30 December 2020
Sir Iain Duncan Smith welcomes the trade deal with the EU

Sir Iain Duncan Smith congratulates the Prime Minister on securing a trade deal with the EU so we can take back control of our sovereignty and set our own direction in international as well as domestic relations.

Brexit was never about being anti-European. Brexit is about restoring power to the UK. I love Europe but I am British and I am a member of the United Kingdom.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP

Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)

It is a privilege to be able to speak in this debate and to follow the right hon. Gentleman, whom I consider a friend. I was going to start by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but perhaps I should call him my right hon. Friend the Member for Athens, as our hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) described him as a modern Pericles.

The Prime Minister deserves the full plaudits for the delivery of this trade deal. He is entitled, I think, to a moment of satisfaction. Despite what all those doomsayers have said—perpetually during his process through this, they have said there was no chance he would achieve a deal, and therefore we would have to leave with no deal—he has defied that and he has shown us that consistency, determination and optimism are key drivers in any negotiation, and I thank him for that. I also thank the negotiators, Lord Frost and others of his team, who have delivered this in the face of quite a lot of difficulty.

For me, it brings to an end a 29-year period. Back at the time of the Maastricht treaty, I had just entered Parliament, and I was faced with the choice of whether to vote for what I saw as a huge extension of powers from what became the European Union. I made the mistake of entering the Smoking Room, where my hon. Friend the Member for Stone laid his arm upon my shoulder, and my career was ruined thereafter. I chose directly as a result of those blandishments to vote against Maastricht. I do not regret it, but I do say that from that moment onwards I was certain that the United Kingdom would leave the European Union, because it was getting more and more centralised, and it was not what we had joined. I voted to join. I am pleased that we have delivered on this deal, and it is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who has done that.

I say to those who are going to vote against the deal today that they cannot escape reality. To be fair to the Leader of the Opposition, he made it very clear that those who vote against the deal today are voting for no deal. We do not have to have that written on a piece of paper, because that would defy any of the logic that this place is about.

Jonathan Edwards 

I do not believe that what the right hon. Gentleman says is the case. We are voting on the merit of the agreement, and the reality is that the agreement introduces a whole layer of extra bureaucracy for citizens and businesses in the UK. It is a charter for red tape.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith 

I always love colleagues in this place trying to explain their actions, but it comes down to one simple point: we all know in this House that if we defeat an objective, we are left with what was there before. What is there before in this case is no deal, and I am sorry for the hon. Gentleman if he believes he is just voting against something that he thinks is wrong, because he is voting at the same time therefore for the status quo. The status quo is we leave the day after tomorrow with no deal, and there is no escaping that I am afraid, no matter what some wish for.

I welcome this deal. It is not perfect, and nobody here is going to say we can get a perfect deal, because there are two sides in this discussion, but it is a huge advance on where we might have been. We take back control of our sovereignty. We are a sovereign nation again, and with that power we can set our own direction in international as well as domestic relations. I simply say to those who do not see this: being able to regain that control is a huge step forward. Bringing back the power to this House and this Parliament is what the Prime Minister has achieved. Yes, there are things in this that will need to time to develop—I accept that fishing is one; we have a better deal now, but five years from now we will have the key opportunity to decide how those waters will be run, to our benefit, and I congratulate the Prime Minister on that. Importantly, we also have the power to reset the environmental running of those waters. For far too long, too many large trawlers have literally destroyed many of our fishing areas, and I urge my Government to start the process, literally tomorrow, of making sure we bring environmentalism and control of this back to our area.

Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Iain Duncan Smith 

No, I cannot give way—I beg the right hon. Gentleman’s pardon.

I wish to conclude by simply saying that Brexit was never about being anti-European. Brexit is about restoring power to the UK. I love Europe—half my family have worked in Europe all their working lives, and I studied out there and love its idiosyncrasies, language differences, arts, culture and people—but I am British and I am a member of the United Kingdom. I want to respect them and be their friend, but for too long we moved into the same house with them and we did not get on. We are now just going to move next door and be good neighbours, friends and allies. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on bringing this to a conclusion—he deserves the plaudits he is going to get.

Hansard