Nadhim Zahawi welcomes Queen’s Speech focus on Brexit and calls for a united front in Parliament to give the negotiation team full support.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts).
I welcome the fact that most of the legislation in the Gracious Speech was devoted to equipping our country for its departure from the EU and to the forging of a new place for us in the world. I am proud that the Government are fully committed to delivering on the will of the British people, so that our laws may now be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff.
We can no longer doubt the instructions given to us by the electorate. The Secretary of State rightly spoke of the 52% who voted to leave the EU last June and the more than 85% who voted for Brexit parties at the election. There are, of course, lessons that the Government urgently need to learn from the outcome of the election, but one thing I hope we can all take away is a commonality of purpose on the part of all Members across the House who were elected to this place on a manifesto pledging to make Brexit a success. We must deliver on that because, with two successive mandates for leaving the EU in under a year, the damage that would be done to the reputation of elected politicians if we were seen to undermine the electorate’s wishes would be severe.
It is no secret that the current parliamentary arithmetic is not what I wanted to see in the wake of the general election, but the Conservatives are the largest party by a considerable margin. However much the Leader of the Opposition defied expectations on 8 June and however much he might preach this to the crowds at Glastonbury, he did not win and is in no position to form a Government. It falls to the Prime Minister and her team to take to the negotiating table and make Brexit a success.
Given the Parliament the people have chosen for us, I refer once again to the commonality of purpose I spoke of earlier. If we are to make Brexit work for all our citizens, whether they voted for the Conservatives, Labour or any other party, we need to show a united front in this House and give the Brexit team the backing they need. I am not saying at all that Members across the House should desist from offering the Government constructive criticism at this most vital of times, but a Parliament that offers opposition for opposition’s sake, rather than well intentioned advice is one that will undermine our position in the eyes of our interlocutors and harm the negotiation process.
If Members will not take it from me, I invite them to listen to the comments made by the former EU commissioner and ardent remainer, Lord Hill, before the Foreign Affairs Committee in the last Parliament. He said that the best chance we have in these negotiations is if we show a united front and band together around the Prime Minister. So I put it to the House: do right hon. and hon. Members care more about opposing the Prime Minister and her team, whatever they do, than about pulling together to ensure there is a successful Brexit deal? For me, the priority will always be a successful Brexit, so I hope that as many colleagues as possible join me in refraining from undermining the negotiations in the hope of short-term political point scoring and get behind our team.
For the shadow Secretary of State to be balanced in his view on no deal, he also needs to talk about what no deal means for the EU27. We looked at this on the Foreign Affairs Committee and, actually, the experts say that no deal is as harsh for the EU27 as it is for the United Kingdom. A bit of balance in the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s words would go down well in developing a common policy on this issue.
I readily accept that not only do we need a deal but that the EU needs a deal, which is why we should not talk up no deal as a viable strategy or adopt the Foreign Secretary’s position that no deal is perfectly okay. No deal is not a viable or tenable option. No deal means that we have not agreed anything.