Sir Gary Streeter contributions to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020

Wed 8th January 2020 European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
19 interactions (623 words)
Fri 20th December 2019 European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
Money resolution: House of Commons
Programme motion: House of Commons
Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons
17 interactions (92 words)

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

(Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
(Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
Sir Gary Streeter Excerpts
Wednesday 8th January 2020

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Scotland Office
Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 3:40 p.m.

I beg to move amendment 11, in clause 38, page 37, line 24, at end insert—

“and has been so during the period since the passage of the European Communities Act 1972.”

Sir Gary Streeter Portrait The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Gary Streeter) - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 11:30 a.m.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 35, in clause 38, page 37, line 39, at end insert—

“insofar as future primary legislation may expressly repeal all or any provisions of this Act, but only to that extent.”

This amendment would ensure that existing and future primary legislation that impliedly repealed Section 7A, etc of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 would be invalid, despite the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty.

Clauses 38 to 40 stand part.

That schedule 4 be the Fourth schedule to the Bill.

Clause 41 stand part.

That schedule 5 be the Fifth schedule to the Bill.

Amendment 9, in clause 42, page 41, line 6, leave out from “force” to end of line 6 and insert—

“only when each House of Parliament has approved a motion tabled by a Minister of the Crown considering a ministerial economic impact assessment of the commencement of this Act.”

This amendment would require the House to endorse an economic impact assessment of measures this bill would implement.

Clause 42 stand part.

New clause 28—Conditional approval subject to a confirmation referendum—

‘(1) The condition in this subsection is that a further referendum has been held on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union in which the electorate has been offered two options—

(a) the option for the UK to leave the European Union in accordance with the withdrawal agreement and a framework for the future relationship; and

(b) the option for the UK to remain in the European Union on existing membership terms

and that the Chief Returning Officer has certified that a majority of voters has supported the option for the UK to leave the European Union in accordance with the withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship.

(2) If the condition in subsection (1) has been fulfilled, then—

(a) the approval of the withdrawal agreement by the House of Commons required under section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 is deemed to have been given;

(b) the House of Lords is deemed to have debated the motion required under section 13(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018;

(c) the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2019 is, for the purposes of section 13(1)(d) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, an Act of Parliament which contains provision for the implementation of the withdrawal agreement;

(d) the Government must ratify the withdrawal agreement within the period of three days beginning on the day after certification by the Chief Returning Officer under subsection (1); and

(e) requirements in section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (Treaties to be laid before Parliament before ratification) do not apply to the withdrawal agreement (but this does not affect whether that section applies to any modification of the withdrawal agreement).”

This new clause would require the Government to give the public the final say on Brexit through a people’s vote, with the choice between leaving under the terms of the withdrawal agreement and remaining in the EU.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 3:42 p.m.

I rise to speak about parliamentary sovereignty. Clause 38 is a puzzle, and we have tabled our amendment 11 to tease out more of that puzzle, to try to work out what it is for and to expose some of what we on this side believe has been quite puzzling leadership on the part of those who have been peddling the idea that we are going to take back control of our laws, our money and our borders because they have somehow not been under our control for the last 40 years. I am going to stop using the phrase “take back control” in a moment, but I will first analyse it to make my point about our amendment.

We have been repeatedly told that the EU referendum was about taking back control and restoring parliamentary sovereignty. I am seeing nods from certain esteemed Government Members telling me that that is indeed what it was about. It was not about that, however. I find this most puzzling. Have we ever actually lost our parliamentary sovereignty? The answer is, of course, no. Saying that Brexit is about taking back control of our laws, our money and our borders is quite extraordinary. Let us start with laws. Have all the laws we have passed in the past 40 years been just a dream? Did we imagine all those laws? Just in the four years since I took my seat, we have passed law after law. We have put Bills through a process of scrutiny, debate and amendment.

Break in Debate

Dr Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Whitford - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 4:51 p.m.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that we did respect the result? We have been here for four and a half years. We would not have been if we did not respect it; we would have been independent, and we would not be being dragged over the EU cliff at the end of this month. He should accept that the claim of right that Scotland has had for 331 years did not disappear in 2014, and that his party has changed the entire fabric of the United Kingdom. It cannot continue to treat Scotland’s views with disrespect.

Sir Gary Streeter Portrait The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Gary Streeter) - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 5:15 p.m.

