European Union (Withdrawal) Act

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) in this historic debate.

The process of leaving the European Union was designed at the outset to be extremely risky for any member state wishing to exit. Article 50, whether we like it or not, is our starting point. It is what has made this negotiation difficult and it is what makes this decision difficult. In deciding how to vote, I have spoken to constituents at public meetings and consulted many businesses. I have also used my own judgment, which is informed by 30 years of experience working in the car manufacturing, banking, technology and travel industries. But as somebody who voted to remain, I have also sought to honour the decision to leave. I am not of the view that the British people chose the wrong answer; they rarely do. We may be the House of Commons, but they are the true home of common sense. They can see what we all know, which is that the European Union is not perfect. It is unwilling to listen, unable to change and has been slow to react to major crises at our borders.

This deal delivers on the result of the referendum, but at the same time does not risk the jobs of my constituents. The largest employers in Chichester are Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, and farming and horticultural businesses. They, alongside employers across the UK, have invested based on the rules of the customs union and single market, and this has driven our strong economy. They have said loud and clear that switching to WTO rules at the end of March would be a disaster. Having spent 30 years working in these industries, I believe it would be highly irresponsible. The bodies representing large, small and medium-sized businesses, plus sectors including manufacturing, technology, education, science, farming, defence, retail and many others support this deal, as it enables them to continue to invest in the UK and protect jobs. These bodies represent more than half a million businesses and we ignore them at our peril.

This deal is a lower-risk Brexit, but is not without risk. We still have to turn the political declaration into a trade agreement, and this seems to be where many opponents to the deal lose their nerve. The United Kingdom has conducted these negotiations in good faith, in a way that does our country credit. There is a worrying trend of countries walking away from international agreements and commitments. We are not one of those countries.​

The Government have secured a pragmatic way to proceed that we can build on, and we still have a strong negotiating hand; we always have had. We have a lot to offer any trading partner, not least one with which we have worked so closely for 45 years, including a large consumer market, innovative businesses, the City of London, a highly trusted legal system, security and intelligence capability, our armed forces, a nuclear deterrent, brilliant scientists and top universities—to name but a few. It makes sense to sell to us, it makes sense to partner with us and it makes sense to trust us.

It is difficult to find an alternative that does not pose huge risks to the economy or break faith with the result of the referendum. There are no alternatives that either do not outsource our trade policy to a third party or require us to continue with uncontrolled freedom of movement. Why would we give up now when we have a deal on the table that is better and more ambitious than all the others?

The Brexit debate has been dominated by those who have sought to admire the problem rather than try to solve it. The Prime Minister, by contrast, has achieved a balanced and sensible way forward. We are a divided country, but this deal charts a careful path to deliver on the referendum result without damaging our economy. This deal resonates with my experience. There are no easy answers, no silver bullets, no superhuman negotiators waiting to ride to the rescue—just a long, hard road ahead to deliver on what the British people voted for. Almost nobody in the UK regrets the decision not to join the euro. I believe that in years to come we will not regret our decision to leave the European Union.