies. They deeply resented the fact that they had decided, with their families, to go to the ballot box to vote to leave the EU in that referendum and then found, to their intense annoyance, fury and disappointment, that their Member of Parliament had used the position they had in this House to frustrate the decision that the people had taken. That is why so many Labour Members lost their seats. People in this House did not appreciate the fact that in Labour leave marginals—in particular, in places north of Coventry in coal and steel communities—the European Coal and Steel Community and the massive subsidies given to the other countries had deprived people of their livelihoods, with much of the collapse of the steel and coal industry being driven by the anti-competitive nature of the European Coal and Steel Community framework. If we were to take a map of the UK and superimpose upon it the coal and steel communities, we would see a direct correlation with the decisions taken in the general election, when people drove out Labour Members of Parliament because they were not doing what voters wanted them to do. They wanted to leave the EU, and the Labour Members who were driven out had refused to allow them to determine their own constituency and national interest. That is where the problem lies. The Labour party simply cannot bring itself, even now, to understand the feelings of the people north of Coventry and in other parts of the country who found that their own Member of Parliament had let them down.
There was a simple reason for the referendum: it was clear that the collusion between the two Front-Bench teams in 1992-93 would lead to our having to stay in the European Union and accept the Maastricht treaty. That was what the referendum was all about. We now have a huge opportunity, in a completely new environment where we take control of our own laws in this House in accordance with proper democratic principles, to create a new global trading relationship to ensure that we are able not only to govern ourselves but to work in co-operation with other countries on our own terms, not on the terms that were laid down by the European Union. I look to the Secretary of State in the full knowledge that he and the Prime Minister, and any other Ministers involved in developing policies on the European Union over the next year or two, will do so on our terms and conditions and not those imposed upon us by the European Union.
This is a great moment in our democratic history; furthermore, it is a great tribute to the British people, who listened to the arguments that were presented to preserve their democracy. I have said this before and I will never apologise for saying it: the decisions were taken for democratic reasons. That is why we have ended up getting back our sovereignty, which we abdicated in 1971, after which we gradually gave up the veto. We will now be able to govern ourselves. It is a great tribute to the British people, and to the Members of Parliament who were returned in the election, that they will, through the majority we now have and with our Prime Minister, guarantee that this country will have a bright and effective future.
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.
The right hon. Gentleman and I obviously share a lot of interests in the fishing industry, as he has one of the largest ports in Scotland—but not the largest—in his constituency. Does he not agree that by virtue of leaving the EU, we have no option but to leave the CFP? We leave the EU, we leave the common fisheries policy—no ifs, no buts.
That is absolutely the case, and I think the hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to know that he will never get me to defend the common fisheries policy. But what follows thereafter will be down to the political decisions made by this Government and others, and to whether they have the political will to deliver the things that they have promised. He will remember the damage that was done to his party by a previous generation of Conservative Ministers who, at the time of our accession to the EEC in 1975, regarded the fishing industry as expendable. That is why the promises become ever more extravagant, but the more extravagant they are, the greater the consequences will be if they are not kept.
The Liberal Democrats will vote against the Bill on Third Reading, because we believe that this is a bad deal that risks the future integrity of the United Kingdom as a single unitary state, principally and most immediately because it risks the possibility of leaving Northern Ireland subject to different regulatory arrangements from the rest of the United Kingdom. That was something against which the former Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, warned, along with Ruth Davidson, the then leader of the Scottish Conservatives. Those warnings were good and the former Prime Minister was wise to heed them, but the current Prime Minister has ignored them. If after
I am also concerned that this deal very much leaves open the possibility of a no-deal Brexit at the end of 2020. In fact, the inclusion of clause 33 makes it that much more likely. My views on a no-deal Brexit are formed and reinforced by the businesses that come and talk to me. I think of one significant food-producing company in Orkney that directly employs 23 people, which may not sound like a great deal, but it is also an important part of the supply chain for farming in Orkney. Farming, of course, is the staple that keeps our economy in the Northern Isles stable and growing. That company tells me that for the past 20 years it has done everything that any Government would have asked it to. As a food producer, it has not gone for the low end of the market, but for the top—the niche market and the high-quality produce. Part of the reason that it went for that high-end product is that it was able to export. If its exports are now going to be put at a competitive disadvantage as a consequence of tariffs coming from a no-deal Brexit, the future of those 23 jobs and the farms around Orkney that supply the company will be bleak to say the very least.
The right hon. Gentleman is making a point that pertains to my community in Na h-Eileanan an Iar as well. I heard Conservative voices saying that today the anguish will end. The anguish might end for those in the Conservative party and their psychodrama, but with this Brexit coming—and there is no good Brexit—the anguish is just beginning for an awful lot of people outside this Chamber.
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
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.
The European Union was a subject of enormous interest to my predecessor as Member of Parliament for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, Nick Hurd, and indeed to his father, Douglas Hurd, who served this House with distinction and was the Foreign Secretary who took the United Kingdom into the Maastricht treaty through discussions that we have heard a great deal about in the course of the debate on this Bill. It was my great pleasure to work over many years with Nick as a local councillor in the constituency. I always found him to be someone who was hugely engaged and passionate about the interests of his constituents. I have been very struck by how hon. and right hon. Members of this House on all sides, in all parties, have fed back what a pleasure it was to have him as a colleague, and I am sure we all wish him well as he moves on to new challenges.
It has been a great honour to be elected Member of Parliament for the constituency of Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, where I have been a councillor since 2002. Among the many characteristics of that outer London suburb is its long history as a place of settlement for those who have sought refuge in our country from persecution elsewhere. In particular, we have very large communities of those Jewish people who fled to the United Kingdom during the second world war and those Polish service personnel who came to this country to join our armed forces in that period and who subsequently settled and are still very significantly represented among our local population today.
The constituency is part of the London Borough of Hillingdon, of which I remain the deputy leader for another few days. Hillingdon is distinctive, among other things, for the fact that it is a gateway authority—one of the ports of entry into the United Kingdom—by virtue of the fact that we have Heathrow airport. Since the 2003 Hillingdon judgment, which clarified the legal responsibilities that local authorities in this country have under the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 for unaccompanied young people in this country, it has been an area of great personal interest for me because of the impact on my home area. For the past decade, I have had the privilege of leading the national work across local government on the resettlement into the United Kingdom of refugees and, in particular, child refugees, alongside politicians from all the nations of the United Kingdom and representing all the political parties that are found in those nations. Over that period, we have seen more than a doubling in the arrival rates of child refugees into the care of local authorities, and we have seen our Government play an ever more active role alongside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, with schemes such as the vulnerable persons relocation scheme from Syria and the vulnerable children’s relocation scheme.
When I turn to clause 37 of the Bill, which has been the subject of comment and attempted amendments during its passage, it is clear that issues around the resettlement of vulnerable children are very much in the minds of many Members of this House. But it is vital that we recognise the strength of both the Government’s and the United Kingdom’s position when it comes to ensuring in practice the safety and wellbeing of refugee children. Border policy is, and has always been, a national competence, not one of the European Union. It is absolutely right that the opportunity to fully debate these issues will come in due course, when an immigration Bill comes before the House. But those of us closer to the sharp end of refugee resettlement will welcome the rejection of the amendments to clause 37, and I will briefly explain why.
The family reunion provisions are only relevant to a very tiny minority and to those children who are already in the care of authorities in other European countries. Those of us who had the opportunity to visit the Jungle camp in Calais and see the traffickers circling like sharks among nearly 10,000 vulnerable and destitute people will recognise that those provisions have long been seen—in the case of the United Kingdom, because of our geography—as an exploitable route for traffickers to create the opportunity of family reunion and encourage people to consign vulnerable people, sometimes children, to the backs of lorries and to dinghies across the channel in an attempt to open a family reunion route. We hear Members talking with concern about the hostile environment, but I think we have seen in the past few months that there are few environments more hostile than those when it comes to the life and wellbeing of vulnerable refugees.