Just before the right hon. Gentleman continues, we do not want to be dragged into a debate on Scottish independence on clause 38. Let us continue to debate these amendments and the clause.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 4:52 p.m.

Good advice, but I am trying to address the SNP point related to its proposals on how we treat devolved government fairly and whether we are listening properly to Scotland. I think that we are very much listening to Scotland, but we have to understand that the matter of the Union is a responsibility of the Union Parliament, and that the matter of our membership of the European Union is a responsibility of the European Parliament. It is the hon. Lady’s misfortune to have been on the wrong side in two referendums, but there has been a deeply democratic process in both cases, as to whether Scotland stays in the Union and whether we stay in the EU.

I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to remember that there is a fourth country in our Union: the country of England. We are very reasonable people, and we do not go on and on about English issues. However, when we get to this debate over how the different parts of the United Kingdom are consulted and respond to the issue of how we leave the EU, England too needs a voice within the Government and needs to be seen as an important part of the process.

The overwhelming vote for Brexit was an English vote because in numbers, England is a very large part of the Union. That is important, just as the Scottish and Northern Irish view is. I hope that the Government will look at this machinery of government issue and make sure that there is, within Government, a clear and definitive English voice. In due course, I think that we need to discuss whether this Parliament should have an English Grand Committee that can not only veto proposals that England does not like, but make proposals that England wants, because that would do something to correct the obvious imbalances that make this a particularly difficult matter to settle, when the largest part of the Union, with the overwhelming Brexit vote, is not formally represented in the discussions.

Break in Debate

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies - Hansard

To be clear, I said that the proposition was remain or public vote on the deal. The Labour party position essentially was that the oven-ready Brexit would be bad for Britain—it would make us more divided, weaker, poorer, more isolated and so on—and that we could put together a better Brexit that protected our jobs through trading alignment and our environment and workers’ rights through dynamic alignment of those conditions.

Sir Gary Streeter Portrait The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Gary Streeter) - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 4:57 p.m.

Order. This is very interesting, but the hon. Gentleman is not speaking to the amendments or the clause. His speech is more a Third Reading speech, for which there will be plenty of opportunity tomorrow. If he has a speech to make on the amendments, we look forward to hearing it.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 4:57 p.m.

I apologise for responding to the speech made on this subject by the right hon. Member for Wokingham, but I will not go on about that any more.

I want to focus on clause 38, on sovereignty, and new clause 28, on whether we should have a confirmatory referendum, which I was just talking about. I was making the argument, which I will stop making, Sir Gary, in support of the proposal in new clause 28, that there was a legitimate case for a confirmatory referendum on the grounds that most people voted for either remain or a second referendum and that the position of the Labour party was to have a second referendum.

In defining sovereignty, the hon. Member for Stone and others have said that having sovereignty means we can make all our own decisions here and that everything will be all right. I accept that that is an idea in the minds of many voters, and intuitively it sounds very sensible, but in practice is that really what would happen? I contend that this Brexit will reduce our sovereignty and that therefore clause 38 is misleading. At the moment, we have pooled sovereignty in the EU. We are one of 28 countries, but our vote is proportionate to our population. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that things are rammed through without our being consulted—that they just happen to us—but even in majority voting we have a veto, together with others, such as Germany, for example, which is the biggest player and is very worried that when we leave it will not be able to exercise, with us, certain restraints and constraints on the EU.

Ultimately, if we have a close trading relationship with the EU, to which after all 44% of our trade goes—from a Welsh point of view, more like 60%—we will need some level of equivalence, which will mean our having to accord with standards decided in a closed room without us being in that closed room. Surely, that is less sovereignty, not more. We will have to make the following decision: do we agree with something that has been decided without us rather than our being able to argue and block it, with Germany and others, or do we want to be out of the room deciding whether to accept the rules that are coming over—and if we do not accept them it might hinder our trade? That does not sound like sovereignty improvement to me.

Break in Debate

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 5:07 p.m.

The hon. Lady makes an excellent point about the chilling effect of that overhanging threat.

Let us be clear on the specifics. Lots of people talk about the impact of this on our health service and about the Americans arriving and taking our data and privatising the health service. But apart from that, let us think about the public health impact of these changes in relation to sugar. The NHS spends £12 billion a year on diabetes—

Sir Gary Streeter Portrait The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Gary Streeter) - Hansard

Order. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is trying to link this to the overall concept of sovereignty, but he is now talking about future trade deals rather than about clause 38 of the Bill and sovereignty. I would just encourage him to come back to the clause.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 5:08 p.m.

