Having taken the time to read the (by no means short) Free Trade Agreement, finally reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union, I was delighted to vote in support of it today, in common with the vast majority of both main parties of the House of Commons.
As with all deals there have, of course, been compromises. I regret, for example, the provision which means that regaining a much greater share of our fishing resources is postponed for a five-and-a-half-year adjustment period. I also very much appreciate that there is work to be done in terms of some of our world-leading financial services businesses. But, looking at the official ‘scorecard’ of compromises from each side in the negotiations, it would appear that 40% of issues ended in compromise, with the UK conceding on 17% of others and the EU conceding to us on 43% of issues.
Agriculture is crucial to our economy here in Somerset and I know that farmers will welcome the agreement on tariff-free trade between the UK and the EU. Outside the Single Market and Customs Union, our farmers are now free to implement the highest environmental and animal welfare standards in the world and to export to lucrative new overseas markets.
I believe that this Free Trade Agreement does stand up to scrutiny. It delivers zero tariffs and zero quotas and does not bind us to the European Court of Justice or to EU law. It is an agreement between sovereign equals and, once again, legislation that governs our lives and economy will be democratically passed solely in our UK Parliament and not in Brussels. The Government promised to respect and honour the democratic will of the British people and, on the back of the largest vote in our history, along with the mandate granted to us in both the 2017 and 2019 General Elections, I am confident that this agreement delivers on the promise to ‘get Brexit done’.
Boris Johnson has delivered what so many said was impossible. In record time (and at the same time as having to deal with a global pandemic unprecedented in modern times) he has secured one of the largest, most far reaching, trade agreements ever agreed. The Prime Minister and the Chief Negotiator, Lord Frost, have - I believe - shown their unwavering commitment to the democratic will of the British people in securing our successful return to sovereignty. I applaud them for their achievement.
The Brexit debate has polarised opinion both across the UK and locally here in Somerset. It has caused great division. So as this chapter of our nation’s history draws to a close, it is my sincere hope that we can now come together to embrace the vision for a ‘Global Britain’ with shared optimism. Enormous opportunities now await us. Let’s work together to seize them.