The second reason that we need to be pleased that those amendments have been rejected is the issue at the heart of family reunion provisions, which is parental responsibility. It has been said by many Members, and it is said a great deal in the media, that we want to reunite children with their families. But those of us who have experience of those provisions have found that, in practice, what tends to happen is that young people are brought to the United Kingdom to be linked up with a distant cousin—maybe a teenager—and they almost immediately become an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child, and therefore in the care system of this country.
That really links to the third reason, which is that young refugees who are in the European Union are already within countries that have child protection systems that are very similar or equivalent to—in some cases better than—our own. The arrangements that the European Union, supported strongly by the United Kingdom, has in place, in particular with Turkey but also with other countries around the middle east and north Africa area, mean that there is usually a very real prospect of reuniting those young people with those with parental responsibility—either mum or dad, or at least close family members—who are in a refugee camp in the system in one of those countries. So it is going to be extremely rare that the best interest test will be passed in demonstrating that someone is better coming to a distant cousin who cannot look after them in the UK, rather than being reunited with mum and dad who may be in a refugee camp in Jordan or, indeed, in Turkey.
In conclusion, our local authorities in the United Kingdom have long battled with the consequences of the exploitation by traffickers of some weaknesses in our border system, and they do a remarkable job in challenging circumstances when we look at the outcomes that those children and young people go on to achieve. The UK has a huge reservoir of good will, and that good will is reflected in the actions of both this Government and previous Governments when it comes to support for child refugees, but our communities expect, in order to maintain that good will, that there will be robust, effective, efficient and just arrangements that minimise the risks to children. Clause 37 of this Bill, as proposed by the Government, opens the possibility of such arrangements when the immigration Bill comes forward. It is in practice a more compassionate and more pragmatic way forward on this issue than anything that I have heard proffered by the Opposition. It is one of many reasons to support this Bill, and I commend that clause to this House and to all Members with an interest in refugee children.
Notwithstanding the overwhelming numbers on this side of the House, many of us are listening with close attention to the points that are being made across this debate and we will be pressing to ensure that, when this Bill is passed today, it is not just the end of something, but the start of a new, constructive and positive relationship with our allies in the European Union.
Congratulations, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your restoration to the Chair. I am pleased to speak after David Simmonds. I wish I could say that I agreed with more of what he said. I do not for a moment doubt his personal commitment to refugee children, as I hope he will not doubt my own, but I think we have very different solutions to how we would address their plight. Frankly, I think our country has an awful lot more to do to honour our obligations to refugees, and in particular to child refugees, than perhaps was reflected in his words this afternoon.
I want to say a few words about the withdrawal agreement that is to be passed, I fear, later this afternoon, and I want to summarise some of the reasons why I will be voting against it. It does still contain this trapdoor to no deal at the end of this year, and despite everything that has been said from the Government Front Bench, I fail to understand why they are so doggedly remaining with this 11-month period—an entirely arbitrary period—and saying that that is the period within which they want to have agreed a new trade agreement. The President of the Commission said just yesterday that that is not going to yield the kind of deep agreement that apparently the Prime Minister wants, so it is very hard to see how this is actually in the best interests of the country.
Secondly, I worry deeply about the race to the bottom on social and environmental standards, which I think is at the heart of this withdrawal agreement. We heard again yesterday, when we raised these in the debate, that there is no guarantee against regression on environmental standards. There is certainly no dynamic alignment being suggested. Indeed, I fear we will see a wrecking ball being taken to the precious environmental standards in particular, which we have been absolutely dependent on our negotiations in the EU to achieve. The Prime Minister has of course famously said that Brexit is an opportunity to, in his words, “regulate differently”. When he says that he wants to regulate differently, I find it very hard to believe that he actually means improving regulations when it comes to the environment in particular.
The hon. Lady is raising two very important issues—their importance is, I think, recognised in all quarters of the House. I just wonder on what she is basing these fears. Is it from what she has heard in debates or read in our party manifesto or in anything else? On what is she basing these fears, other than shroud-waving and her own prejudice?
I am basing my fears on the fact that, for example, I was a Member of the European Parliament for 10 years and regularly saw how the British Government, or not necessarily the Government, but Conservative MEPs, were the ones who were watering down. [Interruption.] I appreciate it was a Labour Government; I misspoke. I meant—[Interruption.] It feels as if the Conservatives have been in power for so long that it is easy to forget that they haven’t been. What I want to say—let me say this correctly—is that what I witnessed over my 10 years in the European Parliament was Conservative MEPs constantly trying to water down the positions on the environment that the European Parliament was taking and therefore—
Not until I have finished answering the previous intervention. What I want to say in response to the first person who intervened on me, and who I have not yet finished answering, is that my concerns about what will happen to environmental standards under the withdrawal Bill are not being dictated by dogma; they are being dictated by my experience over 10 years in the European Parliament, watching Conservative MEPs constantly trying to water down environmental regulations.
As a former Conservative MEP and as a former member of the environment Committee of the European Parliament and a former Chair of a Committee of the European Parliament, may I completely refute the allegations the hon. Lady has just made? It was Conservative MEPs who led the negotiations on the Paris climate change conference that led to the global commitment to deal with the emissions that are threatening our planet, and it will be a Conservative British Government who will lead the negotiations for the next global climate change conference that will save our planet.
The hon. Lady doth protest a little too much, because the reality is that again and again I saw the briefings being provided by the Conservative party to Conservative MEPs, and they were all about watering down key environmental legislation. I was the rapporteur, for example, for a piece of legislation around illegally logged timber, and I can assure the hon. Lady that Tory MEPs and many others were watering it down.
No, the hon. Lady can sit down.
The fourth thing I want to say is that, as well as being deeply concerned, on the basis of evidence, about the very real risks of the Conservatives watering down environmental legislation, there is the issue that many have returned to again and again today: the cruel and hostile position on refugees in general and on child refugees in particular. Frankly, I thought that what happened yesterday, watching the Tory MPs troop through the Lobby to vote against provisions that would have protected child refugees, was quite shameful.
I want to focus on parliamentary sovereignty—an issue that should be, I would have imagined, a concern to all of us in this place. Surely we ought to be able to agree that, irrespective of our very different positions on Brexit or even on environmental standards, we do want a voice and a say for MPs in this place. For almost four years we have heard that leaving the EU would mean taking back control, and yet it is now clearer than ever that that control will not rest with communities, regions or even Parliament, but will be almost entirely in the hands of No. 10 Downing Street.
For this Government, democratic scrutiny is apparently a mere inconvenience, so MPs are to be denied a say over our most important post-Brexit trading relationship. So let us be very clear: this is an Executive power grab. Indeed, ironically given all the rhetoric about taking back control, this withdrawal agreement Bill gives MPs in this place less of a say over our trade with the EU than Members of the European Parliament will have in Brussels, who have a guaranteed vote on trade deals as well as sight of the pre-negotiation mandate.
Trade agreements may not always be headline-grabbing news, but they are very far from just being a dry subject about tariffs and taxes. They now have a profound impact on our efforts to tackle the climate crisis, and on our food standards, workers’ rights and vital public services. Our future relationship with the EU should be open to scrutiny and approval by this Parliament. We should be able to prevent the setting of a dangerous precedent of MPs being denied any oversight not just of this agreement but of future post-Brexit trade deals, such as that to be concluded with the US. Significantly, as we heard yesterday, the Prime Minister’s previous EU withdrawal agreement did include much-needed provisions for parliamentary scrutiny. They were outlined in clause 31. They gave MPs oversight of the negotiating objectives and a vote on the final deal, and required regular reporting during negotiations. That clause is conspicuous by its absence from the new Bill.
There is to be no parliamentary scrutiny of the future relationship with the EU, which is by far our largest trading partner. Indeed, any transparency will be entirely dependent on the good will of the Executive. We should have had an obligation for the Government to publish their negotiating objectives. They should have been unable to proceed with those negotiations until they had been approved by this House. We should have had real transparency during negotiations. Texts should be published after each round of negotiations, giving MPs the opportunity to review progress. The Government have often sought to reassure the public and parliamentarians alike about trade negotiations, but unless we have full transparency those reassurances are worth nothing.