I am grateful for your guidance.

I guess the point is that sovereignty is about our ability to make laws here without intimidation or interference, but that we could find ourselves outside the EU and no longer able, for example, to introduce a tax on sugar that would reduce the cost of obesity to the NHS. We could have a situation where we want to let people know that there are six teaspoonfuls of sugar in a Müller Light yoghurt and nine in a Coca-Cola, and we want to drive down sugar content in order to drive down diabetes and health costs. Instead, we could be fined because the projection of a manufacturer of a sugar-impregnated product was less than that. That is not sovereignty. If we cannot protect our environment, our public health and our trade because we will be under the cosh with these companies suing us through the arbitration panels, that is not sovereignty. This clause should therefore be struck out, because it is completely misleading.

Break in Debate

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley - Hansard
8 Jan 2020, 5:12 p.m.

The hon. Member speaks as if trade is all one way. One of Germany’s biggest trading partners is the United Kingdom. Does he think that it wants to go down the road he is describing? The Germans will want to ensure that they continue to have a good trading relationship with the United Kingdom no matter whether Britain is within or outside the EU.

Sir Gary Streeter Portrait The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Gary Streeter) - Hansard

I call Geraint Davies to talk on sovereignty and clause 38.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies - Hansard

That is very helpful. Let us get this point clear. Something like 44% of our trade goes to the EU, so it is enormously important to us. However, less than 5% of the EU’s trade overall comes to the UK. There is a balance of power, and it is the case that two EU countries—the Netherlands and Germany—have a significant trade surplus with the UK, but the others do not. The EU will quite reasonably, as a bloc, want to protect its standards, its environment and its workers’ rights and not be undercut.

We have seen that already in terms of sovereignty, because we want a better environment, but the Government have already decided to withdraw from the carbon trading system, so we will have our own carbon tax. However, my understanding of the Government proposal for the carbon emissions tax is that we will charge £16 a tonne and the EU will tax £25 a tonne. In other words, we are already becoming a sort of pollution dumping ground. The more we diverge negatively away from the EU, the less we will be able to trade and the more we will be in the hands of the US, the Chinese or whoever. That is not sovereignty; that is just being in the hands of others.

I accept your guidance, Sir Gary, and I think I have made my point. We will be poorer, weaker and more divided. This is not about sovereignty. This is about the abdication of sovereignty, and I deeply regret it.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
(Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons)
(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
(Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons)
Sir Gary Streeter Excerpts
Friday 20th December 2019

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Cabinet Office
Sir John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes - Hansard
20 Dec 2019, 12:34 p.m.

That was the year of the referendum. In that one single year, we were a net beneficiary to the tune of £395 million. In every other year, we have been paying dear to bear this regulatory burden.

In addition to those reasons for my opposition to the European Union and all its excesses, I have a more fundamental reason. It is this: when power is exercised detached from the people it affects, it first becomes careless and ultimately becomes capricious. When people lose the ability to hold to account those who make decisions for them, democracy is undermined. That, in the end, is the reason why I campaigned with such vigour to leave the European Union in the referendum and have consistently argued so from my boyhood into my middle age, which I am now about to enjoy.

The denial that I described earlier is a test of character for Opposition Members. The test of character in victory is humility and the test of character in defeat is wisdom. The test for those who have adopted the position to vote against the Bill today—many of whom I respect, by the way, as individual Members of this House—is whether they will exercise such wisdom, for to vote against this Bill is not merely implausible; it is fundamentally unwise.

You will be glad to know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that that brings me to my concluding remarks. [Hon. Members: “No!”] I know that that will disappoint more Members than it pleases. None the less, I must make room for others to contribute. G. K. Chesterton wrote:

“How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.”

I simply say to Opposition Members that how they behave now will determine how they are thought of now and into the future.

Let me finish on this note. I have spoken about my consistent position. There are critics of me—here and more broadly. [Hon. Members: “No!”] Not many, I acknowledge, but there are critics. However, one thing I cannot be criticised for is inconsistency. C. S. Lewis said that consistency is the mark of greatness. I just hope that if I remain consistent, one day I might be great, too.

