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31 JAN 2017

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

I spoke in this debate and gave my support to the above Bill

The Bill is intended to give the Government the power that they need in order to begin negotiations. It is a legal mechanism to enact what the British people decided in the referendum. It is not about the detail of the negotiation, and it is not about the kind of country, or the domestic law, that we shall have post-Brexit. That will come later, with the great repeal Bill.

The referendum  was an extraordinary event for the country. In 388 of 650 constituencies, more people voted to leave than voted for the sitting Members of Parliament.  Parliament voted overwhelmingly, by six to one, to give the people a say.  The result of the referendum was clear: 17.4 million people voted to leave.

What was clear to me was that, whatever the result, there was no question that the Government would not implement what the people decided. The Supreme Court has made it clear that its decision had nothing to do with whether or not this country should leave the EU, nor does it have anything to do with the timetable or any future arrangements with the European Union. Those who oppose this Bill seek simply to tie the Government's hands at this stage, in the hope that a series of impossible demands will render any good deal impossible. We must be sure not to be drawn into a debate that is an exercise in delay and obfuscation, when the time to debate that detail will come.

The process of withdrawing from the European Union will be easy, straightforward or brief. It will require significant expertise and a consistent approach, but, with this Government, we have exactly that: expertise and a consistent approach. All Members will listen to their constituents and I spend time in my constituency talking to businesses, charities and the public sector in order to understand how the process of our establishing our new role in the world impacts upon them.

There are challenges, certainly, but there are also opportunities, and we must look to the future with that positive attitude. Nothing is more likely to end up with this country having a bad deal than if we approach the negotiations divided, weak, failing to get behind the Government and make this a success, or seeking to tie the Government's hands in negotiation.

We have enormous advantages as a country—the world's sixth biggest military and fifth biggest economy, the world's most used language, and the Commonwealth, but, above all, a country of people who are clever, inventive and industrious.  We must look to the future, embrace the positives and trust the people, and that process must start with this Bill.

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