We should have had a meaningful vote on the deal itself and, of course, it should have been on an amendable motion before any final deal was ratified. The lack of scrutiny afforded to trade agreements is a relic of a bygone era. Today, trade agreements permeate every element of our lives, from the food we eat, to our environment and labour standards to the protection of public services such as the NHS, yet it is staggering that MPs have less of a say over trade agreements than far narrower policy initiatives. Last, but not least, we should have had a comprehensive impact assessment that is available for proper review. So far, the Government have completely failed in their duty to assess the impact of Brexit. In the amendment that I moved yesterday, I proposed an independent body to consider the impact of any new deal on climate change, human rights and the economy. It seems a great shame to me that that amendment was defeated.
All I am asking for is that we should have our democracy upheld, so that MPs can do their jobs and hold Government to account. Significantly, the other place did pass an amendment to the Trade Bill in the previous Session, which would have given Parliament a say over post-Brexit trade deals, including on transparency during negotiations, a vote on the mandate and a final vote on the deal. The other place seems to be doing a better job of standing up for all our interests than we are doing here ourselves. We should not be letting this go through without parliamentary scrutiny. We should not be setting a precedent for Parliament to be denied scrutiny, not just of this agreement but of future trade agreements too.
The final point that I want to make is that clearly, under our rotten electoral system, the Government won the election with a majority of 80 seats. However, that does not reflect the public’s views on the deal, and, indeed, on the confirmatory referendum. I accept that under this electoral system they have a majority of 80, but that gives them particular responsibilities—[Interruption.] One of which might be to actually listen to what someone on the Opposition Benches is saying. A majority of 80 gives the Government particular responsibilities. Those responsibilities are to address the very many reasons that people voted to leave the EU. I have been travelling around the country listening to leave voters on the many reasons they had for voting leave. Of course, yes, some of them did indeed vote that way because they have fundamental disagreements with the EU, but many, many people I spoke to voted leave because they wanted to send a clear message to all of us here.
The message they wanted to send was that they believe the status quo is intolerable. To that extent, they were right. The social contract is broken, and the power game is rigged. The referendum outcome was a resounding radical rejection of the status quo, of an economy that brutally fails so many, forcing parents to use food banks to feed their children, demonising immigrants and condemning us to climate breakdown. It was also a powerful and furious comment on our broken democracy.
All too often, it feels to people—particularly those who are more distant from London—that politics is something that gets done to them rather than by them, or with them. Brexit laid bare the extent to which our governance structures are derelict. When citizens were deprived of a credible representative power that clearly belongs to or is accountable to them, it led to anger with the most remote authority of all. The EU was effectively blamed for the UK’s structural elitism and held responsible as the source of all powerlessness.
The Bill shows no sign of giving us back control, or crucially, of giving back control to many of the people who voted leave in good faith, expecting that that was what it was going to be about. There is no sense here that there will be any change to the settlement on the way we are governed. There is no sense that this Government will be one who, as well as redistributing financial resources, might just consider redistributing power. Those are some of the many reasons why I will vote against the Bill today.
It is a pleasure to follow Caroline Lucas. Something that she missed out of her speech—inadvertently, I am sure—was that the Prime Minister’s father led the way on landmark legislation. He led the habitats directive through the European Parliament, showing that Conservative leadership on the environment runs in the family.
I also congratulate my hon. Friend David Simmonds on his excellent maiden speech, showing not only that he understands in great detail the plight of refugees, including child refugees in particular, but that he has the experience and some of the solutions to make sure that we keep those people safe. We in the Conservative party always want to keep children—particularly refugee children—safe.
I am delighted that the Bill finally paves the way for the UK to build a relationship with the European Union that is based on a free trade agreement. After nearly three years of being stuck—effectively re-running the result of the referendum—this Parliament is free to take a significant, positive step forward. Once we pass the Bill, a horizon of opportunity is in front of us. The political declaration set out our aim to have no tariffs, no fees and no quotas in the economic relationship. I take this opportunity to thank the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and his ministerial team for their relentless determination to deliver on the referendum result. That is what we have been trying to do for the last three years, and I know that he has worked incredibly hard and taken hundreds of flights. It is very much appreciated by me and the British people.
As someone who has worked for decades in impacted industries, including car manufacturing, banking, fintech and travel tech, I am pleased that we will leave with a deal, in an orderly way. This Government’s ambition is to ensure that we not only maintain but build on our relationships with our partners across the channel. It is often said that trade negotiations take many years and that it is therefore overly ambitious to try to conclude an agreement by the end of the year, but there has never been a trade negotiation like this one in the history of the world. We start from a position of 100% alignment. We need to agree where it makes sense to stay aligned and how we do that, and where we want to diverge. It seems to me that this is a perfectly achievable objective, given good political will on both sides of the negotiating table.
Regulatory alignment is a complex system of product standards, safety standards and type approval processes. I want to speak about that as I believe that some of the rhetoric on legislation has been unhelpful. We can all remember talk of bendy bananas, curved cucumbers and unhappy hoovers, but in reality, the vast majority of regulation facilitates trading safely and fairly, especially within the manufacturing sector, where international and EU standards have remained stable for many decades. The vast majority of them are driven not by Government or in Committee rooms but by industry. Most trading arrangements aim to optimise interoperability through the recognition of other parties’ standards and agreements on equivalence and adequacy. This is standard in global trading arrangements.
If, as the hon. Lady says, all these regulations and agreements are actually driven by industry, what is there to be gained from leaving the EU? The Conservatives claim that the Government are taking back control, but according to her, industry drives all this regulation.
Yes, but it drives standards. There are three global standards across the world—one from the EU, one from the US and one from China—and they do not always have to be the same. They largely do align, but there could be differences based on geography and specific things we want for our industries. As we move forward, we might want to diverge in some areas, particularly in emerging technologies. Yes, industry drives them, but industry will be talking to us here, probably encouraging us to align in areas where there is no reason to diverge, but in other areas there will be opportunities to diverge. I can think of some areas where we could enhance things in a way that the EU has not been able to do. [Hon. Members: “Where?”]
Rolls-Royce is based in Chichester. Like all car manufacturers, it relies on just-in-time supply chains, with parts and components moving across the channel from country to country several times during the manufacturing process. Such frictionless movement requires regulatory alignment or recognition of equivalent standards. This ensures quality, safety and environmental mitigation. It also avoids the need for car manufacturers to invest in large stock levels of critical components, which is important because it enables safe sustainable profit margins in a highly competitive market. We understand this. There is no need to go backwards and put barriers in the way of highly integrated UK-EU manufacturing, but we must work with the industry on both sides of the channel to put new IT systems in place to automate these new arrangements.
Despite my firm belief in recognising and standardising regulations, I recognise that they can stifle growth if they are not implemented carefully, particularly in fast-evolving sectors. Tech is a prime example—another area where I have spent many decades in my career. The UK has a significant advantage in tech and some of the world’s finest academic institutions—we now boast three of the top 10 universities worldwide—and our pool of top talent is world class. Developing and retaining employees with key skills is critical for our knowledge-based economy. We are home to many new businesses, with digital venture capital investment exceeding £6 billion in 2018 alone—the highest in Europe. The UK is one of the world’s largest technology ecosystems.
To ensure that we keep our competitive advantage, I urge the Government to review techUK’s recommendations on our future digital trade policy to ensure that we continue to lead in the global digital landscape. The UK is a global leader in fintech, biotech, environmental tech, which is sometimes referred to as green tech, and education tech—to name just a few fast-growing areas. We are the best country in Europe in which to start a technology business and must continue to be so. To prevent the rise of too many new barriers, we must adapt our regulatory frameworks as new and exciting technologies emerge and we change our interactions with them. That is the opportunity.