Sir Gary Streeter Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Gary Streeter) - Hansard

Order. In order for us to get everyone in before the wind-ups at 2 o’clock, the informal time limit on speeches is now five minutes.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab) - Hansard
20 Dec 2019, 12:37 p.m.

What a joy it is to follow the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes). My quotes are normally a bit more Jarvis Cocker and Bill Shankly than G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis, but the right hon. Gentleman made a good contribution, and it is his point about undermining democracy that I really want to begin with. But first, I must thank my constituents in Wirral South because not only did they take the decision to re-elect me for the fourth time, but even those who I know for a fact were definitely not voting for me were incredibly kind. That is the quality of the people in the Wirral; I thank them all.

When it comes to undermining democracy, I think we need to step back from some of the language in this debate. It is perfectly legitimate to be triumphalist in victory. I take nothing for granted, but if my team wins the league this season, I will certainly be triumphalist. However, this is not football; this is incredibly important. Although the Prime Minister has a mandate for his manifesto, we are still a democracy, and in a democracy we take pride in listening to dissenting voices. It is that voice of dissent that we are at risk of crushing in this debate because this Bill has huge problems. Worse, many Members, including Labour colleagues who voted for the Bill, worked hard to place ameliorations against the worst aspects of Brexit in the Bill that we debated before the election, but some of those ameliorations have now been removed.

First, no deal is firmly back on the table. Clause 33 reintroduces the huge jeopardy that we might leave the European Union without a deal, and the consequences of doing so are grim. There is a risk to peace from our having no agreement with the European Union, given where that would leave the relationship for those on the island of Ireland. No deal could create significant problems for medical supplies on cross-channel routes, which would have an immediate impact on the health and lives of people in Britain, and we know what no deal would do to food supplies. Reintroducing that risk through the Bill is a massive mistake. I will not rehearse all the reasons why the idea that it is necessary for our negotiating position is wrong, because we know that it is wrong. The Prime Minister wants to do it, but I am afraid that if he thinks the days of hearing objections to that negotiating stance are over because we have a new Parliament, he is very much mistaken.

Secondly, from discussing a hard border on the island of Ireland, we will now be discussing a hard border for Merseyside. The impact of a border in the Irish sea is significant for my constituents in the Wirral and people who live in Sefton and Liverpool, where the port is, with ferries going between Birkenhead and Belfast. If people in this House think that because Merseyside votes somewhat counter to the national trend, it will be forgotten, I can tell them that they are wrong. The people of Merseyside want to know that Brexit will not do irreparable damage to our relationships—both commercial and of friendship —with people on the other side of the Irish sea, so we will be making our objections clear. I want to know what economic assessment has been carried out on the impact of this policy. The hon. Members for Belfast South (Claire Hanna) and for North Down (Stephen Farry) made these points clearly in their great maiden speeches. To us, Brexit is not just a risk to our economy, but a risk to our identity, and we will not allow that point to go unheard.

Finally, on parliamentary sovereignty, the efforts of the former Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central, Gareth Snell, to give us in this House a say and to get a parliamentary lock on the future relationship have unfortunately failed. The Prime Minister has ripped up commitments that he made to people who were prepared to vote for his deal. That is an unworthy thing to do; he should have kept those parliamentary locks in the Bill.

By any economic measure, the consequences of this Bill are grim, and the democratic consequences are worse. The Conservative party won the general election, but they won some crucial seats by a few hundred votes. They should not use those votes as a mandate to forget all the people who did not vote for them in those areas. The Prime Minister has control of the House now, so he can drum his Brexit through, but the question is how he can do that when there are nations in our Union and cities in our country that do not consent, and for which he has shown little care. If his future is one in which it is his way or nothing, my party will need to plan an alternative future, and that is the work that we will now get on with.

Break in Debate

Helen Hayes Portrait Helen Hayes - Hansard
20 Dec 2019, 12:52 p.m.

I thank the hon. Member for his intervention, but I do not accept that that is the case. Nor do I accept that the Bill does anything other than leave those rights to the mercy of any future Government. I do not trust this Prime Minister to maintain the standards we have derived from the EU.

It is about the protection of our woodlands, rivers and coastal habitats at a time when the environment could not be more important. It is about the practical expression of our values in the way that we treat the world’s most vulnerable children.

