Amongst the other issues that occurred yesterday, there was news that our Government has broken the deadline to respond to the EU over its new legislation to break International Laws. This failure by our Government made me remember some words which were stated back on the 20th December regarding our future position with the EU. That said Vicky Ford became our Parliamentary Under Secretary for Children and Families in February and since then her own voting such as to deny free food for children in poor families indicates that her own formal position is sometimes in conflict with her own views although of course that was as part of the Government and Ministers are expected to vote as a group. However when people say words in the House of Commons they are recorded and it does seem to matter what they have said. It is also important to refer to Vicky’s history in that she was born in Northern Ireland and so the conflict over the Irish agreement should matter more to her than to many of her colleagues. Also as an ex-MEP she should in theory be concerned about our breakdown with the EU at this stage. Also these words were spoken in the debate about the EU Withdrawal Act and it is that Act which the Internal Market Bill is set out to destroy so Vicky’s support for the Internal Market Bill does come as in conflict to the Bill she was supporting 10 months ago.
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 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.
No doubt there will be other MPs who have made similar statements, however this seems very clear and very different to what our Government is currently doing. Perhaps Ministers like Vicky Ford need to review their position and either stand up and call for a change or else step down and let the Government understand that they are taking us into a very bad place, less than a year after the last General Election.