Simultaneously, we must be vigilant against the threats that new tech can bring. We must enable cross-border data flows in a way that protects our citizens’ data without impeding business growth. Here we must collaborate internationally, not just with the EU but with the OECD and the G20, and avoid digital protectionism. For example, the forced localisation of data—[Interruption.] Hon. Members asked for advantages, but they do not seem to be listening. I am giving an example of an area where we could improve. We must avoid the forced localisation of data, the imposition of tariffs and the enforced mandatory transfer of source codes, algorithms or encryption keys as conditions of market access. We must also acknowledge where the EU has got it right and co-operate with it. Some of us might have found the recent GDPR legislation a bit tricky in our personal lives, but it is an example of protecting citizens’ rights in the digital space.
In accepting that dynamic alignment in some sectors such as the automotive sector may be advantageous for the UK, I would argue in the same breath that greater divergence will be vital in future emerging technologies. For sectors focused on artificial intelligence, cyber-security, data mining or the internet of things, speed and time to market are key to enabling emerging technologies, and we will have the opportunity to build simpler processes that work for the UK market.
Opportunity awaits the UK, and only by passing this legislation can we get there. I hope that when we do, Members throughout the House will call for compromise, and will take an informed approach to regulation that protects existing industries while creating competitive advantage in emerging ones.
Finally, let me say this, as someone who voted to remain in the referendum of 2016 but has voted to support Brexit ever since—five times, and counting. The step that we are taking in leaving the EU is a major change, and with change comes some risk but also opportunity. We must all show leadership; we should not be scaremongering. The whole of the UK, including all its constituent parts, is a dynamic, agile and trusted global partner, and we are already a global leader in foreign direct business investment. We have so much to build on. I look forward to supporting the Government and colleagues across the House to make Brexit both a reality and an opportunity.
Let me begin, Madam Deputy Speaker, by congratulating you on your recent election. It is a matter of some regard that we now have the first female Chair of Ways and Means.
It feels as though we have been at this for quite a long time. Here we are at, perhaps, one minute to midnight, and we have probably the penultimate opportunity to discuss these matters before the deed is done. It is a matter of some sadness to me that the proposals before us today are an even more myopic, small-minded and miserable set of proposals than the ones that were mooted at the beginning. I was sent here at the election of
There are many reasons why that is so, but I shall touch on just four. First, this course of action diminishes the character of the people who live in these islands. It makes us seem selfish, unco-operative and insular, and I do not believe that that accurately characterises the people who live not just in Scotland, but in England too.
Secondly, these proposals make foreigners out of many of our neighbours who have lived among us for a generation or more. In my own city, tens of thousands of people who were born in mainland Europe but have made the decision to raise their families and build their homes and careers in our communities will lose their status, or have it fundamentally altered. More important, in the longer term, the loss of freedom of movement will pose an existential threat to the future prosperity of my country.
Thirdly, the proposals represent a fundamental shift in the relationship between the devolved Administrations in the United Kingdom and the central Government. That is not to say that when we talk about a power grab it means that some responsibilities are being taken away from the Scottish Government. I do not say that. The responsibilities remain, but the power to act in those areas is being severely constrained and curtailed by frameworks and statutes set by this Parliament—even to the extent, in these proposals, that United Kingdom Ministers are taking the power to make secondary legislation in areas that this Parliament has decided should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Finally, I am against the proposals because they will impoverish the people whom I represent. I do not say that this catastrophe will be visited on us the day after exit day; I do not even say that it will happen in the weeks and months after that; but there will be a slow, insidious, grinding reduction in the living standards of the people of this country, until we wake up in a few years’ time and realise that we are so much poorer than we might have been, and so much poorer than similar communities in mainland Europe.
The hon. Gentleman and I have voted in the same way on many parts of this Bill. He is right to say that all the forecasts suggest that Brexit will make people in Britain poorer, but those same forecasts say that Scotland leaving the UK will make Britain poorer, so why is he in favour of that?
They do not say that. I will happily supply the hon. Member with lots of compelling evidence as to why Scotland would prosper as an independent country rather than being dragged down by the central Government of the United Kingdom.
I know that many people are looking to the future in this debate, and that many envision this as a bright new dawn for the United Kingdom. They see a world where the authority and status of this nation will be restored in the eyes of the world. I know that people genuinely think that—I do not say that they are insincere in this belief—but I do say that it is a delusion, a mirage, to suggest that this will happen. If you want evidence for this, look no further than what has been happening over recent months. A compromised United Kingdom Government, understanding that their ability to negotiate a trade agreement with the United States will be so much more diminished compared with their ability as part of a major European bloc, have got themselves into the embarrassing situation of demonstrating servility to the Trump Administration in order to try to protect their future economic prosperity. That is what the future holds. We will have to make unholy alliances and awful justifications for doing deals with certain people in order to get trade agreements.
I am sure that there are Conservative Members who have sympathy with some of the points that I have made but they are not going to express them today, because that great political party—arguably the greatest, historically, in Great Britain—has got itself into a situation whereby it is impossible to progress in that party unless one evangelises the cause of Brexit. Dissenting voices are no longer allowed. Mr Paterson is typical of many whose joy and enthusiasm for what is about to happen are unbridled. He cannot wait to pop the champagne corks and break out the bunting in celebration, but I am afraid that the future is nowhere near as rosy as he expects. He and others who have chosen this path are going to be severely disappointed.
Does the hon. Member agree that, regardless of our political views on whether Brexit is good or bad, the reality is where we are? Does he also agree that all Members need an evidence base on which to make informed decisions? Does he share my concern that the Regulatory Policy Committee report that was issued in October stated that the Committee did not have sufficient time to make a proper assessment of the impact and that it had not been able to meet Ministers? Surely there has been sufficient time between October and now to rebuild that impact assessment so that we may all know what we are voting for.
Throughout this entire process, we have been asked to take decisions without adequate information, so that is entirely consistent with the way in which this matter has been conducted.
I want to move on to consider the question of political mandates, which are quite important in this discussion. To do that, we have to consider the election that took place on
On the issue of factual disputes, is it not also right to take into account the fact that in Scotland 55% of people voted for parties that are Unionist and want Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom?
If the hon. Gentleman had had the patience to wait for another couple of paragraphs, he would have allowed me to develop my point. I will address explicitly what he says.
The point is that we have a Government elected on 43% of the vote in an electoral system that I believe corrupts the expression of popular opinion across Parliament, rather than allowing it to be deliberated. But rules are rules, and we all went into the election understanding the rules of engagement and what the contest would be. I am not in any way saying that I do not accept the result and the Government, even with 43% on a first-past-the-post basis and a majority of more than 86, have a legitimate democratic mandate not just in principle to leave the European Union, but to deliver Brexit on the terms that it proposed to the electorate. I accept that.
However, I do not accept—this is my central contention—that that mandate runs in Scotland. The
Others have talked about statistics. The Scottish National party won the election in 80% of the areas in which it was contested in Scotland, and 80% of the Members of Parliament returned here from Scotland are from the SNP. We won 45% of the popular vote, and the central proposition that we put to the electorate was that Scotland and the people who live in Scotland should have the right to choose how they are governed and whether they want to go down the path chosen by the United Kingdom Government.
There are echoes and similarities between what happened in December 2019 and what happened in May 2015. Then, as now, a Conservative Government were returned with a majority. Then, as now, the SNP won an overwhelming majority of seats in Scotland. The difference is that in 2015 we did not seek a mandate from the people of Scotland in relation to the constitutional position or how the country should be governed. We did not do that because the election took place just months after the 2014 referendum, when the electorate made a choice and decided to remain in the United Kingdom. That does not apply now, because in December 2019 we went to the Scottish electorate and explicitly asked them to endorse the proposition that people who live in Scotland should have the right to choose how they are governed and whether they wish to go down the Brexit path being offered by the United Kingdom Government.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who came into the House at exactly the same time as I did. Unless I was living in some parallel universe, I seem to remember hearing loads of speeches from SNP Members immediately after the 2015 election arguing for and advocating Scottish independence. What he has just said is therefore not actually a correct reflection of history. As close as the 2015 election was to the referendum on independence, his party was advocating it loudly and with great passion from those Benches.