I understand that the Prime Minister has a majority that means he will pass the Bill and we will leave the European Union, but my constituents will not be denied a voice in that debate. Make no mistake: the Bill will deliver nothing but damage to the UK on many fronts. I will oppose it, I will stand up for my constituents’ values and interests, and I will hold the Government to account for the consequences of their reckless actions.

Sir Gary Streeter Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Gary Streeter) - Hansard

Colleagues, we are not doing terribly well on timing. We have 15 more colleagues to speak and 2 o’clock is when the wind-ups begin. My maths are poor, but I believe that that is four minutes each.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con) - Hansard
20 Dec 2019, 12:54 p.m.

It is an honour to be back in this House almost two and a half years to the day I was first elected. I would like to thank the good people of Chelmsford for re-electing me to this place.

There have been two and a half years of endless squabbling and going round in circles. This afternoon, we will be able to put that squabbling to an end, get Brexit done and move on.

For some of us, this has been a very long journey. I first campaigned for a referendum more than a decade ago. Ten years ago, I stood for and was elected to the European Parliament on a platform calling for reform, as Europe needed to modernise. Five years ago, I stood with a gentleman who is now my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt) on a platform for the European Parliament, saying that it needed to reform, that we needed to renegotiate and that we would have a referendum. We then had that referendum.

I must admit that, as a Brit in Brussels chairing a major committee in that Parliament after the referendum, it was not easy. I was a major target for anyone who wanted to throw political abuse at Britain. There were days when I literally felt that the arrows to my front had met the knives in my back, but I also felt that there were friends across Europe who wanted to help us to move on, to avoid an acrimonious divorce and to move on into a new, deep and special partnership. That partnership has been outlined by the Prime Minister again today and it is a partnership that also respects democracy.

It was democracy that came up again and again on the doorsteps in this general election. Our country has a proud reputation of standing up for democracy across the world. How do we stand firm with the people of Hong Kong, with Zimbabwe, with the Rohingya from Burma and with the people in Venezuela if we do not respect democracy in our own country?

In his first speech after the election, the Prime Minister called for healing. It is time to stop putting people into those pigeonholes of leave and remain. It is time to move on. Today, when I vote for the agreement, it will be the first step towards moving on. Yes, we need to get a trade deal. We need to get a trade deal with the EU and it needs to get one with us; the EU is our largest trading partner, and we are the EU’s largest trading partner. We can get a trade deal within the year, and we must get a trade deal within the year. It can be done, because so much of the detail has already been agreed not only by us, but by all 27 other countries as well. They have agreed tariff-free, quota-free trade. They have agreed a deal that works for our fishing and our farming and a deal that can work for our financial services. Members should remember that 10p in every pound that we spend as taxpayers comes from the financial services. We have agreed a deal that works for the environment and, crucially, as a supporter of a science, a deal that works for ongoing co-operation in science, security and student exchanges.

Much of this election was about one nation Conservativism—[Interruption.] I am winding up. One nation conservatism is not only about holding our United Kingdom together, which is crucial, but about working for all sectors of our economy. It is a conservatism that is committed to well-funded public services, funded by a strong economy; a conservatism that believes that we must protect our environment and put it in a better state for future generations; and a conservatism that is committed to our role in the world and believes that every single person in this country has an equal right to a fair chance in life. That is the conservatism that we will be supporting when we vote for this crucial step this afternoon.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab) - Hansard
20 Dec 2019, 12:59 p.m.

Sadly, we live in a very divided country. I have listened in vain to those on the Government Benches to hear whether they have any understanding of the 16 million people who voted to remain in the European Union—in my city last week, people voted 44,000 to 9,000 to remain. I have no sense that the Government understand those people, and that is a very dangerous situation, because people are proud to be citizens of the European Union. We do not welcome the erosion of the rights that we currently enjoy, so when there is celebration in a few weeks’ time by some, there will be real grief and anger from others. They will have a good reason to be angry, because in the previous Parliament there was a real prospect of securing a confirmatory referendum. The Prime Minister knew that, which is why he was so desperate to get to his election. He was on the ropes, but to everyone’s astonishment the Liberal Democrats came to the rescue—of course, they are not here. They took a huge gamble with the future of this country, and of course it failed and they have paid a heavy price, but sadly, so, too, has the whole country. What I will say is that their role in this will not be forgotten. [Interruption.] No, I did not vote for the election; I voted against it, which actually got the biggest cheer in the hustings in Cambridge—no elections in December ever again, please.

