Cheryl Gillan – 2020 Speech on the Future Relationship with the EU Bill

The speech made by Cheryl Gillan, the Conservative MP for Chesham and Amersham, in the House of Commons on 30 December 2020.

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). I do not always agree with him, but I recognise the detailed and sterling work he has done on the Brexit Select Committee and am glad that he is voting for the Bill today.

I also welcome the fantastic news on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which along with the Bill gives us a double reason for celebration. I add my congratulations and plaudits to the Prime Minister and all our negotiators on their steadfastness in bringing home this deal.

Make no mistake, it took guts and determination both to leave the EU and, finally, to deliver this result. It may not be perfect. I, too, for example, share the reservations expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) about the position of our services industry, which needs urgent resolution on, for example, what the equivalence rules will look like.

The deal has been hard won and delivers zero tariffs and zero quotas, which brings a huge sigh of relief to many businesses and industries across the country. At the same time, it allows the UK once again to control its destiny through its own elected representatives and its own courts—the independence and control over our affairs that I and many others voted for in the referendum.

This is not a precipitative end to our relationship, but the controlled departure that we were all hoping for. Our participation in programmes such as Horizon Europe and EU Space Surveillance and Tracking indicates our recognition that there are things we can do better together across Europe, but now without having to be subject to a regime that we could not change or, at the very least, even influence.

There will be many other things that we can do better, such as the Turing scheme, which is going to offer 35,000 UK students worldwide opportunities and will replace Erasmus. When we pass this legislation today, we will be in a golden position to create a great future for the United Kingdom—a future that the people of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England will grasp with both hands. The trade deals and continuity agreements that we have already signed with 62 countries are testament to that, and we must make a great deal of fuss about the work that has gone into those signings, which will mean so much for our country in the future.

To those who continue to wage a war of attrition against this reborn independence and look backwards towards membership of the EU, I hope they, too, will now move on and develop the guts and determination of our Prime Minister to back our own Union and contribute positively to its future success. I believe that the UK’s future is bright, working alongside Europe, but finally, after today, not subjugated by it.

It is with great pleasure that I support this Bill.