I am unsure whether the hon. Gentleman is listening. I am saying that the SNP put a proposition before the people in a democratic election and they voted for it. Just to be sure, when I talk about this mandate, it was not only the SNP that talked about this matter. The central proposition of the Conservative party in Scotland was, “Say no to indyref 2.” The Conservative party in Scotland asked the people of Scotland to reject a referendum on independence, but the people of Scotland instead rejected the Conservative party. That is the truth of the matter, and that is why that party now has less than half the Members it had four weeks ago.
We have a new situation in these islands. For the first time in history, in this Chamber, which is charged with representing the whole United Kingdom, are Members elected from the two principal countries within the United Kingdom who have different mandates for the constitution of the country. I invite the Government to say—this will not go away—how they will respond, how they will acknowledge Scottish public opinion and how they will come to an accommodation with the political representatives of Scotland. The start of that process will be to understand what their response will be to the approach from the First Minister of Scotland, who has asked for negotiations with a view to transferring powers to the Scottish Government so that they may consult the people on how they are governed.
To be crystal clear, we are not asking the Conservative party or this Parliament to agree with the notion of Scottish independence. We are not even asking them to agree that there should be another referendum. We are simply saying they should agree that when and whether that happens should be a matter for the people who live in Scotland, and no one else. The decisions on these matters should be made by the people via their elected representatives in the national Parliament of Scotland in Edinburgh and not here in the Union Parliament in London.
That is the central proposition and, in making it, we are consistent with the claim of right for Scotland, which was debated in this very Chamber in July 2018 and endorsed by the House without opposition. I know that many Conservative Members did not really support it and thought the better option was to ignore the debate and pretend it was not happening, but it did happen and it will happen again.
If the request from the First Minister of Scotland and the request from the Scottish Parliament are denied and ignored, it will be inconsistent with the claim of right for Scotland. It will mean this House does not agree that it is a matter for the Scottish people to determine their own form of government. That would be a very serious position, because it would mean this Parliament is advocating that this United Kingdom should continue to include parts of this island even against the wishes of the people who live there. That would undermine the fundamental principle of consent on which this constitution has so far been based.
We would no longer be talking about a Union of equals, or a Union at all; we would be talking about the subsummation of Scotland as a territory into a wider political territory known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is a different constitutional position. If people want to argue it, we are happy to take them on and have that debate, but at least be honest about it.
The most important people in all this are not those who voted for the Government or for the SNP in opposition. The most important people in this debate are those who voted for neither. Many people, including in my constituency, put their faith in the capacity of the United Kingdom to reform itself and to give voice and expression to their needs and fears within this Union Parliament. They voted in significant but not overwhelming numbers for the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties in particular, and many of them are now asking themselves whether, indeed, the type of society they wish to live in can be delivered by this Union Parliament and this Government, or whether it would be a better course of action to consider Scotland becoming a politically independent country capable of setting its own priorities and giving vent to the aspirations of its own people.
They have not yet made that decision. They are on a journey and the debate, my friends, is wide open, but one of the key things that will focus that debate is the attitude and reaction of this United Kingdom Government. If the Government decide to keep their head in the sand and to pretend that this did not happen north of the border, if they pretend it is business as usual, if they use their 80-seat majority to railroad stuff through Parliament, if they drag Scotland out against its will, if they refuse to give Scotland a say and if they refuse to make any accommodation, they will become the best recruiting sergeant for the cause of independence in Scotland. We look forward to explaining to the people of Scotland the consequences of the Government’s actions.
We will be voting against this miserable set of proposals because we have not voted for them, the people we represent have not voted for them and the Scottish Parliament will not consent to them. These proposals are wrong and they do not represent the aspirations and the character of the people of Scotland. That, in the long term, will be represented much better by Scotland becoming an independent European nation in its own right.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker—patience pays in this House. Congratulations on being elected not only as Deputy Speaker but as Chairman of Ways and Means. It is a great privilege to have you in that role.
This afternoon, we have had three maiden speeches. First, there was my hon. Friend Craig Williams, whom I very much welcome to the House. I also pay tribute to his predecessor, Glyn Davies, whom I worked with a great deal on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and elsewhere. There is huge interest in Montgomery in farming, especially sheep farming. Fleur Anderson made a very good maiden speech, as did my hon. Friend David Simmonds, who brings to the House huge expertise on migration and dealing with those whose families are seeking to come to this country.
It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate because it is a historic moment. I pay tribute to the Secretary of State and his team, not only for what is happening now—it is much easier now we have a majority of 80 to win some votes—but for his patience and tenacity through the hours of debate that went on for several years. I pay tribute to Opposition Members who opposed the Bill because they did not like the type of Brexit, but many Opposition Members opposed it because they just did not want Brexit. That is what the British people worked out in the general election. There are no two ways about it. When we were on the doorstep, it was clear that they had worked out that Brexit needed to be done. I therefore welcome the Bill.
I also welcome the fact that the Government will take Executive powers to negotiate in Europe. In the past two and a half to three years, we were dogged by the fact that while we were busily trying to negotiate with the European Union, this British Parliament was busy undermining our negotiations and our negotiators. Did people think that the European Union and the European Commission were not watching what was going on? Were they feeding into it? I do not know. Perhaps that is one conspiracy theory too many and I will leave such matters to the Leader of the Opposition.
To be serious, we are at a moment when we can deliver Brexit. In a way, the two great planks of the European Union are the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. I have had direct experience of chairing the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for two years. Do hon. Members honestly believe that we cannot create a better agriculture policy for the four nations of the United Kingdom instead of the one for 27 or 28 countries in the European Union, from the north of Finland to the south of Greece? Of course we can. Why do we have a three-crop rule that makes us plant all sorts of crops that we do not necessarily need in this country because we grow a lot of grass, which is excellent for the environment? It is because east Germany grows nothing but maize, maize, maize, year in, year out. That is why we have the three-crop rule.
With all those matters, we can make things simpler. We can even help our friends north of the border. We can do all sorts of things to create a better agriculture policy once we have got the Bill through.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is making an excellent and impassioned speech. Does he agree that as part of creating a better agriculture policy, we can include restoring, promoting and incentivising biodiversity so that we have a richer, more diverse and secure countryside?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. This is not only about the Agriculture Bill; it is about the Environment Bill and how we link the two together. It is about the way we deal with our soils and plant trees. Everybody in this place and outside wants to plant more trees, but let us plant them in a smart way so they hold our soils and prevent flooding. Let us do all those things so that our biodiversity increases. Then we can make sure that we keep good agricultural production and good soils, which are key.
I will go a step further than “almost a friend” and say that I am grateful to my friend for giving way. Dropping the friendliness for a moment and bringing the politics back into it straight, surely the hon. Gentleman would respect the devolved competences of the Scottish Government in agriculture and fishing in the new way of negotiation that the British Government plan to use to handle things in Brussels? We would not want to see the rise of a UK centralised superstate, would we?
A superstate is precisely what the European Union wants to make itself into, and that is one of the reasons why we are leaving. To throw the ball straight back, as the hon. Gentleman knows I can, although we do not want to create a United Kingdom superstate, as he puts it, what we do want is some similarity between agricultural policy north of the border and south of it. We do not want to create huge competition in different policy areas. Let us work together to deliver a policy that works. I am not arguing against having an English policy or a Scottish policy, but let us work together to produce a policy that works.
The hon. Gentleman must know he is undermining his own argument about taking back control in saying that we cannot have divergence between Scotland and England. We now face 11 months where there is the risk of a no-deal crash-out. Will he confirm that the EFRA Committee he chaired and which I sat on heard evidence that if we were to trade on World Trade Organisation rules, we could not stop the import of chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef because of most-favoured-nation status? We could not prevent that under environmental standards. Did we not hear from the farming industry that the big concern was the market being flooded by Argentinian beef, which would ruin our industry? We can have any policy we want, but if we trade on WTO rules, farming is finished.