I am an optimist and I say to remainers: there is hope. We have seen that the Prime Minister, despite the bluster, folds under pressure. He folded when the Irish issue looked to be derailing his progress and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) explained so well, he buckled and did what he and the previous Prime Minister said they would never do: create a border down the Irish sea. Less commented on is how he buckled under pressure from Farage when he threatened to put up candidates in every seat. That was when no deal was brought back: by that promise to not allow an extra extension of the transition period. We know it is all a stunt and negotiating ploy, but it shows that pressure works, so I say: keep the pressure on the Prime Minister.

A so-called skinny trade deal might keep goods flowing, and that is important, but so are the flows of people and research collaboration, and however hard we try, we will no longer be a voice in the room in those important negotiations. Instead, we will have an army of people in Brussels trying to persuade others to make the argument on our behalf—a delicious irony that we will come to see. We will have to follow rules over which we have no influence in making. That is the future. People will come to say, “Wouldn’t it be better if had some influence and a say?” That debate will come, but in the meantime we will have to live with what is a Brexit fiction, because in reality there is no Brexit. We always have to have a relationship with our neighbours. The question is how we manage and negotiate that: do we have endless negotiations and arguments, or do we live within a civilised set of institutions and rules that make it so much better?

Sir Gary Streeter Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Gary Streeter) - Hansard

Thank you. You kept to time beautifully.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts (Witney) (Con) - Hansard
20 Dec 2019, 1:01 p.m.

I, too, extend my congratulations to Mr Speaker, on this my first time speaking after the election, although of course he is not in the Chair at the moment. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) on his speech. As always, I think he argued his case with eloquence and courtesy, even if I did not agree with quite everything he said.

This has been a challenging election for us all—the hon. Member referred to it being a December election—and I give my thanks above all to the people of West Oxfordshire for having returned me again. I am very humbled and grateful for the trust they have put in me. Not only did they have to endure a December election, but it was the third general election in three years for them and me. In every electoral contest since 2015, we have promised to do as we were instructed on the question of Britain’s place in the EU, and that is what we have a chance to do today: to show that we will do as were told and what we said we would do.

Now is also an important time for us to put to bed the question of this country’s place in Europe. That question has bedevilled and tormented this country for longer than I have been alive. I am clear, from speaking to people in my constituency and around the country, that while the people of this country warmly welcome a relationship of trade, co-operation and culture, they never wanted to be part of a political union, but inexorably that is the direction in which the EU has been heading for many years, certainly since the advent of the euro. We have a chance tonight to bring the country together by putting this question to bed.

The free trade agreement destination, which the Bill leads to, will unify the British people by giving them the chance to step outside ever closer political union while maintaining the strong links of culture, friendship, co-operation and trade that we all warmly welcome. The hon. Member for Cambridge asks how we represent and recognise the concerns of those who voted to remain. That is how I propose we do that—by ensuring close links of trade, friendship, culture and co-operation.

There is something else we can do to show that we are not just a talking shop in his House, arguing and bickering among ourselves and failing to make decisions, but that we can actually move the country forward. If there is one other thing I have heard that people desperately want, it is for us to move on and stop the endless bickering, arguing, changing our mind and failing to show leadership and decision. Ultimately, that leadership is what we are here for; we are sent here to take decisions. We have the chance to do that today.

When I listened to the Leader of the Opposition earlier, it was so dismaying to realise that there is a cold vacuum at the heart of Labour where there should be a policy. He seems to have learned nothing from the preceding six weeks; if you do not keep the promises you make to the electorate at an election, they punish you. He fell back on the same tired scapegoating about how we are going to sell the NHS to Donald Trump—we are not—and how we are going to lead a charge to the bottom on safety standards. We heard the scaremongering about maggot-infested orange juice that the Leader of the Opposition has been using for months and which has already been comprehensively debunked. Again, he fell back on tired old scaremongering, because the Opposition have nothing else to offer.

Instead, we have a return to full democratic self-government, which should be welcomed by everybody, no matter which side of the argument they hail from. That is something to welcome and cherish, no matter which side of this argument people come from. I urge everybody, when they go through the Lobby this afternoon, to welcome that and to look forward to the future with positivity and hope.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin (Cardiff North) (Lab) - Hansard

It is with deep sadness and loss that I stand here, knowing that we will now be leaving the EU. I regret that we will not be able to hear the voices of the many people who have changed their mind and would now vote to remain in any final-say referendum and of all those young people who would get a chance to have a real say on their future. For that, I am truly concerned. I am concerned for the country and for those people’s futures.

