Sir Mike Penning MP’s statement on the Prime Minister’s draft Withdrawal Agreement.
I have been asked by constituents to explain my position on the draft Withdrawal Agreement.
I will not support it as it stands at the moment.
We absolutely must achieve the Brexit that the public voted for and the will of the people must be respected. It is as simple as that. It is something I have campaigned for over 30 years and it is one of the main reasons I got involved in politics in the first place. I am not going to give up on it at the last, critical, minute.
Brexit is a golden opportunity for our country. We are the fifth or sixth strongest economy in the world. The EU wants a trade deal with us as much as we want one with them. If they are unable to reach a deal with us, there are 165 other countries out there waiting for us to trade with them.
If we sign up to the draft agreement put forward by the Prime Minister we could end up bound to the rules of a Customs Union that would be set by the EU and that we could not change and could not leave - the so-called 'backstop'. This comes into play if we are unable to agree our future trading relationship. If it does, and we enter this 'backstop', we will be unable to make trade deals with other countries without the permission of the EU. Not acceptable.
The draft agreement requires that we continue to be bound by EU law in areas such as social policy, environmental policy and labour regulations. These are called 'non-regression clauses'. Whilst I have no desire to lower standards on social, environmental or labour regulations, these clauses make us a 'rule taker' in these areas. We cannot remain governed by EU rules that we have no say over. The European Court of Justice will have overall control over these areas of law in the UK. One of the attractions about leaving the EU is to be able to reduce the amount of red tape to attract investment. To remain tied to the EU in this context, without any say over it....that to me is absurd.
Northern Ireland will remain under greater EU control than the rest of the UK. I cannot accept that as it would create new internal borders within the UK. We made a promise to the DUP that this would not happen. We cannot be arm-twisted by the EU into this.
The European Court of Justice would have overall control of the agreement itself and EU laws that would continue to have effect in the UK. I cannot accept that.
There is also the subject of money. We are paying £39 billion for this deal when there is no commitment (as yet) to us getting a trade deal. Whilst I accept that there are some unfunded commitments that we do need to pay for, it is a lot of money and I have always backed calls for this money to be tied to a trade deal.
This is a deal that appears to have been drafted to appease the EU and large multinational businesses. It does not put British voters first. In the referendum it was the people who voted for Brexit, not multinational corporations. Brexit is what we want. The EU and international businesses will have to find a way to work with that.
My bottom line has always been that we must have control of our borders and our laws and be able to make our own trade deals. It is absolutely unacceptable for the UK to be bound to the EU in an agreement that splits the UK and that we cannot unilaterally get out of.
To be frank, it is an insult to democracy and the 52% of the voting public who knew perfectly well what they were voting for and according to my postbag are calling for us to hurry up and get on with it.