The answer is clear. We now have a clear mandate to leave the European Union, and we can negotiate with the EU having the ability to walk away if we choose. That is precisely why we will get a trade deal with the EU. We have spent three years tying the hands of the Government’s negotiators and making sure that that deal does not happen. I am a farmer, as the House well knows. I know that either you decide to do a deal and shake on it, or you decide the price is too high and walk away. Parliament has spent all its time tying our hands. It is now time to get that deal. I have every confidence in the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to deliver that deal. Opposition Members have spent the last three years thwarting us, and the British people have finally worked it out.
My hon. Friend has chaired the EFRA Committee. Can he confirm that in relation to sanitary and phytosanitary standards, each country that chooses to import grants a licence specific to the product, so whatever we choose to import, it is down to DEFRA to grant the licence and has nothing to do with WTO rules? It is to do with the individual country’s sanitary standards.
My hon. Friend is right. With chicken, the issue is not the use of chlorine gas in the processing—in fact, only about 20% of American chicken is dealt with in that way. The point is the Americans rear broilers at probably three or four times the density that we do and they use far more antibiotics, and they use the chlorine process to enable them to bring their chicken to the market. All we have to do as we do a trade deal with the European Union is lay down the rules on the welfare of chickens. We are actually proposing higher welfare standards in the Agriculture Bill. That is how we deal with it. Chlorine is not necessarily the issue.
Let me return to the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the NFU and common frameworks that were discussed when we considered the Agriculture Bill in the last Parliament. I was surprised to hear those comments because all the NFUs that gave evidence to the Committee were telling us that they wanted to see their ability to differentiate the different jurisdictions maintained and that frameworks should always be agreed between the four NFUs, not imposed. What does he say to them?
I have no problem with that proposal, but this is about how people work together. For example, we would not want a beef special premium being paid north of the border and some sort of area payment being paid south of it, because that would immediately create competition in the British market.
No, I am not going to give way again, because I have been very generous. The key is getting the farming unions to work together in order to say, “Let’s have a policy that has some similarities.” I accept that it will have differences, but we have to make sure that we have a policy that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, because the Conservative party is not the party that wants to break up the UK.
I wish to go on to fishing—
I have given way four or five times, so I will keep going because the Deputy Speaker is saying that at some stage we might like to vote this evening. Do we really believe that there will not be much greater access to fish and fishing rights? Do we not believe we will be able to have a better environmental policy than the common fisheries policy?
Does my hon. Friend agree that what we have found when speaking to real fisherman, as he and I have, over the past 30-plus years is that all they have said is that they want to withdraw from this terrible policy, whereby in the south-west 8% of the cod comes to the UK and almost 80% goes to France?
If anyone can speak for the fishing industry in this House, it is my hon. Friend, who has huge experience of this, as did her previous husband. I pay a huge tribute to that. We need to leave the CFP. As we set our new policies for fishing, we will get greater fishing rights, because the problem in 1972-73 was that the fisherman were sold away and we had terrible quotas. That needs to be put right and I know that she, like me and many others in this House, is determined to ensure that those wrongs are put right. Not only will we be able to address fishing rights and the amount of fish, but there is also the possibility of having much better environmental management. We will be able to examine the types of nets being used and to make sure that we sort out many of the issues relating to porpoises, dolphins and everything that is caught in bycatch. So there are many positive sides of leaving the CAP, the CFP and the EU.
I wanted to make this speech today because I have listened for three years as the opposition of all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours have thwarted Brexit in this House. They put forward all sorts of reasons, some spurious, some right and some not, in order that we would not leave the EU. Now we will leave it and let us be positive. We can get this trade deal, an agriculture policy that works and a fishing policy that works. We have an environment Bill coming through whereby we are going to put an office for environmental protection in place to make sure that our rules are not only as good as those of the EU, but better. Let us be positive tonight. Let us actually believe in this great United Kingdom. The best union of all is not the European Union but the United Kingdom, so let us not destroy that. Let us go forward and, together, this Parliament will deliver. I look forward to hearing from the Secretary of State and Ministers exactly how we are going to do it. I have every faith in not only the Secretary of State and Ministers, but the Prime Minister being able to deliver a good deal for the UK. For goodness’ sake, let us once and for all actually leave the European Union.
I sincerely apologise to the hon. Gentleman. It will be obvious that I have been absent from the Chair for a few weeks. Given that the hon. Gentleman is not making his maiden speech, he can take lots of interventions and everyone can shout at him.
I wish to introduce Northern Ireland into the debate, given the fact that it has been so central to the Brexit process so far. There are still so many unresolved issues and questions and it is important that we reflect on them as the Bill passes Third Reading, because there is still a long journey ahead.
Before I do that, I wish to make some general comments and to share in the concerns expressed by many Opposition Members about where we are with the Bill. There is uncertainty as to whether a trade deal can be done in the next 11 and a half months; there is the risk of no deal; there is the nature of the future relationship to consider; and there are issues of the parliamentary scrutiny, or lack thereof, of where we go from here. Of course, there is also more general regret about the Brexit process, which is going to leave the UK in a worse position overall in terms of the economy, society, security and the environment. That is particularly true of my own region of Northern Ireland.
I wish to focus on the unresolved issues. Brexit throws up a unique set of challenges for Northern Ireland, because, perhaps more than any other part of the UK, we are part of that wider network—that integrated framework across these islands. We are interdependent in terms of our trade and our society, both north-south on the island and in the wider whole-UK context as well. The problem of Brexit is that, whatever way it falls, it entails some degree of new barriers, borders or friction. In the context of Northern Ireland, that creates a sense of winning and a sense of loss, in terms not only of the economy but of wider society and the emotional and psychological impacts. We also need to be acutely aware of the potential political ramifications in the medium to long term.
That said, we saw this week the almost remarkable situation in which, across the political divide in Northern Ireland, we had all the parties coming together behind a common set of amendments, which were also backed by—and, indeed, in many respects driven by—the local business community in Northern Ireland, which has itself come together in an almost unprecedented way because of the huge importance of the issues before us. I remain very much convinced, as do my colleagues in the Social Democratic and Labour party, that Northern Ireland’s place is as part of the European Union. The Democratic Unionist party comes from a leave, pro-Brexit perspective. Regardless of how we reached this point, we all share the desire to ensure that we have the seamless, unfettered trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain that was the theme of the amendments, to protect the wider UK internal market and to ensure that the GB-to-Northern Ireland interface can be managed successfully.
Several wider points need to be made about the context. First, we should not see emerging—or indeed being forced on us—a choice or a trade-off between some sort of border or interface on the island of Ireland and a border or interface down the Irish sea. We want to avoid both those possibilities, but there will be a huge challenge in the way things have fallen in that respect. Indeed, the Assembly has almost been set up with this choice to make in four or eight years’ time: whether to maintain ongoing regulatory alignment for goods on an all-island and European basis, or align with the rest of the UK. It is not a choice that anyone particularly relishes and it builds a degree of instability into our political structures. Members will be aware that talks are ongoing back in Belfast as we speak to try to restore the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly—I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for his work in that regard over the past months—but Brexit adds a new layer of complexity to that wider context.
The focus of the debate and the amendments has largely been the interface between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, mainly because that is much more under the control of the UK Government. However, the process from Great Britain into Northern Ireland—and, indeed, beyond into the European Union—is just as important, if not more so. I think that those plans were not tested so much through amendments because that work depends on the outworkings of the future free trade arrangement. In that regard, it is worth stressing that a free trade agreement—even one that is very far reaching and inclusive—is not the same as the arrangements we currently have as part of the European Union; it is not the same as a customs union and a single market. A free trade agreement is a qualitatively different concept. We currently have a free trade arrangement through which we can access trade agreements with the rest of the world, and that is what we are giving up for an untested future.
There is ambiguity about where Northern Ireland will sit with respect to these future trade relations—whether we are part of a wider European Union framework when it comes to goods, or whether we are part of the wider UK trade policy. There was a time, particularly under the proposals of the former Prime Minister, when Northern Ireland could have had a foot in both camps, and the business community was embracing that. The danger now is that Northern Ireland could be marginalised and peripheral in both UK and EU trade terms, with local businesses facing considerable ongoing economic costs. In particular, there may well be barriers to accessing certain markets or attracting investment, because people will just see Northern Ireland as a complicated place and think that it is too difficult to engage with us. Our economy, which is already struggling from a low starting point, will continue to be marginalised.