We are here, however, to scrutinise this legislation, which does not even begin to meet the challenges that Brexit poses and which has taken out all the elements that matter. Importantly, this Prime Minister is stripping Parliament of its voice and therefore denying the people and the country a say on their future. By scrapping powers for MPs to scrutinise future trade deals, we risk being forced to accept lower standards as a price for future trade agreements. Those trade deals will now be conducted behind closed doors and without proper scrutiny. The deals will have an impact on our communities, our businesses and our people, risking workers’ rights, environmental regulation and food standards. Denying Parliament a voice means that we are being denied democracy and people are being denied a voice. They cannot call themselves a “people’s Government” if the first thing they do is ignore the people’s representatives. As MPs, we are here to ensure that our communities, people’s livelihoods, businesses, jobs and futures are looked after and safeguarded. This Government are taking away that opportunity. This deal fails to guarantee the future of our environmental standards. The binding part of the agreement contains nothing about environmental standards across the UK, and the non-binding political declaration just notes that the parties should maintain those important environmental standards. With only 11 months in which to negotiate a trade deal with the EU, the risk of no deal has significantly increased, and that is the worst of all scenarios.

What of our EU citizens? They should never become the victims of Brexit. I speak to many of them in Cardiff North, and they are living in fear and anxiety over their future. Some of them have lived here most of their lives, with children born here and lives rooted firmly here. EU citizens must be assured of their rights and they should be immediately granted the full rights that they enjoy today—the EU will reciprocate in respect of UK citizens living in the EU. By taking away Lord Dubs’s amendment to safeguard child refugees, the Prime Minister and his party, the one apparently founded to conserve, are eroding the rights and values we hold so dear, selling out the things that make this country great. This has become an exit not only from the EU, but from our responsibilities and from common decency, and I shall be voting against it today.

Finally, let me end by saying that the Bill will not strip me of my European identity. I will always be both European and Welsh in equal measure. My values and my identity have been formed from being part of the European Union—the values of openness, tolerance, inclusivity, equality and trust in the public good. Those values are now under threat, from this Trumpian, populist Government, from right-wing populism and from bigots everywhere. For me and many of my constituents, leaving the EU will be a profound and deep loss. There is a reason why many millions of us marched on the streets and have gone out of our way to fight for a future within the EU. Being European is an identity that we want to keep. Allow us to keep it.

Sir Gary Streeter Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Gary Streeter) - Hansard

I am afraid that I must now impose a formal time limit of four minutes.

Bob Seely Portrait Mr Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) (Con) - Hansard

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. That means that if I take an intervention, I get an extra minute, does it not?

Break in Debate

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
20 Dec 2019, 1:49 p.m.

It is clear that the Conservatives overwhelmingly won the election for a variety of reasons, but on the Brexit front it is also the case that 16.5 million people voted for remain parties, compared with 14.5 million people who voted for leave parties. In fact, including the parties that do not support a particular deal—namely, the Brexit party—there are 18.1 million people who do not support this oven-ready deal that we are being served up and asked to consume very quickly today. On that basis, there still should be a public vote on the deal, because this is about the long-term future of Britain. [Interruption.] I know that people do not agree with me, but my judgment is that we are going to be poorer, weaker, more divided and isolated.

People in my constituency who voted leave—many did, of course—voted for more money, more control and more jobs, and they will judge this deal on whether the Government deliver that. I say to Members who have taken Labour seats on the back of “Get Brexit done” that if we do not deliver those things that leave voters asked for, they will be very unhappy. In fact, they will not just be unhappy; they will have lost their jobs, and I assume that they will come back to the Labour party.

We are leaving the single market, one of the primary architects of which was, of course, Margaret Thatcher, who saw it as probably the most perfect free and fair trade market in the world. Today we are saying not just that we will have no alignment—or that we will not have dynamic alignment—but that we will have dynamic misalignment. In other words, as the European Union changes its rules, we will change our rules in a different way. That means the prospects of agreeing a deal within 12 months will become vanishingly small, and the prospects of knowing that we will agree a deal in six months—by June—are even smaller.

