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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:04 pm on 9th January 2020.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton 4:04 pm, 9th January 2020

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.