As we look to a future relationship, it is important that we bear in mind the importance of integrating goods with access to labour; I am particularly thinking about ongoing freedom of movement and the service economy. It is very difficult to uncouple the four freedoms of the European single market. We need some degree of new deal for Northern Ireland because local businesses are going to face considerable economic costs. There will be a need for financial support as mitigation, or to support the transition as local companies adjust to the new arrangements and the new market frameworks.
Let me return to what happens as we look ahead to the next phase. There is a gap between: the rhetoric, declarations and promises of the UK Government and Ministers, particularly the Prime Minister; what we have been told by a range of different experts; and the reality of international and European law on customs and regulatory matters. That is an ongoing challenge which needs to be addressed, but Northern Ireland businesses want to see the commitments to unfettered access being honoured. We want to ensure that there is no discrimination against Northern Ireland goods, and it is important that we assess on an ongoing basis the economic impact of the Northern Ireland protocol.
My final point is that there has been a lot of focus on the joint report as being the almost magic solution to every unresolved question at this stage, as well as on the free trade agreement and negotiations. Given the very particular circumstances faced by Northern Ireland, my appeal would be for Northern Ireland representatives to be integral to those discussions and for there to be a proper feedback loop to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Executive and whatever democratic structures we can put in place back in Northern Ireland.
It is a great pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Madam Deputy Speaker. You recently enjoyed a landslide victory of your own, so huge congratulations to you on your appointment.
We finally reach the end of the beginning stage of Brexit. It is a huge matter of regret to me that this Parliament and its predecessor have failed to compromise and the remain camp in the United Kingdom has learned the same lesson that the pro-Union camp did in Scotland: first past the post can be pretty brutal when only one party is on one side of a binary issue. Whereas Scotland, a country that voted against independence, keeps electing pro-independence MPs, at least in the UK there was a majority in favour—
Let me make a little progress and then I will give way.
At least in the UK there was a majority, albeit a very narrow one, for leaving the EU.
It is a tremendous failure that the 2017-19 Parliament was unable to agree on a settlement that respected both the referendum and the 2017 general election result. I regret the decision the British public took, but I accept it. I also accept that the indecision and uncertainty that dogged the 2017 Parliament was deeply damaging for businesses and for confidence in this institution. It is tremendously regrettable that the former Prime Minister, having held a general election that she did not need to, refused to negotiate with the Labour party leader and was then put under tremendous pressure by the Eurosceptics in her own party when she did attempt to negotiate. I also regret that my right hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn decided to pursue a second general election rather than attempting to get the Brexit matter resolved. Ultimately we are weaker as a result of that.
The hon. Gentleman correctly said that the SNP have 80% of seats and we favour independence, but a key plank of our mandate was actually Scotland’s right to choose, so it does not matter what our views are on independence. He clearly has a different view. Does he not agree that the mandate we have is for the people of Scotland to choose either independence or to reconfirm that they want to stay in the Union?
We had a referendum. I went up to Scotland, as many other people did, during that referendum. It was very interesting that a few moments ago one of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues proudly said, “We got 45% of the vote.” I thought, “45%—that sounds familiar”, and of course that is because it is precisely how many people voted for independence back in 2016.
That matter is settled and I am going to deal with the matter that we are dealing with today.
However, I would just say this on Scotland. When people hear Scottish National party MPs stand up and say that the SNP is representing the people of Scotland who all voted in favour of staying in the EU, they should remember that the SNP spent less than 10% of the money on the EU referendum that they spent on the independence referendum. The SNP got exactly the result it wanted, which was that Scotland voted to stay in the EU but the UK voted to leave. The biggest priority for the SNP has always been independence, and that is why it took the position it did.
No, I am going to make some progress.
Neil Parish claimed that it was the uncertainty that we had in the last Parliament that undermined our negotiations. Well, now we will see, because now there are no excuses for Conservative Members. There is no sense that Parliament’s position is unknown. It is clear that we are going to leave the EU, and now they have no one else to blame. It is entirely their responsibility, and the fishermen, the farmers and the car workers up at Nissan will see whether it was this Parliament that was preventing the Government from getting the deal that they promised during the referendum.
As we vote on this tonight—as my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield rightly said, this is only the first part of all this and we will get on to the detail after that vote—I am minded to remember that Vote Leave promised us during the last referendum that
“we will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave”.
That was one of the central promises of the Vote Leave campaign. When we vote tonight, we will be voting against that promise made by Vote Leave—we will be leaving the EU and then deciding on what basis we leave. But let us see if the Government are able to negotiate this much better deal. I confess that I will feel a huge sense of relief when the Bill passes tonight, so that we can move on to the next stage, and we will see whether the Government are able to deliver in any way on the promises that they made.
The future relationship is not sorted, and it is now for the Conservative party and its MPs to decide what that future relationship will be. They may well do it without Parliament having much of a say. Opponents of the new Tory Eurosceptic consensus have been swept away, and the supine, obedient group of Europhobic robots that we see in front of us have taken their place. Like lambs, they will lead us in whichever direction is ordered by Boris Johnson, who will receive his orders from Dominic Cummings. We will see what direction they take us in.
On the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the hon. Gentleman is content to leave it to the Tory Government, but on Scotland’s future relationship, all we get is being patronised; we cannot decide ourselves. The reality is that, in 2014, we were promised a guarantee of our place in the European Union by staying in the United Kingdom. That promise is null and void. We cannot have any more non-Scottish MPs patronising the Scottish people. Their mandate must be respected. We must have a referendum, and the Scottish people must decide—not non-Scottish MPs, who think this is better for Scotland. Scotland needs to decide.
The hon. Gentleman has made his point. I have already responded to that, and it does not take us any further to go on now.
I voted for the amendments that my colleagues tabled, and we were right to seek to improve the Bill. I regret that the new orthodoxy recognises no value in the Erasmus programme, which enables young people without huge wealth to enjoy some of the opportunities that young people with wealth will continue to enjoy. It was triumphalist and not sensible to remove the assurances from the Bill that the Prime Minister put in place on its Second Reading in the last Parliament. It is ultimately for the victors to decide who they want to appeal to—it is for the Conservative party. It has got the Brexit it wants now, and it can decide, but a party that refuses to try to speak to those who voted against it will find itself in an ever diminishing pool. The next leader of the Labour party will also need to learn that lesson.
I will not oppose the Bill’s Third Reading today, because the desire to get beyond this stage is powerful and palpable. Businesses and communities wish for the Government to map out the future that we foresee for our country after Brexit, but the Government are foolish to continue to pursue the very narrow Brexit that they have suggested.
Our country has a long history of being a global player. We have taken an active interest in global affairs and made a contribution that far outweighs the size of our nation throughout history. Leaving the European Union does not have to mean relinquishing or reducing that global role. It does not have to mean retreating into narrow nationalism, but many who support it want that future for our country. The Conservative party has ceased to be a broad church. Only rampant Europhobia is to be tolerated now. I have never seen a less broad church—[Interruption.] Conservative Members are pointing at Mr Francois to describe what a broad church they are; that is how desperate it has got.
It is now for my party to become a broad church again and recognise the reasons why communities who voted Labour for decades chose to seek a future outside the EU. We need to seek a co-operative and internationalist path for our country. The Labour party will not win votes in this Parliament, but we can, if we choose, lead the way to a different but still close relationship with our nearest neighbours—one that eschews a mean-spirited approach to the most vulnerable people and seeks still to offer the opportunities to the next generation of young people that so many of our generation enjoyed.
Madam Deputy Speaker, my congratulations on your election to your new post—a historic appointment—and welcome back.
First, I will say that we in Her Majesty’s official Opposition will be abstaining on the SNP amendment tonight, because while we are sympathetic to its aims, our objections to this Bill are far wider. We object to so much in this Bill that we cannot confine ourselves to voting just for the reasoned amendment. We will be focused entirely on voting against the entire Bill on Third Reading—and no, that is not voting against Brexit; it is voting against this Bill.
