My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Paymaster General, as well as David Frost, the Prime Minister’s chief negotiator, are proving to be magnificent midwives for our rebirth as an independent nation. It is important that those in the European Union who are watching today’s debate understand that whichever of the two outcomes they return with, they have the full support and confidence of Government Members.
I am proud that Sussex features heavily in the history of Britain, just as Britain features heavily in the history of continental Europe. Historically, the ports and beaches of Sussex were the embarkation point and occasionally even the receiving point for less good-natured attempts to harness our economies together than these negotiations should prove to be. The Earldom of Arundel, at the heart of my constituency, was created by William of Normandy in 1067, following his memorable visit to Hastings just down the road.
I share this Government’s ambition to get the best outcome achievable for the UK and to continue to have good relations with the EU, but now as a valued trading partner. Having conducted many negotiations in the course of 27 years in business, I know that a deadline is vital to get both parties to close the gap between their respective positions. As my hon. Friend James Wild reminded us, this Government have already shown that they are able to negotiate international agreements with speed and efficiency. The withdrawal agreement was reopened and renegotiated in under three months, despite the assertions of Opposition Members, who stated categorically that that would not be possible.
Not only are the downsides of accepting a bad deal fully priced in, but many British businesses are chafing at the bit for certainty and to utilise our new-found freedoms. They look forward to the ability to make the most of our natural advantages, such as our strong adherence to the rule of law, flexible workforce, sitting between the Asian and American time zones, and English as our own—and the world’s—language. They also look forward to the opportunity to deregulate and to hold Whitehall properly to account for unnecessary red tape, without the helpful alibi of Brussels or, if we are in a different week of the month, Strasbourg to point to.
Of course, we can transform our fortunes as we secure independent trade deals with Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the US. Why would the EU not agree a deal with its largest trading partner at least as good as the one it has concluded with Japan? I agree, on this occasion, with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, when he said of that deal:
a tool that will create opportunities for our companies, our workers and our citizens and that will boost the European and Japanese economies.”
I agree, and if that is true of Japan, 6,000 miles away, how much more true it must be across a mere 60 miles!
To conclude, while I hope an agreement will be reached, we should be excited by the opportunities that lie beyond the EU. That is why I support the Prime Minister and the Government and wish them well in these negotiations.