China, the United States and other countries will look at us and see that we are increasingly turning our back on our biggest markets, and that gives them more power in negotiations. We stand alone, turning our back on the EU, and when we talk to the United States they will say that they do not want any environmental or climate change considerations in the trade deals, as they already have. They do not really care that much about food standards; they want hormone-impregnated meat and chlorinated chicken. They want our NHS database and to enforce patents so that drugs will be more expensive. They also sell asbestos and all the rest of it. As we move away from the regulatory protection of the EU, we are in their hands.

When we have trade talks with China, we will obviously have to be on bended knee. They will say, “Don’t mention human rights, Hong Kong and all that sort of stuff. Just stick to the point and do what we say.” They are already building HS2 and a lot of other infrastructure here. If this is about democracy, it is important that Parliament has greater scrutiny of these trade deals and that we go into these things with our eyes open.

Finally, on human rights, I am very concerned about the issue of unaccompanied minors. Frankly, it has a strange echo of Donald Trump, who has separated children from their parents who are refugees and put them in detention camps—our great friend, Donald Trump. At the same time, we see in the Queen’s Speech the abolition of the BBC, and the civil service and the judiciary are also under threat. Our fundamental values shared across Europe of democracy, human rights and the rule of law are under threat. All new Members must think carefully about what is in the balance here. I know that they are driving through in great merriment on the back of “Get Brexit done”, in pre-Christmas pantomime mode, but we need to think about what is best for Britain and best for democracy, and that means proper scrutiny of this Bill.

Sir Gary Streeter Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Gary Streeter) - Hansard

Last but certainly not least, Mr Mark Pawsey.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con) - Hansard
20 Dec 2019, 1:54 p.m.

Thank you, Sir Gary. It is a great pleasure to be the tail-ender in a debate that has had a very welcome change in tone from that of previous debates on this topic. First, I thank the voters of Rugby and Bulkington for returning me for the fourth time with an increased majority, which I think is the case for almost all Conservative Members and is an endorsement of our party’s attitude. I will be supporting the Bill to leave the European Union this afternoon, as I have done on four previous occasions.

I want to reflect on the effect on business. On the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, we looked at the impact of leaving the EU on the automotive, aerospace, food and drink and pharmaceutical sectors, and in each case, business leaders told us of few benefits of leaving the EU and their concerns that what benefits there were would be outweighed by the harm. Much of the harm has been the uncertainty that business has had to go through over the past two and a half years. Businesses want to see frictionless trade, to be able to continue with just-in-time supply chains and to retain access to a market of 500 million consumers on their doorstep. I know from my business career before arriving here that it is easiest to deal with our closest neighbours, and that will be very important in the comprehensive trade deal that we conduct with the EU once we have left. It will be important not to neglect what is on our doorstep.

The business view about the need to get Brexit done is just as strong as the one that all of us encountered on the doorsteps. As a west midlands MP, I am very concerned about the impact on the automotive sector. Many of my constituents work for Jaguar Land Rover, and many of the companies in my constituency are in the supply chain. It is of concern that the figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show UK output down year on year, partly because of shutdowns that were put in place to deal with concerns about the disruption caused by potentially leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October. It is important that we have now got that uncertainty out of the way, and businesses will be able to grow and develop.

We will start to see substantial investment. In fact, over the last couple of years, despite the uncertainty of Brexit, there has been substantial private sector investment in my constituency. Meggitt, which is involved in making components for the aerospace market, is currently building the biggest factory that has been built in the UK for 10 years. Moto is building a new motorway service area at junction 1 of the M6 in Rugby, and local builder and developer Stepnell has just delivered a whole range of medium-sized industrial units ready for existing businesses to expand into. Developments on that scale at a time of great uncertainty lead me to be extremely confident that there is a pipeline of new projects that can now get started, because we are on our way to leaving the European Union, and that will benefit communities and workers across the UK.

In my last minute, I want to refer to the effect on democracy. I noted the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green). I, too, talked to many constituents on the doorsteps during the campaign who said that they would not be voting; they wanted to opt out. That is not unusual, because many people have a low opinion of politicians, but I sensed that at this election, more people were intending not to vote or to waste their vote because they had voted in the referendum, and the politicians had not delivered on what they voted for. We in this place cannot choose which votes we wish to respect, and we are now able to deliver for all those who voted in the general election and the referendum.