Some hon. Members appear to think we are still in the Christmas pantomime season; we are not. Just saying that does not make it clever and does not make it right. All the Conservative Members who think they are about to vote to get Brexit done must know what lies ahead. They know—they must know—that trade negotiations take time. They must know that even if we are in alignment now, the Government’s stated intention is to diverge. So be in no doubt: trade negotiations will take longer than the precious few months that the Government have allowed. Getting them done at historic speed does not look very likely when the EU itself has already warned that it will take longer than that.
Whoever’s responsibility this is, the Government with this Bill—clause 33—have boxed themselves in so there is absolutely no get-out. As my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield has said, clause 33 is a gimmick, but it is a gimmick at the expense of the people of the United Kingdom. At the end of this year, if we are just days away from agreeing a trade deal or a few weeks away from sorting out the arrangements for moving medical devices or airline parts between the EU and the United Kingdom, it will make no difference: this Bill has bound the Government’s own hands. There will be no extension, and that is why we call it a cliff edge.
We did not need to be here. This Opposition have accepted that Brexit is happening on
I come to the maiden speeches. My hon. Friend Fleur Anderson showed the people of Putney that they made an excellent choice. She clearly already knows and loves her constituency and understands the lives and values of her constituents. She has already been a strong voice for them this afternoon. She covered an enormous amount in her first speech, and I salute her ability to do that with clarity and great voice. I am already delighted to have her as a colleague, and I look forward to working with her. David Simmonds also made his maiden speech, and I congratulate him as he also showed his care for his constituency and his clear commitment to represent his constituents and their values in this place.
To the Government and to the Prime Minister, the Opposition say: this is now on them. Despite the lack of provision for scrutiny in this Bill, we will still use every tool we can to scrutinise the progress of the negotiations on the future relationship. Obviously, Conservative Members believe this is a great future. If that is a great future, I will happily stand here and be corrected.
No, I will not give way.
If, however, trade negotiations do not get concluded with record speed over the next few weeks and months, we will be holding this Government to account. We will expose the consequences to the people we were sent here to represent. We will expose the Government’s actions. We will use every tool that we have in order to do that. We owe it to the people of the United Kingdom to show them that we stood up for them today and every day, so we will vote against this Bill tonight.
During the Committee stage this week and today on Third Reading we have had good debates on the withdrawal agreement Bill. This Bill will implement in UK law the withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, ensuring that the UK departs the EU with a deal, getting Brexit done on
I would like to thank Members across the House who have contributed to the Committee stage over the last two years—two days. [Interruption.] Sometimes days can feel like years, but the new tone of this House obviously makes time seem to pass much quicker. I also add my thanks to the Clerks and officials in the Public Bill Office, who consistently provide invaluable support to Members in the House.
We have had three excellent maiden speeches in this debate, which also saw the very welcome return of my hon. Friend Mr Evans to the Chair, continuing the Lancashire theme that we had at departmental questions. There was also the welcome election of the first female Chair of Ways and Means.
My hon. Friend Craig Williams gave an excellent maiden speech—although he does have the benefit of having done it before. He spoke with warmth and passion about his home seat. He rightly paid tribute to his much-loved predecessor, who has given 50 years so far of public service. Having worked closely with him as my special adviser in the Department, I know that he will champion Wales throughout his time in the House, and I look forward to resuming my conversations with him on agriculture, and I am sure on rugby as well.
Fleur Anderson gave a very good maiden speech, showing her passion for her constituency, and for the community groups and the community spaces with which she has worked. She referenced Clement Attlee and gave a speech that I am sure he would have been very proud to hear. She is right to highlight the value of the European Union citizens in her constituency. That is one of the safeguards that this Bill delivers, because we value their contribution not just in Putney but across the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend David Simmonds gave a first-class maiden speech, which displayed his clear and detailed knowledge and experience of immigration issues, and indeed it was clear that he held the attention of the House. It signalled the valuable contribution that I know he will make to forthcoming debates.
We also had a number of very powerful speeches from some of the most experienced Members of the House. My right hon. Friend Sir John Hayes spoke of the importance of place and the people who have spoken within that place, and with his 30,000-plus majority they certainly have spoken very clearly on behalf of my right hon. Friend.
My right hon. Friend Mr Paterson spoke about the importance of democratic accountability and of restoring control over our fishing, an issue that he has championed throughout his time in this place. We will restore to this country the advantages of our spectacular marine wealth through this Bill.
My hon. Friend Sir William Cash spoke of this as a great moment in our democracy and it being a tribute to the British people. May I gently say to my hon Friend that it is also a tribute to him, who, despite criticism over the years, has stuck fast to his principles, and that is reflected in this Bill.
I entirely endorse that tribute. Under the Bill, and specifically under article 50, we will leave the European Union at 11 pm GMT on
My right hon. Friend will know that my opposite number often talked of a clock ticking. He will also know that that decision is for the House authorities, but I am sure they will have heard the representations he makes. This is an important moment in our national story, and I am sure they will want to reflect that in the appropriate way.
My hon. Friend Gillian Keegan gave a very insightful speech, reflecting her detailed commercial expertise. She is particularly right to draw the attention of the House to emerging technologies as one of the key opportunities unlocked by taking back control of our trade policy. My hon. Friend Neil Parish spoke with the experience of a former Chair of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee. As a farming constituency MP myself, I know that when he talks about what the National Farmers Union calls the “utter madness” of the three crop rule, dictating to our farmers what they can and cannot grow, he speaks powerfully of the opportunities that the Bill will unlock.
This evening, the Bill will pass to the other place with a very clear mandate from this House that now is the time to move forwards. I anticipate constructive scrutiny, as we would expect of the other place, but I have no doubt that their lordships will have heard the resounding message from the British people on
The Bill will secure our departure from the European Union with a deal that gives certainty to businesses, protects the rights of our citizens and ensures that we regain control of our money, our borders, our laws and our trade policy. Once the Bill has been passed and the withdrawal agreement ratified, we will proceed swiftly to the completion of a free trade deal with the EU by the end of December 2020, as laid out in our manifesto, bringing the supremacy of EU law to an end and restoring permanently the sovereignty of this place.
The European Commission President yesterday gave what I thought was a very thoughtful speech at the London School of Economics, speaking of old friends and new beginnings. She expressed her desire to establish a future relationship that is “unprecedented in scope”. In our later meeting with the Commission President, the Prime Minister made it clear that we share her desire for a relationship based on our shared history, interests and values. That is what we intend to build as a consequence of the Bill.
Three years ago, Parliament entrusted the decision of our relationship with the EU to the British people. By passing the Bill, we will send a clear message that we have listened and we have acted. In doing so, we will restore trust in this House and in our democracy. Once Brexit is delivered on
It is time to get Brexit done. The Bill does so. I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put, That the amendment be made.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is a historic moment for all of us. We must reflect on the fact that this is the first time that a part of the Union—a country of the Union—is having something done to it that it resents. The Scottish Government and the Scottish National party made it clear over the past three and a half years that we were seeking to compromise and to ensure that what the people of Scotland voted for—staying in the European Union and our rights as EU citizens—was respected.
It was interesting that when the Secretary of State summed up the debate today, he made no reference to my colleagues’ powerful speeches about that desire for our rights to be respected and the fact that we do not consent, under any circumstances, to the people of Scotland and our country being taken out of the European Union against our will. Let us make no mistake: that is exactly what is happening. Yesterday, the Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly not to give its consent.
This is a constitutional crisis. We will not and cannot accept what has been done to us. I say to the Prime Minister and the Government—
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is an important point. In the election in December, the people of Scotland stood by the Scottish National party on the basis of our right to choose. We will not accept being taken out of the European Union, and I say to the Prime Minister, “Respect democracy. Respect the election result. Respect the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future.” We will have our referendum, Prime Minister, and Scotland will remain an independent European country.