The speech made by Sammy Wilson, the DUP MP for East Antrim, in the House of Commons on 30 December 2020.
I am glad that in two days’ time we will be finally leaving the EU. That is something that my party and I personally campaigned for, and it is something that would probably not have happened had it not been for the votes and crucial debates in this House when remainers tried to undermine the result of the referendum.
I have to say that today that euphoria is tinged with sadness, because the deal that the Prime Minister has struck will not apply equally to all parts of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland will not enjoy all the benefits of this deal. Indeed, we will still find ourselves tied to some of the restrictions of EU membership that the rest of the United Kingdom has been freed from. We welcome the limitations that have been placed on the withdrawal agreement and the mitigations that have been made to it, but unfortunately the withdrawal agreement is still an integral part of the Government’s policy and an integral part of this deal. This deal commits the Government to implementing not only this agreement but supplementary agreements, and they have to do it in good faith.
We therefore find that the detrimental impacts of the withdrawal agreement—that Northern Ireland will still be subject to some EU laws made in Brussels; that those laws will be adjudicated by the European Court of Justice; and that there will be barriers to internal trade within the United Kingdom between Northern Ireland and GB, and GB and Northern Ireland—are already being manifested. GB companies are indicating that they will no longer supply to Northern Ireland. VAT on cars will increase in Northern Ireland. From 1 January 2021, second-hand cars in Northern Ireland will be 20% dearer as a result of VAT rules applying, and a whole range of other things.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there seems to be no protection for the single market regulations, in particular for banking and investment firms? There is not even the option for firms in Northern Ireland to apply for authorisation to the equivalent of the Financial Conduct Authority. Does he feel that that is an anomaly that needs to be addressed?
Of course, it is not only in those areas. The Prime Minister talked about the way in which, because there was no longer any need for regulatory conformity, the UK could free itself to develop FinTech, biosciences and agricultural practices. Because Northern Ireland will still remain under some of the EU regulations, we will, in many ways, not be able to benefit from those new and exciting opportunities.
Having said that, Northern Ireland will still be part of the United Kingdom. I know that people have said that this deal will drive a wedge into the Union. A wedge can only be driven into the Union when the people of Northern Ireland decide that they no longer wish to remain part of the UK. When it comes to a choice between joining the Irish Republic—a small nation which will bob about in the future storms of economic chaos—and being anchored to the fifth-largest economy in the world, which will prosper under Brexit, I believe that that choice will be an easy one for the people of Northern Ireland.
What I would say to the Prime Minister, though, is that there will be economic damage as a result of our exclusion from this agreement, but there are opportunities. There is a joint committee, there is a review of the agreement, there is the fact that we now have parliamentary sovereignty, and there is the fact that the Government can act unilaterally to undo economic damage. We will continue to press you and your Government, Prime Minster, to live up to your promises that Northern Ireland will not be disadvantaged as a result of the deals you have done.
Let me finally say that we will not be voting for this deal today, and I think the reasons are obvious. We are excluded from many of its benefits. That does not mean we have any common cause with the petulant remainers in this Parliament who want to undo the referendum; it is because we are disappointed Brexiteers. It is because we are people who believed that the United Kingdom should leave and should leave as a whole, and that is not happening, and for that reason we will not be voting for this deal today.